Ruth Pretty MNZM is one of New Zealand’s best-known food personalities. Her interests extend beyond the highly successful catering company she runs in partnership with her husband Paul, into a diverse range of culinary activities including a popular cooking school, kitchen shop, a branded range of preserves, Christmas cakes and cookbooks.
The base for Ruth Pretty Catering operations is the beautiful 27 acre rural property Springfield in Te Horo, on the Kapiti Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. About an hour’s drive from Wellington, Te Horo once was a market gardening area specialising in fresh fruit and vegetables but is now a rural lifestyle area. The home of Ruth and Paul Pretty, Springfield, is also used as a venue for special events, parties and lovely weddings.
Ruth Pretty’s involvement with New Zealand’s hospitality scene stretches back to the late 1970s when she ran a ground-breaking restaurant, Marbles, in the Wellington suburb of Kelburn. After 10 busy years, Ruth decided she needed a break. Relaxing at her property in Te Horo, Ruth Pretty envisaged the potential of developing some kind of rural tourism activity combining her flair for entertaining and hospitality.
As business demands grew, so too did the staff and facilities, with a separate commercial kitchen and office block built in 1993. Ruth Pretty Catering is now a substantial entity, employing 18 permanent staff based at the commercial kitchen in Te Horo on the Kapiti Coast and over 80 casual employees as required.
Ruth Pretty Catering staff includes a kitchen manager, chefs, function managers, front of house staff, kitchen hands, dishwashers, administration and accounts, planning, operations and logistics. Ruth and Paul are committed to staff training and up skilling.
The company operates a fleet of vans - personalised under such plates as Buffet, Lunch, Dinner, Brunch, Feast, Nibble, Supper, Entree and Grill. Meanwhile, Ruth Pretty’s branded range of jams, jellies and chutneys is now sold in selected specialist stores in New Zealand.
Promoting New Zealand Cuisine
An early client was the New Zealand Food & Beverage Exporters Council. They commissioned Ruth and Paul to manage a small restaurant on the New Zealand Pavilion at ANUGA, the world’s largest food industry trade fair.
"I was given a list of all the products to be promoted on the Pavilion and asked to create a different menu for each of the five days of the fair. The small restaurant seated about 30 and was available for participating food and beverage companies to host their clients for anything from morning tea, lunch or late afternoon drinks. "The concept worked so well that we have since worked regularly with the New Zealand food export sector, and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise,” Ruth recalled.Ruth’s promotion of New Zealand’s fine foods and wines continues. In 2005, Ruth Pretty Catering was responsible for the VIP hospitality lounge attached to the New Zealand Pavilion at the World Expo in Aichi, Japan. Ruth and the team provided catering in 2010 at the World Expo in Shanghai, China.
On home soil Ruth has also been a New Zealand food and hospitality ambassador through her catering of various high-profile visits. She fondly recalls getting behind the BBQ with Prince William when he visited the capital to open the new Supreme Court. The added advantage of being based in the capital has seen her catering for official government functions for various Prime Ministers, hosting overseas dignitaries. In 2014 she catered for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their visit to New Zealand.
When it comes to showcasing some of New Zealand’s top brands Ruth has stepped forward. Partnering with Air New Zealand for the Wine Awards Gala Dinners in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2012 Ruth Pretty Catering presented menus designed by Air New Zealand’s international consultant chefs for up to 800 guests.
“We are very proud of the fine foods and wines New Zealand produces and it is a joy to promote them.”
Ruth Pretty has always respected New Zealand’s unique offerings to the rest of the world through sport and film and has partnered in various projects to showcase the best of New Zealand Hospitality
Major Sporting Events
In 2006 and 2007, Ruth and her team managed a larger scale service for VIP guests at the Emirates Team New Zealand America’s Cup campaign, in Valencia, Spain.
As with Aichi, a team of Ruth Pretty Catering staff were based in Valencia for several months, serving New Zealand foods and beverages with the trademark Ruth Pretty Catering flair. Ruth created the menus and was on site personally for special events and to make sure everything was managed smoothly.
"Ruth’s excellent food and her young team made me proud to be a New Zealander, and our international guests were very impressed”.
Rugby World Cup 2011 in Auckland was a special highlight, where Ruth’s team catered for VIP guests, treating them to the very best New Zealand has to offer. The guests, which included royalty and leading politicians invited by the New Zealand government and IRB were hosted in an exclusive area in Auckland Stadium. The specifically designed menus did not duplicate a dish during the festivities, until by popular demand some crowd favourites were added for the Final.
In 2017 Ruth’s team was involved in the prestigious Asia Pacific Amateur Golf Championship providing catering and logistics as the Culinary Director. Hosted by the Royal Wellington Golf Tournament the event took place over 10 days, hosted hundreds of internationally renowned sportsmen and women and was broadcast to over 160 countries. Ruth’s catering comprised of everything from the opening celebrations through to specially designed player meals and a spectator’s café.
Film Industry Events
Ruth Pretty Catering always enjoys the diversity and artistry that comes with film industry events.
