5Qs with Damian Clarkson
Managing Director, The London Kitchen
Damian Clarkson, Managing Director of The London Kitchen answers five questions this week. With over 20 years of experience in events, Damian is a well-respected figure in London’s hospitality sector. Previously he has worked at The Admirable Crichton, Rhubarb and Mossimans before starting his own events company in 2003. Five years ago he launched The London Kitchen, which provides premium event catering services to both private and corporate clients. Amongst many of the notable industry events they have catered for The London Kitchen is lucky to have been awarded both London Fashion Week and for the S. Pellegrino Worlds 50 Best Restaurant Awards at least three times.
You’ve braved owning an events company during some very tough years. What changes have you seen within the event catering sector coming out of the recession?
The recession saw street food and other influences take to the fore – much more of our food is informal and client led, its enjoyable and probably a better match, and clients are very open minded and adventurous. I think a good example of this is one of the pop-up stands that we were able to offer a couple of years ago offering Thai style crickets with coriander and chocolate scorpions!
Trends flow fast through the powers of social media and this gives huge scope for testing products. Look at how quickly Cupcakes, Tapas and Pulled Pork caught on. There have been great success stories.
The hospitality and catering sector has now become about so much more than just food. Successful business people in this industry understand that you have to be natural hosts. The experience of eating has become more and more crucial to success. Bizarre and entertaining environments are standing out from the rest. I recently ate at an establishment, a pop up kitchen, which had a one-eyed limping Whippet and a Chihuahua on hand to greet you as you arrived. Certainly memorable!
The London Kitchen has recently been awarded a contract at an artsy-bizarre eating establishment that certainly stands out. Could you tell us more about it?
Last week we won the contract at the café in The Serpentine Pavilion in Kensington Gardens- regarded as the art world’s poshest pop-up! The Pavilion and Café are both temporary summer structures, free for the public to visit. Every year the unique Pavilion is designed by a different architect, and this year it’s the turn of renowned Chilean architect Smiljan Radic, who has created a semi-translucent, cylindrical structure which is designed to resemble a shell.
We are there for 4 months til October 18th and are expecting 250,000 visitors – should be fun!
Other major achievements in the past twelve months include a major franchise in The Gulf where The London Kitchen (Middle East) opened its Kuwait operation from a purpose-built kitchen. How have things progressed from there?
Good, the relationship is mainly advisory until the formal launch in September. Its enabled us to get process and procedures in place to share, and also use our expertise to work on a bespoke, high end and authentic offer. It seems slow moving but they have a superb kitchen and are being very selective
If going international has been a high point in your career, what has been the greatest disappointment in your life?
Having to liquidate my first company 5 years ago in the depths of the recession. I started Red Snapper events in 2003 and entered into voluntary liquidation mid 2009. It was a tough point in my career but I’ve learned a lot from it.
Finally and on the lighter side, what are your pet peeves?
First and foremost: dirty shoes at interviews. If you’re going to show up looking scruffy to an interview, I don’t want to know what you’re going to show up wearing to your job. Also, waiters who call you ’guys’- especially if dining with a female friend.
If you’d like to find out more about the hospitality leaders selected or have a question you’d like to see asked in future features, please contact Nicole Thompson