Catering for me is bit like watching one of those massive passenger aircrafts taking off. Hundreds of tonnes of people, metal, luggage and fuel taking to the air being held up by nothing more than air pressure, something you can’t even see. Everything about it says that it should work but you have to grudgingly accept that it just does.
Likewise everything about catering says that disaster is waiting around every corner but 99% of the time all the parts that are moving in different directions suddenly come together at the crucial moment and the day is saved. So what do I mean by moving parts?
Thanks to my wonderful eclectic team, a walk through my kitchen is a bit like ‘Going around the World in 8 seconds’ rather than 80 days due to the many languages and accents I hear!
|Summer Skye Photography
This diversity makes the ‘Class of 2012’ a particularly creative bunch in an otherwise traditional, Grade II listed, Westminster meetings and events
Since I was talked into this blogging malarkey, I have noticed an increase in my use of puns. Forgive me therefore for saying that my team quite literally bring a myriad of tastes and flavours to our tables at OGGSVenue.
Catering is such a transient industry that in the dozen years that I have been here about 50 staff from 20 countries have passed through the our doors of my kitchen, and in some way or another they have all contributed to the way we operate today.
It is this diversity that
makes my job so interesting and rewarding. Most catering
operations outside of independent restaurants are usually so strictly governed by company directives that freedom of expression is suppressed in favour of conformity. The beauty of being a stand-alone, autonomous conference and events venue is that I am able to draw on the combined knowledge of the team and implement improvements at will.
Because of their collective experience the whole team are very much involved in making the decisions that effect the operation. There are the obvious ones such as creating menus and food
service, but there’s also hygiene, training, safety, logistics and administration etc to consider. It is amazing how committed people are to a cause if they had influence over it’s creation in the first place.
Perhaps we should create a 7- course tasting menu representing a favourite dish from each of my team’s home countries including Singapore, Slovakia, Jamaica, South Africa, the Phillipines, and Ireland. As Head Chef, I think I deserve Chef’s prerogative for a very English Amuse Bouche!
Welcome to the first chef’s Blog from the kitchens at One Great George Street in Westminster or OGGS as we are often fondly referred to by our regulars. My name is David Wilkinson and it has been my pleasure to have been the head chef here for the past 11 years, where I have lucky enough to see the business develop from promising but fairly modest beginnings into the highly professional, flexible and articulate organization that we operate today.
I came to OGGS in June 2000 with the best part of 20 years experience in 5 Star hotels behind me but even with Intercontinental hotels, The Savoy and Claridges included on my resume, I have to say that this has been the most rewarding and stimulating job I have ever had. The photo below is of The Savoy kitchen team taken back in 1985, yes I am that old and I am somewhere in the back, you will have to take my word for it.
As a stand alone venue with dedicated, in-house catering, we are in complete control of every aspect of the operation from the suppliers we use to the moment the food arrives on the plate, and everything in between. The advantage of course for our customers is that because we are not governed by restrictive corporate or contractual limitations, it gives us unique flexibility.
All this flexibility and autonomy would of course be for nothing without the right team to make it work. A kitchen is only as good as the people working in it and I am privileged to say that I work with the most fantastic team. It would be difficult to imagine a more diverse group of characters with people from as far a-field as the Philippines, Singapore, the Caribbean, South Africa, Poland and Slovakia. I’ve even got someone from Birmingham!! Before I forget, we are currently recruiting for a Senior Chef de Partie so do let me know if you know suitable candidates.
In future Blogs I will fill you in with details! I’ll tell you more about the team, the food, unusual functions and maybe name drop some VIP guests! There is also so much to talk about and discuss in this Jubilee and Olympic year and the challenges and opportunities it brings to a conference venue in Westminster with proud responsibility for hosting the London Media Centre for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Until then thank you for reading the first chefs Blog.