Just Add Plantains / by Rugie Wurie

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As a London-based international wedding planner, I strive to celebrate the cultures of my diverse clientele through entertainment, fashion and wedding favours. But I’m continually shocked to find that top venues in our global city often fail to accommodate African tastes in their selection of food and beverages. Just adding one dish like plantains to the menu could unleash a whole new revenue stream from young, affluent Africans.

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I’ve suggested this to a few London venues, but have been politely dismissed. They’ve adapted menus to cater for Kosher and Asian tastes, but don’t yet appreciate African and Caribbean food.

At a recent wedding between a German bride and Sierra Leonean groom at Berlin’s prestigious Adlon Kempinski, I negotiated for Sierra Leonean cuisine to be included in the predominantly European menu. The hotel added jollof rice, roast meat, acara or puff puf (West African sweet doughy pastry) in the midnight bites selection and everyone was delighted: all the guests felt included, and drink spend went through the roo

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For most of my clients, the average budget for a London-based wedding with 150 guests is around £60,000. They usually max out room capacity with over-subscribed guestlists,matching this with a steady flow of drinks.

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The new wave of Africans – many from countries like Nigeria and Ghana - want guests to experience their culture without compromising on dream wedding locations. They hire us to make this happen by any means necessary.

Some big names are starting to take notice. For example, Millennium Hotel Mayfair, The Mayfair and Hilton Park Lane have added the likes of Favours Catering, Burrell, Myrtle, and Bekes Caterers to their preferred supplier lists.

Those that continue to neglect Afro-Caribbean flavours risk losing valuable business to less glamorous addresses that are more considerate of other cultures. Small steps towards inclusion

So how can London’s top venues adapt to this affluent market? Small pots of condiments could be a deal breaker, and hot pepper sauce is an easy compromise. Shitto (Ghanaian pepper sauce) and Jerk seasoning (scotch bonnet with thyme) are thoughtful nods to Afro-fusion cuisine.

Drinks menus can also benefit from an international spin. For instance, we hired Dash Concept to develop a cocktail that reflected one couple’s birth country, Sierra Leone. The Bounty Daiquiri featured ingredients including rum, lime, pineapple, coconut and apple. Other nice touches to a cocktail hour could include fermented West African palm wine or Jamaican rum punch.

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Representing a broader array of cultures in London’s wedding industry is something we can all toast to.