The fortress that has repelled invasion and protected the kingdom, Jay Burgesson, Commercial Director at Food Show speaks to EP on how they cater for the historic and breath-taking venue.
Anchored on the shore of the River Thames, the castle welcomes millions of people each year and holds distinct events which brings both unique opportunities and challenges.
The Tower of London has secured many high-profile prisoners and precious contents in its history and today this includes the priceless Crown Jewels. Known for its wing-clipped ravens and colourful Yeoman Warders, the World Heritage Site has the distinctive atmosphere of an historic castle and is the type of location Food Show holds great passion for.
“We’ve been listed as a preferred supplier since 2016 and have catered for over 15 events during this time. We’re also delighted to have several few confirmed bookings for 2019 and pending enquiries as far as 2020. Due to the heritage and history of the Tower of London, we are faced with several logistical challenges but with eight individual spaces, we are always able to provide a wow factor event.” Jay Burgesson, Commercial Director at Food Show explains.
With nearly 1,000 years of siege, ceremony, triumphs, tears, blood and even bears, the Tower has a unique atmosphere inside its ancient stone walls. Today it can host private and corporate events for up to 250 guests at a time but receives millions of visitors each day, so Food Show have to ensure they can work around these opening times. Jay explains, “In the summer months we gain access at 6pm and in the winter its 5pm, this can be pressing when you have guests arriving from 6.30pm but the Tower team have devised a clever format that works in providing tours of the grounds and The Jewel House before any reception commences.”
The famous ravens, who occupy the Tower and enduring royal power, are often what people first think of when picturing the Tower and legend says the kingdom will fall should the ravens ever leave. Many will also think of the Yeoman Warders (nicknamed ‘Beefeaters’) who have guarded the Tower since the 15th century. A special inclusion for every event held at the Tower is one of the Yeoman will MC the evening. Over 35 of the wardens live at the Tower with their families and each must have more than 22 years of military experience to qualify.
“For hundreds of years the Yeoman have performed the ancient ‘Ceremony of the Keys’, the ofﬁcial locking up of the Tower each night – a tradition which visitors can witness by arrangement. It’s an exceptional experience but when we’re running events we must ensure none of our guests are in the grounds during this time. Rumour has it they get fired at by the many armed guards if caught outside!” Jay jokes.
Guests are completely safe inside the buildings during this time and the Tower has a plethora of event spaces for them to enjoy fine events in. From the recognisable White Tower to St Thomas’s Tower where kings once dined and entertained, each space has its own story and history. Jay notes that a challenge for all spaces, except the New Armouries, is that they are unable to physically cook onsite but they have crafted an offer to counter this. “We are only permitted to use the sous-vide cooking method so have developed and designed menus to ensure they are appealing, hold variety and of course work logistically. At the same time, we must navigate many spiral staircases, low door archways, historical pieces and age-old rules. It makes it all good fun and a little different to your usual event space!”
Jay is clearly proud of how Food Show tackle any of the challenges they face and relishes pushing the boundaries to ensure they are developing and building on their creativity to adapt to any logistical challenges.
The Tower of London has witnessed many historical events since work first began in 1066. During then and now it has housed wild animals from all corners of the world, held high-profile executions and played a strong role in the lives of Kings and Queens. Today Food Show are continuing its reputation for spectacular food and inspired events ensuring guests leave the Tower as if a Monarch had been in residence and held a state banquet.