Play it again, Sam 13 December 2019 Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
In this week's issue... Play it again, Sam Sam Harrison returns to the floor at Hammersmith’s Riverside Studios, where his brasserie is set to be a blockbuster
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Lights, catering, action!

01 January 2000
Lights, catering, action!

MY alarm goes off at quarter past six and I have to leave the house by quarter to seven. I live in Earls Court, so it takes about 20 minutes to cycle to Great Portland Street. Coming through Hyde Park is really beautiful at that time. When I get to work, I shower, change and am ready to start at 7.30am.

I'd never worked in contract catering before I joined Catering & Allied. I had an image of pinafores and huge canteens. We don't mention the word canteen here because it's not one.

We supply catering for the 450 people at Flextech Television, a cable channel company. It's pretty hip and trendy. We've got TV screens on all day and music blaring. People come down when they need that 15-minute break. It's their cool-down place.

Supplies will be at the top of the stairs when I get in. The most important thing is to get high-risk foods temperature-checked and put away. You've got to be aware of the risks.

We open at 8am, when, if it's very busy, I'll help out with the breakfast. If I need a kick in the morning I'll have a coffee, but I'm not addicted. When I'm serving and the aroma of the coffee beans is wafting out, that's when I give in. At about 9am I'll grab some breakfast, usually toast.

I e-mail the lunch menu and let people know if we're introducing something new, if something hasn't turned up, or if we are having a special bar night.

I like things to be structured and organised. When you're looking after a team, there are lots of little things you have to remember, such as the fact that Ali, our kitchen porter, has exams in June, so I'll need a replacement, or when the coffee machines next need descaling.

Our kitchen is the size of a broom cupboard, with only one oven, so this limits us to one hot main, such as a risotto or Parmesan chicken. Hot sandwiches are made to order.

I have an excellent chef, Kathryn. I'll help her, if necessary. It might be washing the vegetables or making salad dressing - it varies. I will cook on the odd days when Kathryn's out.

About 250 people come down for lunch. It's a nice, social atmosphere, but it gets a bit hectic at the counter.

I used to work at Nicole's restaurant in New Bond Street. I worked shifts, which cuts out a whole chunk of your life. It would be hard to go back to that.

Here, I have the freedom of being my own boss but the security of being attached to a company. Yes, I have to be in early, but I've got my evenings and weekends. It's nice to be able to plan things and accept invitations.

At about 2pm, I'll sit down with Kathryn and have lunch, usually a salad. I eat fish but not meat. I crave salads and vegetables. We'll discuss the next day's menu and go through the bread order.

When there's a full team working, I can go and sort my paperwork out at about 2.45pm. This includes ordering supplies, the day's banking and payroll. On Thursdays I'll process the accounts.

I have staff meetings every two weeks when we discuss new items. If standards are dropping we'll go through it. You have to keep on top of things.

Monday to Wednesday, my priority is to get out by 4.30pm, because on Thursday and Friday I'll stay until about 6.30pm. On these nights we have a bar. At 4pm, we dim the lights, set out the counter and put out ashtrays and snacks.

I arrange other functions, like live bands or special parties. I'm also planning exhibition evenings when I will extend the bar's opening hours. I wind down as I cycle home. In the evenings, I chill out. It might be seeing friends; we'll chat and have something to eat. I don't usually get to bed before midnight.

I want to open my own café serving good, healthy food in about three years. Right now this is perfect for me. The day goes really quickly and if I can't get everything done today, there is always tomorrow. You have to learn that in the catering industry or you would never go home. n

Interview by Christina GoldingPalace h

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