As preparations for Festival 2017 continue apace, we caught up with the Leith’s at Glyndebourne team. We asked them about their experiences of working at the Festival, and what they’re most looking forward to this summer.
What are the biggest challenges of catering at Glyndebourne?
Julian Wilson (Executive Chef): ‘The biggest challenge is the practicality of the Glyndebourne experience – serving fantastic food and drink to 700 people within about an hour on a site located on a hillside, in three restaurants and up to 150 picnics.’
Leith’s serve around 700 diners every night of the Festival. Photographer Sam Stephenson.
Can you hear the opera whilst you’re cooking? Does it inspire you?
Tommy Garrett (Senior Sous Chef): ‘You can hear music as it’s piped around the site – it’s certainly the most unusual venue I’ve ever worked at. And when I am in the Courtyard Restaurant cooking for the performers, orchestra and crew, you get to meet all those who make the venue work. That’s really special.
Senior Sous Chef Tommy Garrett, hard at work in the Leith’s kitchen.
How many Champagne corks are popped in a night?
Kevin Clinton (Cellar and IT Manager): ‘No two days are the same but the picnics department alone can get through 150 bottles on a busy night. Last week I took delivery of 6,000 bottles of House Champagne, just to get the ball rolling.
The picnics department alone can get through 150 bottles of Champagne on a busy night.
How do you prepare for Glyndebourne during the off-season? Where do you look for inspiration?
Edward Arthur (Director of Hospitality): ‘Just finding and recruiting the 400 staff we need for three restaurants and picnic service takes considerable time and preparation. I also visit restaurants in London and more locally to refresh my taste buds and get inspiration. As Prue Leith says, Glyndebourne is an opportunity for reinvention each year, so we spend a lot of time in between Festivals working on improving every area of the food and beverage experience.’
Where is your favourite spot to dine at Glyndebourne?
Edward: ‘One of the tables on the balcony in Middle & Over Wallop, looking down onto the restaurant and into the conservatory. It’s a little quieter, and great for people-watching.’
Shafeeq Norodien (Head of Back of House and Porters Team): ‘The Haha lawn, with its glorious view of the gardens and House.’
Shafeeq’s favourite spot for a picnic, with the House in the background.
Each year Leith’s carry out their own ‘dress rehearsal’ for the season ahead. What’s your favourite part of the catering dress rehearsal?
Aimee Barlow (Seasonal Manager Mildmay Restaurant): ‘It’s heartening to see the new staff arriving looking intimidated at the idea of serving so many people in such a short time, but going home with a smile having fed 300 people. It’s a huge confidence-builder for everyone.’
Middle & Over Wallop restaurant, as viewed from the balcony. Photographer: Sam Stephenson.
Do you have a favourite opera this season?
Aimee: ‘We all like La traviata.’
Edward: ‘I adore anything by Mozart, so I’m very excited about La clemenza di Tito.’
Aimee’s Festival favourite, La traviata, returns to Glyndebourne this summer. Photo: Richard Hubert Smith.
What is your favourite dish from this year’s menu?
Julian: ‘Obviously the picnics and Afternoon Teas are quintessential Glyndebourne, but this year diners should also look out for the fantastic beef Wellington and the Amalfi lemon mousse.’
Tommy: ‘At Middle & Over Wallop this year we’ll be serving a rack of lamb with saffron Israeli couscous, seared little gem, dried fruits, rosemary jus.’
Edward: ‘Julian and his team have created some lovely dishes, but I particularly like the new lightly curried lobster risotto dish.’
One of this year’s new creations – a lightly-curried risotto, with lobster and king prawns.