he British motor-racing Mecca and the petrol heads’ paradise, Silverstone is home to Formula 1 British Grand Prix.
This July the fastest drivers in the world, including the UK’s very own Lewis Hamilton, will head to the Northamptonshire racetrack to show off their skills.
The glitz and glamour associated with moto-racing stretches back almost to the invention of the car, while modern race winners continue to be showered with champagne and pretty pay packets.
Though not with exclusion of the race-loving general public, F1 is still a sport that attracts wealth through its huge sponsorship deals and corporate interest. And as a result the hospitality on offer across the three-day racing event has to match expectations.
“It has become increasingly apparent that the dining experience is as much a part of the occasion as the sporting action,” says Simon Bruce-Miller, operations director of hospitality caterer Absolute Taste.
“High quality food and beverage is synonymous with entertainment across the globe and that is particularly true when it comes to F1, which is the pinnacle of motorsport.”
Absolute Taste, which is part of One Event Management, will operate a number of hospitality areas at this year’s Grand Prix, offering all-day dining in varying service styles and premium drinks.
The 2017 race meeting will be the third year that Absolute Taste has hosted hospitality areas, bringing in some 300 members of staff, with our chefs working in four on-site kitchens during the weekend across the Drivers’ Lounge, Silverstone Six and the premium ONE Drivers’ Lounge.
The Drivers’ Lounge is hosted by renowned sports presenter Jake Humphries on the Saturday and Sunday race days, offering stunning views of the world-famous Stowe Corner through to Club Corner from a private outdoor terrace and grandstand.
“Within the hospitality area, Jake interviews the heroes of F1 past and present, as well as some of motorsport’s most successful personalities,” says Bruce-Miller.
“Inside the exclusive suite will be F1 simulators, interactive experiences, photo and autograph opportunities, along with giant screens and live entertainment.”
Guests can enjoy an all-day complimentary grazing menu with complimentary bar inclusive of champagne and cocktails all day from 8.30am until 30 minutes after the race action has finshed.
Catering for up to 1,200 covers per day in the lounge, which costs £1,625 for a three-day pass, there is a mixture between table service and trendy self-serve options for guests.
“Service style is attentive table service in a contemporary environment,” says Bruce-Miller. “Food is served from chef’s tables and hand-me-rounds while beverage service is both to the table and from bars located in each area.”
The majority of the food is prepared fresh on site at Silverstone, while some items are prepared at Absolute Taste’s Banbury kitchens, transported over on the day and finished on site.
While F1 travels around the world during its season, it is also only appropriate that the British Grand Prix shows off the best UK ingredients in its hospitality menus.
“We pride ourselves in producing menus rich in flavour and created around the seasonal harvest from suppliers and this is particularly true for the British Grand Prix,” says Bruce-Miller.
“This year, our menus, themed as the Best of British, include ingredients such as Oxfordshire cured bacon, London gin-cured trout, Cornish lobster cocktails and whole English farmhouse cheddar truckles.”
In the Silverstone Six hospitality area visitors can take advantage of grandstand views of six corners: Maggotts, Becketts, Farm Curve, Village, The Loop and Aintree.
Guests can enjoy the complimentary bar, with champagne (Saturday and Sunday), a continuously replenished all-day buffet, including breakfast and lunch, before afternoon tea is served.
The Silverstone Six can cater for up to 1,200 covers per day, costing £1,525 for a three-day package. The more premium offering of the Absolute Taste Silverstone portfolio is the ONE Drivers’ Lounge.
Limited to just 300 places, the ONE Drivers’ Lounge exclusive offering provides guests with an all-day exquisite grazing menu. This is paired with signature wines, while guests can also make the most of the unlimited pink champagne, cocktails and premium spirits at their VIP private table seating adjacent to the Drivers’ Lounge (£1,950 for a three-day package).
And as you’d expect, not a seat goes unfilled, with the F&B central to the experience.
“Customers are becoming more aware of their likes and dislikes and continue to make us push the boundaries in terms of quality and meeting their desires,” says Bruce-Miller. “The food and beverage offering rates highly in the success stakes of the overall customer experience and we take great pride in exceeding expectations.”
Absolute Taste was originally created in 1997 by Lyndy Redding and Ron Dennis as the dedicated caterer for the famous McLaren Honda F1 team.
Now known as the Performance Sports arm of Absolute Taste, the company continues to cater for McLaren all over the world.
“In fact Lyndy was already providing food and hospitality for the McLaren team before this, so for over 20 years Formula 1 and, more importantly, McLaren have been part of our heritage,” says George Galgey, head of Performance Sports at Absolute Taste.
The caterer looks after the team, including senior management, engineers, media personnel and mechanics, as well as the team’s affiliated sponsors, partners and invited guests – not to mention the drivers Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Stoffel Vandoorne.
“The team, which generally consists of between 100 and 120 personnel, are catered for from Wednesday through until Sunday of a Grand Prix week,” explains Galgey.
“Once the track action starts on a Friday for free practice sessions, Saturday for qualifying and Sunday for race day, the Brand Centre is open all day to guests and sponsors. Typically we can cater for between 50 and 200 guests a day through a mixture of the food service styles.”
The Brand Centre is a state-of-the-art mobile hospitality facility that is transported on 15 articulated trucks to each European race on the F1 calendar where is built and deconstructed by a team of more than 30 crew.
“We have one fully-fitted commercial kitchen built within a 40ft articulated truck which forms part of the Brand Centre facility,” says Galgey.
“F&B staff numbers fluctuate depending on levels of guest and sponsor activity in each country, but generally we have three chefs, two kitchen porters, three bar staff, seven front of house hosts and a logistics co-ordinator.”
The caterer incorporates a mixture of food service styles in its Grand Prix weekends, ranging from extensive hot and cold buffets for the team and journalists, a la carte menus for VIPs and affiliated sponsors and evening set menus for partner dinners or sponsorship events.
“We try, wherever practical, to style the menus based on the local cuisine and the culture of the countries we visit. This means that our menus are incredibly varied and diverse, which is both of benefit to our chefs and the team as well as guests that get to enjoy our food,” says Galgey.
Being on the go constantly during a season is not always easy for chefs who need to complete food preparation work, but as Galgey explains, it is about finding the right balance.
“Some of the food is prepared before the Grand Prix weekend within our kitchen facilities at our London base in Wandsworth. The majority of the produce is transported in our tri-compartment trailer to each race and prepared fresh on site.”
While it might not be accessible to the general public, the catering for the McLaren team has to be on point to allow them to perform to the best of their abilities, too. And that means chefs staying on top of current trends, flavours and dining styles.
“Formula 1 represents the pinnacle of global motorsport,” says Galgey. “Therefore anyone that is affiliated with such a series has to represent the pinnacle of their respective industries and market sectors.
“It’s only natural therefore that the hospitality and high-end food is both relevant to the times, the culinary trends, and representative of market-leading standards.”