Lyndy Redding, Founder of Absolute Taste, is here to tell us about the hospitality side of Formula 1.
With the Formula 1 season in full swing, circuits around the world are buzzing with excitement as the fastest people on four wheels take to the track and test their mettle. But in busy kitchens behind the scenes, another type of refuelling is taking place as chefs prepare to feed hungry guests, drivers, teams and VIPs.
Absolute Taste has more than 20 years of experience in catering at major sporting events. Making the Formula 1 season happen is a huge logistical task and with over 25,000 people to feed, planning needs to start a year ahead. Operating in 21 countries across five continents requires meticulous strategising, a sizable network and a highly motivated workforce.
The challenges presented by global pop-up events are something Absolute Taste is now hugely familiar with. Planning for specific races, such as Silverstone, often starts 11 months in advance. This means that the Absolute Taste team begins to collaborate with the client on the next iteration of the event, planning everything from menu content to hospitality area layouts, straight after its completion.
Absolute Taste’s Central Production Unit (CPU) is a short drive from the circuit at Silverstone, meaning that a lot of food can be created off-site and transported quickly to certain locations. This allows for more space at the on-site hospitality suites, giving guests the freedom to move around.
Like any other elite sport, Formula 1 drivers are finely tuned athletes and as such, need to eat like one. The highly controlled diet of a Formula 1 driver consist of lean protein, energy-giving carbohydrates and healthy fats.
These are then proportioned to coincide with their physical exertion throughout the day. The races are both mentally and physically demanding so they do need more carbohydrates on race day, for example.
As well as all the drama of the circuit, it is also vital that hospitality areas bring the theatre into the dining experience as well.
Formula 1 drivers have a strict plan which the caterer receives in the middle of the week and they tend to eat one and a half hours before they get in the car. As is the case with most elements of Formula 1, timing is everything. Food needs to be delivered without any delay and needs to give the driver a boost in energy. Absolute Taste chefs ensure that they stick to each driver’s specified plan but also add the creativity and quality that they are renowned for, meaning that the driver also enjoys an element of the food experience.
It’s important to remember that the outcome of the race doesn’t necessarily rest purely in the hands of the driver alone and as such, members of the wider team are no exception to the healthy eating regime.
In such an intensely competitive sport where a matter of seconds could be the difference between victory and defeat, each team looks to gain a competitive advantage in any way they can, and that means its staff must also be in peak physical condition. Pit crews for example are now capable of changing tyres in under three seconds and therefore rely on strict exercise regimes and carefully managed diets which allow them to operate at maximum capacity.
Famed for its procurement, planning and logistical know-how, the Absolute Taste team really come in to their element when dealing with the big numbers, tight deadlines and the discerning clientele of the hospitality division.
Bringing in over 700 members of staff for the British leg of the Formula 1 season alone, by race weekend the team are already over 8,700 hours into their planning and execution. Meticulous logistical plans have been created and distributed, a range of service designs have been confirmed and implemented and 50 bespoke menus have been drawn up based on the season’s best produce.
Traditionally, menus will be drawn up and confirmed before sourcing the produce needed. For Absolute Taste, everything starts with the ingredients and menus are shaped around seasonal produce, not the other way round. This allows the chefs to be flexible and ensure everything the team serves is at its seasonal prime and guarantees complete supply chain integrity, placing utmost importance on ingredients that have not been intensely farmed.
Hospitality guests enjoy being immersed in the food journey of a dish and relish the freshness and simplicity of the best possible ingredients. Absolute Taste recently appointed a Food Finder to ensure the delivery of this unique service. He is key to sourcing the most seasonal, beautiful and local ingredients to be used in dishes at Formula 1 events throughout the year and across the globe.
Long gone are the days of formal sit-down dinners and fine dining as fans turn towards a more informal grazing style which allows them the freedom to eat at their leisure and means they can enjoy prime views of the racing while dining.
Formula 1 drivers have a strict plan which the caterer receives in the middle of the week and they tend to eat one and a half hours before they get in the car.
A more informal dining experience means that catering teams must provide a seamless food and beverage service throughout the day – often from 7 am till 7 pm – with breakfast rolling into lunch then afternoon tea and finally dinner. This also involves having food stations and canapes or bowl food being taken around the room by staff so that guests can eat whenever they like.
There are no restrictions, no set dining times and often no allocated seating. Hospitality attendees can move around as they wish and help themselves to beautiful plates whenever they fancy meaning that a day at Formula 1 rolls into a memorable foodie experience as well as a sporting one.
The style of hospitality is also strongly tailored to the location of the race and draws on all the native eccentricities that make the area stand out. For example, the Monaco Grand Prix, arguably the most attended hospitality event in the Formula 1 calendar, offers a stunning back drop of multi-million pound yachts, purpose built hospitality chalets, private residences and rooftop terraces looking out over the track. As such Absolute Taste work to seamlessly incorporate their renowned hospitality offering into these environments, catering for in excess of 5,000 guests spread over ten private yachts, apartment buildings, the circuit’s largest temporary trackside structure, specialist venues and in the Paddock. The team operates from a singular production kitchen and compound whilst in Monaco and buys all of their produce from trusted local suppliers to ensure the freshness and quality of food.
As well as all the drama of the circuit, it is also vital that hospitality areas bring the theatre into the dining experience as well. This enables customers to further interact with the food, the spaces and the service. As well as relaying information about the food journey, chefs will cook in front of guests and Absolute Taste will work closely with interior designers during the planning process to ensure that the dining space is as interactive as possible.
The food ethos focuses on fresh, seasonal, simple food that tastes great and champions the local area, whether that means sourcing fresh Mediterranean seafood from local suppliers in Monaco or delivering freshly picked asparagus from their own farm in Oxfordshire.