– Words Devon Paige Smith Photography Don Denton
The Truffles Group, started by Don Calveley over 30 years ago, has become somewhat of a household name on Vancouver Island. Between Cascadia Liquor, Habitat Café, Flight Cannabis and Victoria Butterfly Gardens, it’s hard to miss the locally owned and operated conglomerate when you’re out and about.
However, it’s Truffles Catering that is often top of mind for people come event and wedding season. As the largest catering company in the area, it’s often found serving up fresh, local and delicious food at popular venues around the city.
“No day is ever the same as the last, or the next, that’s for sure,” laughs Heidi Jones, director of sales and marketing for Truffles Catering, who took time out after a busy day during the last weeks of wedding season to speak to Boulevard.
“In order to do what we do, we need a big team, a lot of experience and big-picture thinking,” she says.
The experience Heidi refers to includes general manager Alistair Eason, executive chef JP Green, chef de cuisine Greg Caspersen and operations manager Jess Howard, all of whom have varied backgrounds in the hospitality industry. The four of them lead a large operations team and culinary team, and Heidi and three catering managers handle the inquiries and bookings.
“The team this summer was just amazing. We are fortunate to have a great culture here and we have a lot of fun,” says Heidi, reflecting on the 2022 wedding season, which was one of their busiest in recent years. The full team includes on-site managers, event chefs, servers, bartenders—the list goes on.
“We get a lot of large weddings and events where full service is required, and maybe there isn’t the infrastructure there to support it. We have the ability to come in and set up a full kitchen, complete with ovens and a bar and all the things that go along with that scenario,” she explains, adding that along with weddings, corporate events are another large-scale part of their business.
Their offerings run the gamut from small picnic boxes (called Grazing Boxes), available for pickup at their Brentwood Bay headquarters, to catering conference groups. And whether it’s charcuterie-style picnic boxes or a full service for 300 people, the trend so far this year is common—sharing.
“For both weddings and corporate events, family style has risen in popularity and is undoubtedly the most common service style we’re seeing requested,” Heidi says.
For those unfamiliar with the concept, family style generally involves platters of food being passed around and shared at tables, with guests serving themselves. It’s a departure from the classic buffet style that dominated the events industry for years, yet not quite as formal as a plated dinner, says Heidi.
“It’s more personal and welcoming, and I think people are feeling that desire to share close connections with people after the last couple of years,” she adds.
At the centre of the family-style service, of course, are the delicious creations of executive chef JP.
“Being based out in Brentwood Bay,” Heidi explains, “we really have so many connections to beautiful, local ingredients within a couple of kilometres. So everything we can source locally, we do. We have great relationships with many of the local growers and suppliers around, like TOPSOIL, Sunwing Farms, Level Ground Coffee, Metchosin lamb, as well as local breweries and wineries.”
And the team at Truffles Catering takes sustainability seriously.
“We minimize our output of garbage by sorting everything we collect at an event,” explains Heidi. “We compost and recycle, and only throw out what we absolutely have to.”
Their efforts have paid off: Truffles Group is Vancouver Island Green Business certified, as well as Surfrider accredited, meaning they demonstrate their commitment to reducing use of plastics and protecting our oceans.
“It’s important to Don and it’s important to us. The whole focus for Truffles Group has always been around supporting local and staying as sustainable as possible, because we know we need the environment to be healthy to produce the amazing local food we enjoy serving people.”
Heidi and the team are already looking forward to the next busy season—the holidays.
“We generally have a little bit of a slower time mid-fall, but then we ramp right up again for the holiday season, so it keeps us on our toes,” she notes.
With many bookings in place now for the 2023 wedding season, the Truffles Catering team is already working with clients, helping them decide the right type of service.
“We strive to understand the unique needs of every potential client and their event, so we like to make sure we have a phone call once we understand their vision. That gives us the ability to give them an accurate picture of what we can offer, and an accurate quote for their consideration,” explains Heidi.
“Once we have a menu created and an event plan in place, we tour the venue prior to the event if we’re unfamiliar with it, so we know exactly what we’re working with. It’s important to us to make sure our operations team is prepared, but we’re also experts at being flexible and creative because as with any event, you really never know what can happen on the day of.”