News

Confessions of a catering captain: I'm touched because customers always invite us to eat the food we bring

He attends more than 50 parties every year.

No, Mr Rodney Mayo is no socialite or party animal.

The 27-year-old is a catering captain and his job is to satiate hungry partygoers by setting up catered buffets before their appetites kick in.

Nearly every time, he has to reject invitations from attendees to join the feast.

He has to, because this would be against regulations and he takes his job with Neo Garden Catering Services very seriously.

Says Mr Mayo: "At the parties that I go to, people are very friendly and kind to me. I really appreciate it when they tell me 'Come eat, come eat.'

"It makes my day that they ask."

Still, he has to decline their invitations.

"Well, I tell them that it's against company policy and most leave it at that," says a sheepish Mr Mayo.

"Some insist that I join in, but really, all I can do is chat with the party attendees."

But he confesses that sometimes, customers complain about the food too.

Too salty, too sweet. He has heard it all. But the most common complaint is when late comers arrive to find that their fellow partygoers have finished the food.

Mr Mayo shrugs at this, but says it still comes down to him to placate customers as he is the "frontline trooper" of the company.

He pre-empts misunderstandings by explaining to the organiser the quantity and type of food ordered before they open the buffet line.

It was not easy for Mr Mayo when he arrived here from the Philippines in 2011 to work.

He could not tell mee goreng from mee siam, even though he had to prepare these dishes and explain to customers what they were.

He say: "The food is so different from what I'm used to in the Philippines. I had to study the different types of food and their recipes by reading up cookbooks and company guidebooks."

Now, Mr Mayo is familiar with all kinds of Singaporean cuisine.

He has recently gone through his craziest time of the year because of all the Christmas and New Year parties.

"Usually I have only two or three events a day. Recently, I have had more than six events to cater for daily.

"It's a very busy time," he adds.

It gets a little crazy if you consider the logistics of getting the food from the Neo Garden Catering Services' kitchen in Boon Lay and delivering it to different locations islandwide in good time because the food must remain fresh when he delivers them.

FOOD FOR ALL EVENTS

The company, started in 1992 by Mr Neo Kah Kiat, caters food for all kinds of events, including birthday celebrations, weddings, corporate functions and housewarming parties.

Mr Mayo recalls, laughing: "My favourite parties are the costumed ones. I even went to one where people dressed up as Martians... It was really strange."

But he confesses that his excitement got the better of him during an event meant for elderly folks held in a community centre last year.

He spotted the event's VIP: former president S R Nathan.

"I remember bugging the organisers for a photo and they let me do it. He (Mr Nathan) asked about my job and thanked me for my work."

Mr Mayo proudly shows this reporter the selfie he took on his mobile phone.

He says: "I feel really proud that a foreigner like me can get to meet the (former) president of Singapore."

The S-Pass holder aspires to become a cook and hopes to be able to settle down here.

Thanks to his work, Mr Mayo has observed and interacted with Singaporeans enough to know his "lahs" from his "lehs".

"It's important to integrate. This has become very much home."


The food is so different from what I’m used to in the Philippines. I had to study the different types of food and their recipes by reading up cookbooks and company guidebooks.

- Mr Rodney Mayo


SECRETS OF THE TRADE

1 Always plan your routes and timetable the day before. Otherwise, you’ll end up facing hordes of angry partygoers waiting for their food.

2 Take stock of what is in the delivery van every day. Have spare cutlery and utensils in the vehicle.

3 Memorise the ingredients in every dish to keep in mind the customers’ dietary habits. Pay attention to the type of meat used, whether there is milk or cheese, and if the dish is vegetarian.

confessionscatering captain