Dani May-McCallum, Creative Director of The Curated Kitchen & Food Editor at Magnificent Marrow
Dani May-McCallum, Creative Director and Founder of The Curated Kitchen knows only too well the impact the pandemic has had on the wedding industry. Providing an alternative to formal catering for events and weddings, Dani has had to pivot her business during the last year, instead offering seasonal grazing boxes for delivery, while also developing and sharing new recipes for both her social media followers and as Magnificent Marrow’s Food Editor.
Previously the founder of a successful vintage afternoon tea catering business, the mum of one has always had a passion for food. From helping her mother in the kitchen as a child to working in restaurants, Dani has never been far from the kitchen. The Curated Kitchen was inspired by her love of relaxed yet luxurious dining and like all good ideas, the concept was something that Dani hadn’t been able to find for her own wedding and so she quickly saw a gap in the market.
With weddings and events slowly coming back to life, Dani takes time out of the kitchen to sit down with us and shares what it has been like keeping a small business afloat during the last year, explains why she is a serial tweaker when it comes to developing new recipes and reveals the key to making the perfect egg sandwich!
This last year has been a tough one for the events industry and independent businesses and it has been really, really tough… but in some ways it’s also been nice to be afforded the time to take a step back and reassess. It’s been great fun to be able to take the time to test and create new recipes, as well write and share more recipes and improve my food photography - that’s not often something you can take time to do when you’re in the thick of catering for an event.
I have always enjoyed cooking and I just love the joy it brings to others and the way food brings people together. Some of our best memories involve sitting around a table and enjoying food with friends and family.
When I’m creating a new recipe I get lots of inspiration from others, whether that’s recipe books or eating out or picking up different flavours from visiting foreign countries, or from friends and family. I’m a serial tweaker, so I’m always taking something from here or there but adding / changing this and that. My husband is my main guinea pig but neighbours, friends and family are forever benefiting from my experiments and are often shipped off with food packages!
It’s a joy to see weddings and events starting to happen again now restrictions are lifting but there are some projects that I started in lockdown that I will continue to do. I’ve really enjoyed creating and sharing recipes and working more on food styling and photography, so that’s definitely something that I’m going to continue doing and I hope to launch a food blog and maybe even my own cookbook.
For me a career highlight has to be winning best newcomer at The National Wedding Industry Awards. It was such an honour and made all the hard work with it.
I prefer eating out for sure! I love cooking but you can’t beat being cooked for and it’s the best source of inspiration.
The first dish I learned to cook was probably something like tuna and sweetcorn pasta salad. Or a family recipe that is dubiously named tuna casserole (which is not really a casserole at all!).
When it comes to memorable meals I have two that really stick out. Our wedding meal in Italy was absolutely sensational and wonderful - needless to say I was not one of those brides that doesn’t eat on their wedding day! And then there was a meal that we had in a restaurant called Ku De Ta in Bali.
Having to pick only one of my recipes to eat forever is the ultimate tough question. And something I don’t think I can answer. It's like being asked to choose which of your children is your favourite.
My go-to comfort dish is mashed potato with anything. I’d be pretty happy with just a bowl of buttery mash actually!
My husband is my favourite dinner companion because he knows he has to share! I like to try every dish on offer.
My drink of choice is a raspberry mojito.
My favourite vegetable has to be a Potato. I love it in any form and it’s so versatile.
My death-row dinner would be simple… A full roast with all the trimmings.
My favourite sandwich filling has to be a perfect egg sandwich. But only a perfect one. Good high welfare eggs not quite hard boiled, chunkily chopped, a dollop of mayo, a little bit of Dijon mustard, white pepper and then either chives, dill or good old fashioned cress. On doorstep white fresh bread or baguette.
My must haves for a summer picnic basket are... homemade sausage rolls, fresh bread and cheese, quiche, homemade slaw, strawberries and cream, watermelon, chocolate cake and elderflower cordial.
The first restaurant I visited after lockdown eased was for a girls night out at a local restaurant in Reigate, called Island House. It opened shortly before lockdown and we had to cancel a reservation so it was long anticipated. But there are SO many on my list to visit.