Smooth operator at the eye of the storm

Roz Whistance meets David Rogers of All About Catering, who is unperturbed by the scale of the events he creates.

“I don’t do wobblies,” says David Rogers of All About Catering. “If you do wobblies you lose control.” You can’t help wondering how David Rogers doesn’t do wobblies. There was never a better example of someone spending his life keeping the plates spinning. Based at the Royal London Yacht Club in Cowes where he runs the hotel services, he also operates the kitchen at the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club and at Bembridge Sailing Club. In the summer months his usual staff of 12 swells to 80, and he spends all his time on outside events. And not just one at a time.

“I’m quite a relaxed person,” says David, by way of explanation, and he certainly appears so, chatting away in the elegant surroundings of the Royal London. “I might have three or four functions running on any one day, and I make sure I oversee all of them, and stay on the most complicated site – where we’ve had to build a kitchen on a slope, say.”

It has to be said, the term ‘outside catering’ falls far behind the elegant reality of David’s operation. All About Catering has reached the dizzy heights of being the only such company to win English Heritage approval, and events at Osborne House are legendary. But whatever the scale of the function, behind each is a tremendous amount of organisation.

The marquee goes up two days before the function. Every grade of table cloth, shape of wine glass or colour of china has been chosen by the client from David’s extensive catalogue and now his team go in and blitz the place, bringing in tables and chairs, putting down cloths and laying up the tables. The basic food preparation is done in their purpose-built production unit and finished on-site.

The marquee contractors provide a kitchen tent where David and his team bring in ovens, hot cupboards, sinks, fridges: the whole kitchen in fact. “That’s why it’s expensive,” says David. “When you set a restaurant up you expect to carry on trading forever, using the same facility. What we’re doing is building a restaurant in the middle of nowhere for one evening.”

Far from being daunted by the sheer scale of his operation, it is the planning which lights David’s fire. He went into event catering straight from college, but he says, wasn’t passionate about being in just another marquee kitchen, and went into management. “I wanted to know about the logistics of running an event; equipment lists, how food gets there: – I love the planning side.”

Once he has a broad idea of what his clients want, there will be a tasting meeting, where David will present a range of dishes. “Sometimes the client has very fixed ideas, and sometimes they need some direction from me,” he smiles. “I’m happy to restaurant-style piles of food in the middle of plates, but if the client wants a more casual approach, then I don’t try to impose my ideas on them.”

David uses good suppliers like Hamiltons Fine Foods, but won’t make claims about using local ingredients. “Sometimes my numbers are so great I can’t do local product. Racks of lamb for 600 people wipe out Isle of Wight lamb for everyone else, so they won’t sell it to me.”

“Clients come to us with their ideas – a new trend appearing this year is to put the meat on a chopping board and get the guests to nominate a carver on each table. They get an apron and a floppy hat if they want to take it that far! It creates a more family-style meal, within the context of the grand occasion.”

Proving, if proof were necessary, that All About Catering is about catering for all. Tel: 01983 248500.