David Wilkinson - 23 Aug 2012

Jamie Oliver, OGGSVenue and me last week



Jamie Oliver hosted by Square Meal at OGGSVenue
Jamie Oliver hosted by Square Meal at OGGSVenue

 Last Monday Jamie Oliver was whisked into our building via one of our secret VIP entrances metres from my kitchen by his entourage and accompanied by our own on-site security team, right at the start of our busiest week feeding thousands of journalists at the LMC, Jamie was interviewed by Ben McCormack from Square Meal in our Telford Theatre. Now that there is a temporary lull in my kitchen until the Paralympics start, I have had a few minutes to contemplate and reflect all things Jamie Oliver and his visit.

I have great admiration for what Jamie has achieved.  You could say that he was lucky with his first break but there is nothing fortunate about everything he has done since and what he has made of himself.  He has made cooking trendy and accessible to the masses while campaigning for good causes and creating a business empire!  That’s not luck; that’s hard work and talent.  His two campaigns that have impressed me the most have been his restaurant 15 and his amazing expose into the state of school dinners in this country.  

  1. Jamie graduated from Westminster Kingsway College, only a stone’s throw from us in Westminster. As it happens, their Principal Andy Wilson is the Patron of The Westminster Collection of which @OGGSVenue is a leading member. The next TWC meeting will be hosted by Westminster Kingsway College which presents a chance to learn about their apprenticeships and work placements.  Following that there will be an opportunity to take a look around their kitchens and sample some food cooked by their students in their lovely Escoffier room.  Unfortunately I will be on holiday at the time (I always miss all the good stuff) but my number 2 & 3, Jo and Charlene are definitely up for going and will filling me in on my return. 
  2. Jamie commented in his ‘audience’ that Jamie’s Italian has made middle market food good rather than average, and that is something that we aspire to in certain parts of our business.  For many of our conferences and working lunches the main focus for our clients will obviously be the business in hand rather than what they will eat at lunchtime.  We take great pride in making sure that we produce the best possible food we can within the time and budgetary constraints of each client so that they leave with a positive experience.  Nothing pleases me more than excellent food feedback from a conference delegate. 
  3. Jamie commented that he is still amazed that so many restaurants are not independently owned and operated and stated that it significantly influences kitchen choices and decisions.  Although I don’t own the business here (in my dreams!) we are in the unusual position of being a stand alone venue and we are able to make all our own decisions.  We can put whatever we want on the menu and use whatever supplier we want and that kind of flexibility is priceless. 
  4. Jamie commented that he won’t eat genitals or cooked ants, however live ants taste OK apparently!  Culture has so much influence over what we eat or find palatable.  All over the world what is and isn’t acceptable is different but I don’t think I could bring myself to knowingly eat things like dog, whale or cat.  I don’t think I’d be able to look my two cats, Fred & Wilma in the eye if I’d chowed out on Moggy fricassee.

By the way, not only did we have Jamie from the culinary celebrity world with us at OGGS last week, we had a realm of stars responsible in one way or another for transforming the world’s perception of British food. These included Heston Blumenthal, Marcus Wareing from the Berkeley, Mark Hix and a number of successful Indian Chefs sharing unique insights such as Atul Kochhar (owner, Benares), Alfred Prasad (executive chef, Tamarind), Vivek Singh (executive chef and CEO, The Cinnamon Club) and top food writer Ravinder Bhogal (author of Cook in Boots).

Here is a small selection of photos taken of their visits to OGGSVenue last week.

Heston Blumenthal interviewed by Square MealLondon 2012; Chef at the London Media Centre
London 2012; Press Conference at the London Media Centre

Leave a Reply