Company of Cooks has extended its partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) with a new multimillion-pound catering contract at RHS Garden Wisley in Surrey.
The 10-year deal, estimated to be worth £70m in total turnover, will commence on 1 January 2013, five years after Company of Cooks first started working with Wisley. It will see joint investment in the redevelopment of all restaurants and cafes at the RHS flagship garden, which receives around a million visits each year.
The venue will also host tasting sessions, cookery and preserving workshops and events, with all dining and associated activities presented under the "Taste of Wisley" banner.
Mike Lucy, founder of Company of Cooks, told Caterer and Hotelkeeper that a pivotal element to the new partnership is a promise by RHS to promote the caterer's services. "The RHS has a very extensive and powerful marketing and communications machine for its membership, through its websites magazines and all sorts of media," he explained.
"One of the important parts of this particular agreement, which is relatively unusual in our sector, is the RHS has contractual responsibilities for putting the Taste of Wisley campaign through all of its media communications."
Company of Cooks and RHS will each invest in excess of £1m over the next five to six years in the redevelopment programme and RHS director general Sue Biggs said there will also be a closer relationship between the kitchen and garden.
"With RHS gardening expertise and Company of Cooks' food expertise, people will be able to discover varieties of fruit and vegetables they like the taste of, learn how to grow them and get great ideas to cook them," she said.
In order to maximise the limited amount of produce available from the Wisley gardens, Company of Cooks will look to extend their use, such as through preserving fruits and using herbs for vinegars and oils.
Claire Clark, former head pastry chef at Thomas Keller's French Laundry in California and culinary director at Company of Cooks, will lead a team of cooks to develop menus inspired by the seasons and RHS Garden Wisley's growing calendar.
Company of Cooks will work with RHS to turn the existing conservatory café into a new British food hall and create a new café at the entrance to the garden that will sell on-site baked goods, seasonal produce and plants.
Canopy, new outdoor dining facilities, will be set near the fruit and vegetable gardens and feature a menu pairing grills with Wisley produce, the Tasting Room will be a brand new purpose-built restaurant, featuring more unusual ingredients such as edible flowers, roots, stems and leaves.
A new café at entrance to the garden will sell on-site baked goods, seasonal produce and plants, while the existing conservatory café will become an expansive British food hall. The conservatory dining room is to become a new restaurant with décor changing throughout the year to reflect the seasons and the glasshouse café will be family-focused with a play area and "grow and cook" events aimed at children.
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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