We spoke with inspiring couple Max Pasetti and Stephanie Boote about their Bristol-based catering company Pasetti & Boote. They shared how their international experiences shaped their approach to food, how they dealt with lock-down and also some tips for preparing the perfect Christmas turkey.
Pasetti & Boote is redefining what it means to be a catering company.
It is one in a fresh line of exciting new companies quashing the bad reputation too often associated with catering; the idea that the food is either old-fashioned or poor in quality.
It’s an association that most certainly can’t be drawn with Pasetti & Boote. The couple’s incredible Italian/British-inspired menu is bringing restaurant-quality food to catered events all over the country, and wowing attendees in the process.
It’s no surprise. Between them, Max and Steph’s experience is extensive; having spent time, respectively, cooking and running wildly popular pop-ups between Paris and London – cutting their teeth in the world of Italian food at the likes of Soho’s ever-buzzworthy Bocca Di Lupo and celebrity favourite Trullo.
Now based in Bristol, the combined identity that is Pasetti & Boote has grown to become one of the most sought-after catering and private chef companies in the UK. In part, no doubt, because not only are they incredible cooks – but they also happen to be pretty awesome people too.
We know this having spent some time with them at the end of November. We got to chew the fat – or rather, sample some freshly hand cut pappardelle with a sausage ragu – try out some knives, shoot some photographs and interview them for the first in a new series of TOG articles called ‘In The Kitchen With…’
Can you remember when you first fell in love with food?
Steph: My mum cooked a lot from scratch when I was small which is amazing considering she was a single mum of two with a full-time job. At the age of 10, I became vegetarian which I stuck with for well over twenty years. I remember my mum saying to me ‘you better learn to cook then,’ so I started to try.
One side of my family is Polish and pierogi (Polish dumplings) were a huge thing for me. They were made by Ciocia Stefa, my aunt, who would spend days preparing for our arrival. they came boiled or fried, with a gravy boat of melted butter to pour over them and a tub of sour cream. I’d sit and eat as many as I could manage having turned down every other course to save space, and would be sent home with large tupperwares of them for the freezer. Often when I taste white pepper in dishes it takes me back to those pierogi.
“When I became vegetarian, I remember my mum saying to me ‘you better learn to cook then’, so I started to try.”
How about your respective journeys in cooking prior to Pasetti & Boote, what’s the story there?
Max: I began working in restaurants at a young age, washing dishes and waiting at my family’s restaurant in Wales before moving away at 18. I found myself cooking in a pub kitchen as I needed work, but really enjoyed life in the kitchen. I eventually decided to move to London to further my career. Here I spent some time at Trullo and Bocca di Lupo where I got seriously into Italian food, making charcuterie, pastry, fresh pasta and breads – It was hard work but I learned so much. I was there for 10 years, before a year in Paris, and then moving back to Bristol to begin Pasetti & Boote with Steph.
Steph: My story is nothing like Max’s. During and after university in London I worked in cafés cooking and began doing my own pop up restaurants with friends. Before long I was working and being nurtured in a catering kitchen in Hackney and then became Gingerline’s head chef, starting up their HQ which became a full time job running the kitchen. I did menu development and got into a little food styling and started the imaginatively named ‘Stephanie Boote Catering’, cooking for weddings and parties. I was mostly cooking Mediterranean vegetarian food which works brilliantly for people wanting sharing plates. Max and I met on a pop up I had been invited to be a part of. Soon after we moved to Paris where I continued to run my business, popping back all the time to cater events. By the time we got back I had roped Max into helping me on some events and things grew and changed from there.
The past few years have presented all sorts of challenges for those working in food. What has growth for Pasetti & Boote been like since its inception?
Max: It started with Steph doing a mate’s wedding in Scotland, with her dad as a kitchen hand – it sounded like carnage. She quickly found herself in high demand doing loads of weddings just before we joined forces and we had a couple of very busy years.
Covid hit us massively. We were completely closed for around 18 months without any government help as we didn’t have a premises, we effectively had to start again which was a real challenge (especially as we had twins during this interlude!). We are now just about back up to the size we were before the pandemic, we’ve converted our double garage at our house into a commercial kitchen and Steph is back full time. It’s really exciting to be back cooking together in our shiny new kitchen and pushing Pasetti & Boote to find creative ways to adapt and keep things fresh and exciting.
“It’s really exciting to be back cooking together in our shiny new kitchen and pushing Pasetti & Boote to find creative ways to adapt and keep things fresh and exciting.”
You’ve spoken a lot about family. Are they the people you most love to prepare food for?
Max: I really love cooking food for my twin daughters. They go mad for pasta and all the Italian classics – it’s exciting to cook new things for them that they haven’t tasted, I think they have quite sophisticated palates for 2 year olds.
Where is the most memorable place you’ve gotten to prepare food?
Max: We once had a private job in Umbria for a British family, they had rented this kind of castle up in the hills. We were staying in the turret and there was a hot tub on the roof overlooking the most incredible landscape. I remember cooking pork outside in a wood-fired oven and rolling pasta on a big stone table – it felt pretty authentic.
“I remember cooking pork outside in a wood-fired oven and rolling pasta on a big stone table – it felt pretty authentic.”
Sharp knives aside, what is one thing you can’t live without in the kitchen?
Steph: Without a doubt a timer, my brain is like a sieve and I would burn everything without one.
In addition to the articles, we’re excited to be creating an ‘In the Kitchen With…’ playlist too. What one song is always on when you’re preparing food?
Max: Dyin’ to be Dancin’ by Empress – it’s a feel good disco track that is guaranteed to bring good vibes.
Good choice! And finally, to wrap things up… what is one piece of advice you’d give a home cook this festive season?
Max: Brine your turkey. 5% salt brine for 24 hours, leave the turkey to dry out for another 24 hours before roasting it.
A big thanks to Max and Steph for lending us so much of their time.
Pasetti & Boote creates Italian-inspired menus for parties, events and weddings within a 2-hour drive of Bristol. Visit their website here.
Watch out for the next instalment of ‘In The Kitchen With…’ coming soon.
All photography by Ed Schofield.