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Food for thought at the UK’s racetracks and racecourses

Racetracks and racecourses are ahead of the field when it comes catering to the trend for healthy menus, finds Holly Patrick.

The UK is home to some of the world’s best-known racecourses and racetracks. From Silverstone Circuit, which has welcomed Formula 1’s biggest names to Goodwood Racecourse, famed for its outstanding beauty on Sussex’s South Downs.

Beyond beauty, big names and betting, the UK’s racecourses and racetracks also host a variety of meetings and conference facilities, with multiple venues and capacity offerings, modern integrated technology and dedicated events teams. For example, Cheltenham Racecourse has a 2,250 seated auditorium, Newmarket Racecourse boasts 20 meeting spaces and Silverstone has five halls, a clubhouse and the pit garages, all available for corporate hire. On-site accommodation, free parking and concierge services are other enticers for corporate clients.

BCDR Clubhouse at Silverstone racetrack.

But what good are impressive facilities if delegates can’t eat? Allergy UK estimates that 20 per cent of the UK’s population suffers from food allergies and the demand for meat-free options increased by 987 per cent in 2017. But the UK’s racecourse and racetrack venues are keeping up with this trend and demand by adapting menus to reflect what guests want.

“All our vegan dishes are seeing increasing demand, which has meant we’ve had to become more creative with our menus. For example, often we now design a dish that is edible for all, so that it can be enjoyed by as many people as possible, and then we add to it for the meat-eaters or dairy-lovers” says Silverstone Circuit’s head chef, Dean Hoddle.

The days of dietary-requirement menus being a second thought to chefs are over as Hoddle explains: “I openly admit that I was one of these chefs who felt that catering for vegetarian or vegan diets was a distraction to the main menu.

“Today, it couldn’t be further from reality. Plant-based diets are here to stay, and chefs need to adjust menus to become more vegan-friendly and stop regarding these dishes as ‘special menu’ options.”

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Echoing this sentiment is Jonathan Parker, director of food and beverage at Ascot: “It’s not simply a case of having a standard salad offering or another stuffed pepper dish that has haunted many vegetarian and vegan diners for years.

“This change has driven us to develop a purely plant-based fine dining menu that we will be rolling out across our private boxes and fine dining restaurants at this year’s Royal Ascot.”

Ascot’s executive chef, Gemma Amor has teamed up with Sarmado Sibley from Raw Love Life to create a plant-based menu which includes options such as vegan nettle pesto, soured cream made from fermented cashew nuts and meringues made from chickpea water.

Confit salmon dish from the hospitality menu at Ascot racecourse.

Following dietary-requirement suit is The Jockey Club Racecourses which runs 15 racecourses, including Cheltenham, Aintree, Epsom Downs and Newmarket. The group has a history of catering for thousands of hungry racegoers. Most recently feeding 150,000 racegoers at the Randox Health Grand National at Aintree in April.

Amanda Mason, marketing manager at Jockey Club Catering explains that the Group’s culinary teams contain dedicated allergen chefs who are specifically consulted when guests with dietary requirements are due to attend an event.

Finding out which guests need what food doesn’t have to be difficult either, as Tom Reynolds, catering manager at Chepstow Racecourse explains: “We ask when taking bookings if there are any dietary requirements so that we can adapt our menus.”

It’s refreshing to see that the UK’s racecourses and racetracks are adhering to food trends and making a concerted effort to stay clear of only offering moisture-zapping, gluten-free bread or boring stuffed peppers to guests with dietary requirements. That fact these allergen menus reflect the venue’s brand is a bonus. Corporate guests can rest assured they’ll receive Ascot’s finest or Silverstone’s heritage, for example, as they dig into their carefully crafted dishes.

 

Case study:

  • Client: Booker
  • Event date: September 2018
  • Venue: The Wing at Silverstone Circuit
  • Number of delegates: 3,000

    Gino D’Acampo hosted a celebrity cooking showcase at the Booker event.

Silverstone Circuits hosted the annual Booker Catering Trade Show event which aimed to inspire its top catering customers by showcasing a selection of brands and products available from Booker.

The event was held across the Silverstone Wing’s Hall 1, Hall 2 and Hall 3 and made used of the halls’ mezzanines, totalling 4,490 sqm of space for 200 catering exhibitors. The event also featured the Cook-off Zone, designed by Booker to showcase produce and demonstrate recipes. Celebrity chef, Gino D’Acampo made a guest appearance at the Cook-off Zone to cook, sign books and take selfies with the audience.

The venue and event team partnered with Phoenix Food Hub to minimise food waste post-event. Phoenix Food Hub collected over four tonnes of food waste from the event, equivalent to 10,400 meals.

Freddie Brisbane, trading controller at Booker said: “I’d like to thank the team at Silverstone for working with Booker to once again ensure our annual Catering Trade Show was a great success. Thanks to the fantastic venue and the support of the talented staff, we were able to provide our customers with an inspirational and enjoyable day.

“We’re looking forward to working with the event team to see how we can expand next year’s show into the remainder of the Silverstone Wing to make 2019’s event even bigger and better.”

Updates:

  • Aston Martin Red Bull Racing is entering the meetings and events industry by launching MK-7, a new event space in June 2019. The venue will be located within Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s Milton Keynes factory headquarters.
  • The View Restaurant at Chepstow Racecourse has been refurbished for 2019. The restaurant is now glass-fronted so diners can see across the racecourse.
  • Chepstow Racecourse has opened its new Gin & Fizz Lounge on the first floor of the Premier Grandstand.
  • Silverstone Circuit is building a 197-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel, due to open in 2020. It will include a rooftop terrace and offer direct access to the Silverstone Wing via a bridge over the racetrack.
  • Ascot has launched a new fine-dining day delegate rate (DDR) menu for meetings and events clients. The mezze-style menu offers dishes such as lamb niçoise, deconstructed vegan wellington and scorched mackerel.
  • Newcastle Racecourse has announced plans for a multi-million-pound redevelopment of the racecourse, including a large events centre.