We catch up with Absolute Taste’s executive head chef, Justin Guy, who talks new menus, hospitality experiences and brown sugar.
If Andy Murray wants advice about dealing with pressure he should probably talk to Justin Guy. Next month the chef from the Fever-Tree Championships
’ exclusive catering provider, award-winning Absolute Taste, and his team will return to The Queen’s Club, where they will be responsible for sating the appetites of thousands of guests.
How will the dining experience differ this year?
One of the major changes is that the Roof Garden
– our biggest restaurant with a terrace overlooking the practice courts – has gone back to being plated. That’s a big thing for us as it allows you to have more control. We’re going to be doing around 750 covers a day from that hospitality space.
What’s the thinking behind the new menus – have they changed much from 2017?
This year is about simplicity: menus that reflect the best of English produce. It has been more of an evolution than revolution from 2017. Rather than change the menus too much we’ve tried to incorporate new ingredients and different presentation styles.
Talk us through some of your favourite dishes
My favourite Club Lounge
dish – and one of my best – is the blackened brown sugar sirloin of beef with caramelised onion and parsley salad. What’s so special about this is the way the brown sugar starts curing and tenderising the meat. It’s a fresh dish that’s perfect for this time of year. The brown sugar helps stop the beef becoming too rich and adds a gorgeous, slightly sweet element to it.
Can we have the recipe?
No, it’s a trade secret.
The pilaf stuffed tomato. We pride ourselves on creating equally good dishes for vegetarians and I love this dish because it’s a great example of how my team and I can plate up to make it look special. It’s a take on a slightly old-school stuffed tomato – and it tastes great.
And your Roof Garden culinary highlight?
The brown sugar tart. I know it appears that I’m sticking with a brown sugar theme here, but this dish is my twist on a wonderful dessert that I had with my two bosses at the Ledbury. I loved the simple delivery of the dish. It’s not too sweet and it’s a really lovely way to end a good meal.
You’ve been catering at The Queen’s Club for 25 years, how have things changed?
With the growing foodie culture in the UK, customers’ expectations have increased significantly. For me this is great as it gives us the opportunity to showcase and tailor our great food to a larger, more appreciative audience.
How does your team come up with the dishes?
We spend the early months of the year researching and looking at new ideas. Instagram has become a great tool for seeing what other chefs are up to. We eat out a lot, too. Then we lock ourselves in a room and start trying to put ideas to paper.
What do you think hospitality guests want from a dining experience?
Multi-tiered catering options are key to a successful dining experience of this size. The food has to be memorable and the service is equally important. My team and I can cook and present the most amazing food, but without great service from the front of house team the experience will be mediocre. Part of what we do is a real team effort and that’s what I love about it. Everyone is as important as each other; from the chef, the waiter and the kitchen porter to the forklift driver.
What are the main challenges cooking at The Queen’s Club?
The main difficulties for us as an events team is getting everything in place – from staff and chefs to temporary kitchens – and of course getting the food into the site on a daily basis.
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Food prepared by Justin Guy on behalf of Absolute Taste
Images courtesy of Deb Porter