British F1 star Lewis Hamilton may have missed out on the chequered flag at Sunday's British Grand Prix, but circuit caterer Aspire Group's creative director Steven Saunders was there to make sure the food on offer was fit for champions. He speaks to Chris Druce
What do you do at Silverstone?
Aspire Hospitality, a consortium of owner-run businesses that includes Tapenade and MSL, handles virtually all of the catering at the site. We had everything from fine dining to mobile catering to contend with over the race weekend, and as creative director I've been involved with finalising pretty much all of what's on offer.
So no chance to sit back and watch the race, then?
Nope, I cooked my heart out. The weekend was attended by more than 200,000 fans and we served around 20,000 meals. I did my best to get around the entire site and check it was all going smoothly. That's not easy when it's 800 acres in size with food outlets everywhere, but luckily I had a scooter to whiz about on. There was a lull at around 1pm when the race started, so I got to watch about half-an-hour then.
What weren't you expecting?
The incredible noise during the racing. It's hard to describe how loud it was. Needless to say, we all became very good lip-readers over the course of the weekend. It adds a whole new dimension to service.
This was your first F1 Grand Prix, having won the contract early this year - were you nervous?
I don't know if nervous is the correct term, but we were determined to get it right. On the Friday before the race we catered for 500 at the British Racing Drivers Club's (BRDC) ball, which ex-British F1 champion Damon Hill is president of. The club owns Silverstone, so we wanted to get things just right. After the dinner the BRDC secretary described it as "legendary", so I think we nailed that one.
What's different about Aspire from other event companies?
We really care about the details, which isn't always the way with event catering. The approach we have used for this project is to say we want to deliver restaurant-quality food without making any excuses for the volumes required. The team is, without doubt, key to delivery, so we really staffed up. I'd been training the chefs involved since February to get them up to scratch, and even the casuals were brought in ahead of the event so they knew exactly what was what.
"Aspire Special Events in association with Steven Saunders". We want to take on the likes of Sodexho Prestige with a high-quality, bespoke service but need to find a general manager to drive this forward. We've also signed up to provide catering as part of an exciting new product called Silverstone International Events. So if you're entertaining guests in Dubai you can do so through an F1-themed event that ties in to the Silverstone heritage.