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Wimbledon Tennis Food

A trip to the All England Lawn Tennis Club means more than just watching international tennis.

For many people it is a mixture of sporting excellence, varied summer cuisine and a day out that is often the highlight of a summer holiday. Food plays an important part in any visit. To find out more about this aspect of the AELTC I called in to see the man who is largely responsible for the club’s catering, in all its guises.

I met Catering Operations Director Jonathan Parker, or JP as he is known, in his office deep in the heart of the magnificent administration building. He explained that he has a normal complement of 12 staff for the day to day running of the restaurants out of season, but the numbers increase rapidly as the fortnight approaches, to 1850. They deliver 3000 menus to nearly half a million visitors ranging from VIPs (including the Queen and the Prime Minister) to the day visitors who join the queue and the ball girls and boys who play such an important part in the running of the competition.

So, how does Jonathan manage to satisfy the culinary demands of such a varied crowd? ‘We work hard to keep on top of our game,’ JP said. ‘Rather than waiting for feedback we try to anticipate the demands of an ever-more sophisticated set of diners. We have engaged Albert Roux (father of Michael Roux of TV fame) as consultant to advise us on the current developments in all aspects of professional catering. The bar is set high these days with more and more people becoming experts in fine dining and top of the range cuisine,’ he explained. ‘We try to satisfy all tastes and all pockets. Many people bring sandwiches and have a picnic, which they enjoy, but for those who don’t there is a big demand for healthy pizza - our best-selling line - and scampi and cod which are very popular, plus fresh sandwiches, chips and sausages. To suit modern tastes we have reduced the amount of batter that we use on the cod.

There is a Sizzling Salad Bar and a Portuguese Chicken Bar. One of the most recent additions is a gluten free menu. JP has recently discovered that he has an allergy to wheat which has sharpened his appreciation of gluten free problems. The initiative that he seemed most pleased about was the Conservatory buffet. ‘Here we can create salads tailored to individual tastes, appealing to a variety of dietary options and choices.’ For those who want to splash out there is a choice of six fine dining restaurants, all a la carte; one is a debenture with prices to match and of course strawberries and cream feature in each venue.

‘This is my sixth championship as Director,’ he added. ‘I initially joined the catering team in 1994 as a junior manager. I have come back every summer since then. I enjoy the buzz and the energy of the club. Every year we learn more about the needs of our customers. Some of the information comes from our other catering outlets at other Grand Slam events in different parts of the world.’

We looked out over the yet unfilled courts and walkways of the AELTC and I remarked that it was a wonderful environment in which to enjoy good food. ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘but we have to be aware that the food in all its various aspects has to meet up to this unique and beautiful setting.’

Wimbledon Tennis FoodWimbledon Tennis FoodWimbledon Tennis Food