London Olympics 2012: Hazy DaysThursday 16th October 2014
As a result of winning Best British Street Food trader in the UK in 2011, we got invited to cater for the athletes in the athlete’s village for the London Olympics. Happy days...
My first meeting with the organisers was on the top floor in Canary Wharf, London; we sat down in a large glass office overlooking the city of London and planned the menu for the street food offer in the athlete’s village. It was pretty simple but the scale was something else, 5 beach shacks serving 20,000 wraps in 3 weeks...
And so I spent months looking for co-packers to prepare the wraps for me and carpenter’s to build the beach shacks. By the end of May all my carefully laid plans were coming together, Beach Shacks were looking good and a local bakery were all trained up ready to prepare all the wraps for me. It was looking beautiful, just had Hay on Wye festival to do and then spend some time with the family and await the arrival of our first child which was due in mid June.
I got the phone call on the second Friday of Hay (one of busiest of the 10 days), it was in the middle of the lunch rush but it was from the bakery so I thought I’d better take it;
Bakery: “Hi Jonathan, umm got a little problem here”
Me: “Oh what do you mean by little”?
Bakery: “The Environmental Health Officer does not want us preparing seafood products in the same space where we prepare our sandwiches”
Me: “Oh I thought this was sorted out months ago”?
Bakery: “Ah no not really, um basically we can’t do your order”
Me “What the **** you are meant to start next week and deliver the wraps to London in 4 weeks”,
Bakery: “really sorry but there’s nothing we can do”
Me: “*** ****** **** ******* *****”
Josie June Robinson Williams was born on the 17th of June at around 3.30am; it was a Sunday, a beautiful day. On the Monday I started the first day of making 20,000 wraps at a commercial kitchen (Food Centre Wales) I managed to find in the two weeks since I had that phone call. I had 5 new staff to help me and we had 3 weeks to complete the Olympics contract.
All the pallets went out at the end of the 3rd week, however there were no celebrations I had the Wake Stock Festival on that weekend so jumped in the car and drove up to North Wales.
We completed the contract by the skin of our teeth and arrived on site with 2 days spare, our Beach Shacks got completely covered in health and safety tape, all of our stock went missing for 3 days and the contract caterers wanted to us wear grey style fast food uniforms, no chance.
But it all came good just as the first athletes started entering the village. The health and safety tape was removed from our beach shacks (as they were deemed safe), our wraps were found buried deep in one of a dozen ridiculously sized freezer rooms and we could wear what we wanted.
The whole mood of London and the athlete’s village changed as soon as the Olympics started, it simply brought out the best in people, tube train drivers were cracking jokes on the intercom and everywhere you walked there us smiles and hellos.
London was buzzing but the athlete’s village was something else, I will never forget the energy and buzz that the athlete’s village had during those 3 weeks in London, I guess after 4 years of intense training all the athletes were just on cloud nine just to be there. But I think it was also the fact that almost every country in the world was represented there, it was a real celebration of people coming together.
The food went down a storm and it was fascinating to see people from all these different cultures trying laverbread wraps for the first time. We were asked to cater for the British Athletes after party which started around midnight after the closing ceremony, it was a great night!
Now due to the tightly controlled legalities of the “official” sponsors we are not allowed to be associated with the Olympics in fact I don’t think I’m aloud to say anything for at least 5 years after the event. But I am not one for the small print in contracts and I figure 2 years is long enough for the big wig lawyers to lose interest in me?
It was a little frustrating, part of me wanted to shout about it from the roof tops but thankfully a New York Times reporter stumbled upon our beach shack in the village and wrote a lovely little article about us.
Experiences like that are few and far between, it was simply fantastic to be part of and a very big thank you must go to LOCOG for letting a rogue street food trader from West Wales into their immaculate pristine village!
by The Captain