Behind the scenes at our Dining In menu photo shoot

Our brand new Dining In menu launches next week. Here’s a sneak peak at what went on at our photo shoot, and some of the delicious new dishes you will be able to enjoy in the comfort of your accommodation.

Group Executive Chef James Haywood at home in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches to the dishes.
Group Executive Chef James Haywood at home in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches to the dishes.
Check out that cheese action.
Check out that cheese action.
Group Executive Chef James Haywood at home in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches to the dishes.
Group Executive Chef James Haywood at home in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches to the dishes.
Check out that cheese action.
Check out that cheese action.

If you didn’t already know, Dining In is our no-fuss, no-hassle menu that offers freshly-prepared, restaurant quality food in the comfort of your accommodation.

Don’t want to cook tonight? We’ll take care of it.

Don’t feel like going out? No problem.

Don’t even want to change out of your pyjamas? Hey, it’s your holiday. We’ll deliver to your door.

The menu

The new menu is all about relaxing in your lodge (or your hotel room), with family and friends, sharing great food that everyone enjoys. It’s about sharing and swapping and trying a bit of each other’s sauce. It’s about ordering a whole range of different dishes because everyone has their own favourite and food envy is a terrible thing.

With this in mind, we decided that a formal photo set wasn’t going to cut it. We needed to shoot where the food was designed to be enjoyed – in a lodge.

And that meant tricky set-ups, shuttling food from the nearest restaurant kitchen in a van, unreliable lighting and climbing on tables to get the perfect shot. But it is all in a day’s work for our resident food photographer (and author of our mouth-watering pancake and pretzel dog recipes), Claire. Group Executive Chef James Haywood was in the kitchen, dressing the food and making sure it looked its best.

The shoot

“We woke up on the day of our Dining In shoot at Whinfell Forest to glorious spring sunshine filtering through the trees,” says Claire. “Which was good news because I love to shoot in natural light.”

Up and ready to shoot #CenterParcs #Whinfell

A photo posted by claire sutton (@clairetweet) on

The first shot of the day was an aerial photograph showing some of the variety of the new menu. I don’t want to give away too much, but joining all your favourite curries, stir-fries and pizzas are some exiting new additions including Japanese and Thai options, salads and some great family favourites.

Claire says: “The plan was to lay out the food on the dining table, but I couldn’t get high enough to fit everything in! So we rolled up the rug and went for a carpet picnic.”

Graphic and Digital Designer Rob, who has created the beautiful new menus, joined us for the shoot, so he and I were roped in to hand model. Have you ever tried using chopsticks in your non-dominant hand? It’s hard.

Next up was a shot of another new entry to the menu. It’s still under wraps, but if the chicken wings at Huck’s American Bar and Grill are one of your favourites, then you’ll love this (above, left).

After another group shot of some of our oriental dishes, we travelled west to the subcontinent to photograph some of the delicious Indian starters and curries on our menu (left).


“For the Indian dishes we used the coffee table,” says Claire. “We moved it to the window to flood in as much light as possible, and cracked open some beers and wine to get the atmosphere of a relaxed, cozy night in.”

Next up were the new and improved pizzas (a spectacular new dough recipe for the base means the thinnest, crispiest pizzas ever). Just as we finished photographing them, it was time for lunch.

How convenient. And with all these pizzas going spare too…

After lunch the sun came out and we jumped at the chance to shoot one of the exciting new dishes outside on the patio. It’s one of my favourite new additions to the menu and I won’t tell you too much about it yet – you’ll have to check back for the official launch story next week. Although if you’re eagle-eyed, you’ll get a pretty good idea of it from this photo, left!

It was great to shoot outside in the beautiful woodland at Whinfell Forest. It really imbues the shots with the feeling of being at Center Parcs. Claire says, “I love the trees refracted in the white wine glass on these shots.”

After several hours of arranging, plating, shooting and being chivvied on by Rob in his unofficial role as Time Master, the final shot of the day rolled around and it was another new dish.

I just can’t keep this one a secret any longer – family-sized trays of delicious mac ‘n’ cheese and lasagne that arrive hot and bubbling at your door (below and below, left).

Claire says “We used the blackboard in the lodge as a background to show up the steam and the gooey cheese. And as this was the last shot of the day, we all tried some. It’s a lovely comforting family meal. I know this for sure as I took a spare tray of it home for my own family to enjoy that night!”

Photoshoot leftovers for dinner. #macncheese

A photo posted by claire sutton (@clairetweet) on

As usual, as well as light-reflector, spoon-holder and coriander-rearranger, I was chief taster for the day. Quality control is very important so I made sure to try everything as soon we were finished photographing it. Sometimes even before, but then I was told off.

So I feel pretty confident in telling you this food is wonderful. It’s prepared by the same expert chefs who cook your favourite curry in Rajinda Pradesh or that mac ‘n’ cheese you always have in Huck’s. It’s made with fresh, real ingredients and you can really taste the quality. I haven’t stopped raving about it to the rest of my colleagues since the shoot.

So next time you’re enjoying a break with us, give the cooking a miss tonight and try something from Dining In. Check back next week for the big reveal, when I chat to Group Executive Chef James Haywood about his inspiration creating the menu, and tell you all about the new dishes you can enjoy.

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Maddy Potts

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Maddy Potts

As Marketing Executive at Center Parcs, I’m lucky enough to hear all the amazing stories that come from our guests, our Villages and the wider travel industry. I’ll blog about the best ones, bring you some fantastic competitions and update you on all the exciting new activities and goings on at Center Parcs.