AN F1 ARMY MARCHES ON ITS STOMACH
When you spend six months of the year on the road, it’s the home comforts you crave the most: a full English breakfast or a decent cup of tea. One of the philosophies of the Williams catering and hospitality staff is to make anyone dining with them – be that mechanics or VIP guests – feel relaxed and welcome.
“We are a friendly, warm and open team and as soon as anyone walks into our motorhome we really want them to feel like they are at home,” says Michaela Kamphuis, Williams’ hospitality service delivery manager. “With so many people away for such a long time, it’s really important they are looked after.”
Food, and nutrition in particular, are both vital aspects of keeping a team functioning to the best of their abilities, and the team have to cater for 70 members of staff needing three meals a day. If you add guests to that tally, it’s around 1,000 meals that have to be provided during a four-day grand prix event.
“We serve a lunchtime buffet between the various sessions for all the team members, but if for any reason the mechanics and engineers are really busy, we always ensure we take hot wraps, salads, sandwiches, healthy protein pots and fresh fruit to the garage so they never go without food,” says Kamphuis.
There is also a record of every team member and a special allergy sheet for soy, gluten and dairy to ensure that if someone has an allergy, then the team’s chefs can prepare an alternative. But the level of service also extends to the VIP guests who attend the grand prix.
One of Williams’ ambassadors is the Michelinstarred chef Michael Caines, and he regularly attends races to prepare bistro tasting menus and special wine lists so that guests of Williams can dine in style over a grand prix weekend.
“We are briefed before every race in terms of who is going to be there and what events are being held. We have a database of visitors that we will cross-reference, so if we know we have a returning guest who likes green tea and honey, we go that extra mile to serve that to them, before they’ve even asked, to make them feel special,” says Kamphuis. “We want to create the ultimate guest experience and make people feel relaxed, allowing them to enjoy themselves when they visit Williams for a race weekend.”
Sundries such as salt, pepper, tea and coffee are bought in bulk back in the UK and are then packed and sent over with the sea freight to grand prix venues, while the chefs will source as much fresh produce as possible from local supermarkets in the days leading up to a race. A thousand meals requires a lot of storage space, and you will often see chefs criss-crossing the paddock if they find themselves momentarily short of an ingredient. Pirelli can always be relied on for olive oil and balsamico…
“Ensuring everyone has three meals a day can mean that we work long hours,” says Kamphuis. “Serving breakfast means being at the track for 6am and we often don’t finish until 11pm. Working for a grand prix team means that we work very long days.”
All are welcome to eat at the team hospitality unit: Williams aim to make it feel like a home from home