Leon Smith – 2010 Best Accomplishments

February 21, 2011

Here is another “Best Accomplishments of 2010” post from Chef Leon Smith of Emirates Stadium.

I started my role as executive chef at Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal Football Club, in Sept. 2010, just a few weeks after the dramatic enhancement and redevelopment of one of our main club level dining facilities, Woolwich Suite.  This impressive stadium is only four years old and this major investment proves both the client and Delaware North are proactive in their approach to providing excellence at every opportunity by creating facilities and dining experiences that reflect Arsenal’s contemporary and world-renowned style

The Woolwich Suite was redesigned to create different experiences within the same club facility and includes theater/buffet-style dining, a stylish bar area, exclusive a-la-carte restaurants and a lounge area.  The a-la-carte restaurants offer a new experience in stadia catering and have been aptly named the W and M Clubs after Chapman’s revolutionary 3-2-2-3 WM formation.  We regularly have tasting sessions in these restaurants as part of the guest experience, adding value and theatre to their day and providing me with the opportunity to introduce new concepts, produce & flavours in a controlled way.  These have taken the form of wine tastings, ports & brandies, farmhouse & artisan cheese and more recently smoked salmon, smoked eel & Gravadlax, produced by an independent smokehouse based on the river Severn in Gloucestershire, a supplier who is as passionate as I am about the quality of his produce and the sustainability of the fish they catch & smoke

The buffet style restaurant named “The Foundry” continues the theme of combining the best of the past with the present. The Legends bar was also redeveloped and now includes a new grill offering a wider range of food options.  The style of service & delivery has been influenced by visits to the US, enabling the Emirates team to use the great ideas and share best practice within the company. The emphasis is on creating freshly prepared dishes, using only the best ingredients, simply put together, with great flavours that speak for themselves.

Opening and delivering multiple new dining experiences in one facility is a challenge in itself and this was further heightened with the eyes of both the media and the fans on us. Throughout the planning stages I considered the complexity of the menus and matched them to the skill level of our team and then provided them with excellent equipment and training to be able to deliver our exacting standards.  We involved our client in the development of our innovative menus, showing our passion for food and service and ultimately allowing us to deliver, on the day, that special experience one guest at a time. Having the opportunity to introduce bespoke food offers in to brand new state-of-the-art facilities was an experience rare to our sector and ensured we are able to uphold our reputation as a market leader

Looking forward to 2011

My food vision for Emirates in 2011 is to source and use the best quality, seasonal products that are farmed and caught in a sustainable & ethical way.  By using the best approved suppliers that are passionate about their products and the way they’re produced we will be able to offer the highest standard possible, and be confidant in the provenance and quality we serve to our guests.

I will be focused on strengthening and training my team so they have the ability to play a fundamental part in the delivery of this new club experience.  We will use our restaurant training cards, linked with GuestPath® that contain detail of suggested wines to compliment the menu, specific detail of the provenance of the food and tasting notes identifying specific flavors and textures.  This ensures our front line staff also have the knowledge and confidence to serve and recommend dishes from the ‘chef’s selection’ and to advise if our guests require assistance.

Another key element aspect of development for my team will be participation in competitions & Salon Culinaire entries.  Over the course of my career I have entered many competitions, with Gold, Silver & Bronze medals awarded as well as achieving four “Chef of the Year” titles.  For me the competition kitchen is a fantastic learning experience and its good fun too! This will give my team a great platform to showcase the skills we use every day, learn new skills & techniques, develop as a team and learn to work under intense pressure and hopefully achieve a few medals along the way.  The success of our chefs would also mean further accolades to Delaware North and more importantly to our client whose ethos is to strive for excellence both on and off the field.