Simon Hellier is caterer Amadeus's executive head chef at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham. He spoke to Janie Stamford about an exciting event
What is the Birmingham Chef's Alliance Dinner? It's where Birmingham's leading chefs come together to deliver a seven-course tasting menu to kick off the Birmingham Food Fest. It took place at one of Amadeus's venues, St Martin's Church in the Bullring, on 13 October .
What was the biggest challenge? The logistics of co-ordinating all the ingredients for delivery and preparation and the equipment required for the evening. For example, seven courses for 180 covers required 1,440 plates. Turning St Martin's Church into a dining venue was also a big challenge. We only had two-and-a-half hours to build a kitchen and start delivering the first course.
How important was it to get local students involved in the event? The students are the future and it's very important they have the chance to learn. It was a fantastic opportunity for them be involved in and experience a local Michelin-starred restaurant and first-class banqueting. We had students involved in the prep and also front of house. They were able to get a real feel for the benchmark of food and quality of ingredients that they aspire to.
How has catering changed in 20 years? I believe catering has evolved rapidly in the conference and banqueting area, moving away from serving food on flats to plates method. We now see a modern-day client that expects food to be delivered as it is in a fine-dining restaurant. They now expect the same wow factor that comes with just a few covers, for 1,000. It has been my philosophy and intention at all times to deliver this level of experience for any style of menu and event.
Who's your inspiration? I'm inspired by the great classical French chefs, but today my inspiration comes from chefs of the future who have a passion, love and determination in wanting to achieve great things. This alone inspires me to know that the future of Birmingham cuisine is in safe hands.