How do you plan the menus for the Cheltenham Festival? Over the four days of the festival we deliver more than 40,000 meals, which are made up of hundreds of menus across the event. This year's focus is on four core menus: Champion Day, Ladies Day, St Patrick's Thursday and Gold Cup Day. We'll also do afternoon tea each day, for which we'll have baked more than 7,000 cakes.
What are the biggest challenges associated with volume catering on this scale? We have more than 40 kitchens throughout the grandstand and tented village, 240 chefs and thousands of waiting staff, so the main challenges are co-ordination and logistics. My focus is consistency of high quality throughout the event. I tell the team it is not 40,000 meals, it is one meal 40,000 times!
As a chef, what attracted you to a contract catering career? I was trained in the Royal Air Force and worked all over the world. When I left I wanted a similar challenge of a large-scale operation. I joined Cheltenham Racecourse in 1997 as the production chef and soon realised the opportunities that event catering had to offer: you can lead large teams, improve your culinary skill, control financial and commercial expertise, as well as implement systems and processes while developing relationships with both clients and customers.
How has event catering evolved in recent years? In the past 15 years it has taken massive leaps forward in both quality and standards. Hospitality has become an integral part of the day and these culinary developments are evident throughout the UK, driven by the superb local producers up and down the country.
What sort of food trends do you expect to see in the next 12 months? Initially they'll focus on the Jubilee and the Olympics, but beyond that I think chefs will become more involved in the service hospitality suites, boxes and, personally, at individual tables. The lead chefs will branch into front of house, setting up buffet points and managing the service staff, working alongside the restaurant manager. Head chefs will manage the food from supplier to customer, giving a truly culinary experience from start to finish.