- The World Premiere party for the ‘Lord of the Rings: Return of the King’ movie for 2500 guests (2003), which was a lovely follow-up to catering the trilogy movie’s wrap party for 2500 guests (2000)
- The Australasian premiere for the ‘King Kong’ movie, for 900 guests (December 2005)
- The Lovely Bones Premiere (2009) Ruth Pretty Catering was responsible for the premiere and after-premiere celebrations for Paramount Pictures Limited.
- Various wrap parties for Mortal Engines for up to 2,000 guests
- Annual Christmas Parties for Weta Workshop for up to 3,000 guests
Ruth Pretty Catering has expertise in successfully catering for a range of stakeholders and event designations, such as party evenings for up to 3000 guests, VIP dinners of all sizes and conference and gala dinners for up to 1000. The essential ingredients of successful catering are exemplary organisation, quality service and impeccable food and Ruth Pretty Catering delivers on these elements.
"We do still love our original reason for starting the business - catering cocktail parties and dinners for corporate clients, private parties and weddings. Being involved with important events in people’s lives is very rewarding and we love helping create wonderful memories for our clients. We have worked with some clients for 20 years.”
A Collection of Ruth’s Favourite Events
Ruth has catered for many large functions and prestigious guests, with some recent highlights including:
- The World of Wearable Arts: Catering partner in the event in Wellington since 2005 where Ruth caters elegant VIP dinners for corporate tables and seasonal snack style Star Boxes for attendees.
- Pinot Noir conferences: Performing as Catering director since 2001 for 600 delegates, including co-ordinating and catering culinary events over the three days and catering for the prestigious Gala Dinner.
- Toast Martinborough: food wine and music festival, in association with Ata Rangi Wines since 1996, preparations underway for 2018 – our 27th year.
"Obviously we pull out all the stops to make sure these are fabulous for everyone, because we are very proud of the fine foods and wines New Zealand produces and it is a joy to promote them."
Working with Restaurants and Celebrity Chefs
For several events Ruth has worked with a range of suppliers, and also collaborated with other chefs to design and implement various menus. Ruth Pretty Catering implemented the The Air New Zealand Wine Awards dinner designed by 4 international consulting chefs.
Ruth has been the director of the full culinary programme of the six Pinot Noir conferences between 2001 and 2017 and her management included coordinating Wellington restaurants and guest chefs:
- Wellington restaurants prepared small plates in a marquee
- 2017 lunch chefs were Al Brown, Graham Brown and Josh Emett. Each chef collaborated with Ruth Pretty Catering who managed menus and delivery for each day of the event
Ruth Pretty has strong ties with a large range of NZ and international chefs.
Recognition by her peers
Ruth Pretty was highly honoured in 2005 by the New Zealand Restaurant Association, with its most prestigious award: induction into the Hall of Fame. She joins an illustrious line-up of New Zealand’s top chefs, and the selection committee noted.
"Her devotion to serving and promoting high quality food – not only in New Zealand, but internationally".
The award commendation states that "she has worked tirelessly to promote the delivery of exceptional culinary experiences, whether on an intimate scale for a few people through to catering for over 1000 guests. The disciplines encompassing the various aspects of Ruth’s catering empire reflect her professionalism and business acumen.”
Other food and cooking activities
Ruth opened the Ruth Pretty Cooking School at Springfield in 1993. Since then, an astounding number of participants – over 30,000 - have enjoyed the weekend classes, with Ruth or a guest chef tutoring. Going to one of Ruth’s classes is widely regarded as a "great day out”, for men and women alike. On a smaller scale, Ruth Pretty uses her own homestead kitchen for special ‘hands-on’ classes for groups of up to 20 people.
Her Te Horo home is regularly used as a wedding venue, with beautiful gardens and sweeping lawns perfect for a marquee and drinks on the lawn. The Springfield homestead has its own pear orchard, while the large garden surrounding the house and commercial kitchen provide fresh herbs and vegetables.
Ruth Pretty also has a media profile – featuring often on radio and television, and appearing on American, Australian and Japanese visiting TV chef programmes featuring the best of New Zealand food. From 1999 to 2016 Ruth wrote a weekly column for Wellington’s Dominion Post Saturday newspaper. Since 2017 she shares her recipes in The New Zealand Life and Leisure Magazine as the celebrity chef contributor.
Ruth regularly presents popular cooking demonstrations for charity events and holds panel seats and speaking roles at talks and summits, recently she was a guest speaker at the Restaurant Association Conference. Ruth has also published 6 successful cookbooks.
Recognised for her deep knowledge of and passion for great hospitality, Ruth was appointed to the Board of the Hospitality Standards Institute in 2007. One of her staff was the first graduate in the modern apprenticeship programme in 2002, and since then nine more staff have achieved the Level 4 Modern Apprenticeship in Cooking qualification.
Ruth was a Board member of Positively Wellington Tourism, the regional tourism organisation promoting the greater Wellington region, including her home Kapiti Coast and Wairarapa regions.Ruth for several years now has been the chairperson of the Advisory Board for Hospitality at Weltec.
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