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If ever there was a chance to show off how far this country has come since the days of luncheon meat and tinned
peas, it’s the London Olympics. Each of the eight restaurants in the Olympic Park Prestige Hospitality Pavilion alone, all serving different menus. And across the six hospitality facilities
throughout London, the portfolio of caterers is offering a total of 1,500 different menus.
No medals for guessing that ‘Best of British’ is the theme for the catering in the Olympic Park pavilion. Cooking will be fresh and contemporary in style – nothing radical there – but it’s the ingredients that Prestige is hoping will really blow guests away.
The team is under no illusions about the importance of this event. ‘This is a shop window for Prestige,’ says marketing director Tony Barnard. ‘Brazil will be here, other host nations are here. The Olympics is a showcase.’ The stops really are coming out, starting with the shopping list. Prestige has (somewhat controversially) cast the net beyond its existing pool of suppliers. Executive chef Malcolm Emery and marketing director Tony Barnard have spent the past 18 months crisscrossing the British Isles to dig out artisanal suppliers.
Beef will come from Northern Ireland, Cheddar cheese from Somerset and apples, strawberries and raspberries from Kent. And alongside the best-of-the-best staple ingredients, guests will almost certainly be served something they’ve never heard of, as Prestige has enlisted the help of professional foragers for a spot of rummaging in the hedgerows of Norfolk. Sea purslane, an edible marsh plant, and Alexander, an aromatic celery-like herb, are just two of the unfamiliar items that you might find on your plate in the hospitality restaurants at London 2012.
Refreshingly, one thing you won’t find on the menu is the name of a celebrity chef, a conscious decision by Prestige, which wants its own budgets and guests’ attention to be fixed firmly on the food itself. They’re even planning to show a film of the fields, vineyards and kitchen from which their food and drink has come, before each sitting.
This article first appeared in the Square Meal Venues & Events Autumn 2011.