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Event Showcase | Catering for the BRIT Awards
This week’s event showcase comes all the way from London!
Anyone who has ever worked on an awards night, big or small, will agree that one of the most difficult elements of the event is the catering. Timing the service so that you do not disrupt the proceedings is a fine art. So too is topping up glasses discreetly, clearing plates so that the audio doesn’t pick up the clatter and finding all the people with dietary requirements in what is often a low lit event space.
We were very excited to catch up recently with Payne and Gunter, the caterer who for the past 11 years has been successfully catering for the BRIT Awards, Britain’s pop music night of nights. We take a look at how they dish up an award worthy feast for some the world’s biggest music stars.
The catering event brief
Create an elegant and stylish menu using seasonal British produce with a twist.
Serve the food (three courses) within 75 minutes to some of the world’s biggest music stars.
The O2 is London’s largest music venue, perched on the banks of the Thames River at North Greenwich. During the Olympics the venue was known as the North Greenwich Arena as O2 (the venue’s naming partner) was not an official Olympic sponsor. Inside the venue there are an array of restaurants, smaller concert venues, an exhibition space, bowling alley, plus of course, the main music hall – think Sydney’s All Phones Arena but bigger! The venue is also noted as being the world’s busiest music venue, an apt location to host Britain’s music awards!
How many staff were involved?
For the BRIT Awards, the entire Payne & Gunter team of five are on board! Yes, that’s right, all five!! In addition, 60 chefs come on board to slice, dice and serve up 12,000 plates of food and 550 front of house staff make sure the divine dishes arrive safely to the eager crowd of 4000.
What was on the menu?
Dorset wasabi and green tea pannacotta
Wellington of slow-cooked rib wrapped in brioche dough, a low roasted fillet of West Country beef with a Lincolnshire savoy cabbage and celeriac puree
Woodland mushroom mille feuille, wild mushroom arancini, roulade of aubergine, shallot and red pepper
“Sherbet fountain” – a classic English treat from the sweetshop made using an old English recipe dating back as far as the 1600’s!
Payne and Gunter’s version of the “sherbet fountain” contained a lemon posset, pistachio sponge, candid lemon sherbet topped with a pillow of marshmallow meringue in a crisp case, dusted with freeze-dried liquorice and the all-important liquorice stick that went in every tube of sherbet fountains.
What is the biggest challenge of catering for the BRIT Awards?
Bethan James, Operations Director for Payne and Gunter, who has worked on all 11 BRIT Awards with the company, says the biggest challenge is getting people to sit down and eat within the set timeframe. She says the majority of guests want to “be seen” during the night and ensuring all places are served and cleared in the required time can be tricky.
In addition, the event is now a lot larger than it was previously. Bethan explained that Payne and Gunter are serving up dishes not only to the guests in the main arena, but also a hospitality marquee and a number of private suites throughout the venue. The extent of the operation is vast and for Bethan and her small team, overseeing the entire event means being in more than one place at a time – comfortable shoes are a must!
It looked as though the waiters played a part in the entertainment this year…
Bethan explains – “this year at the BRIT Awards there was an opening scene with Ant and Dec depicting all the drama and theatrics of catering for the event, including celebrity Chefs and dancing waiters. It’s not like that in real life, obviously! However, we are an integral part of the show as without our swift service it would impact the live show start. It is very military in its approach but all done seamlessly and with impeccable planning months ahead to ensure we deliver.”