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Thu 11 Oct 2007 04:00 AM

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Silverstone fast tracks to UAE

Silverstone International, a new event-based catering concept, will make its Dubai debut in 2008.

Silverstone International, a new event-based catering concept, will make its Dubai debut in 2008.

The new company - the result of a joint venture between the UK-based consortium of owner-run businesses Aspire Group and Silverstone - will target parties and weddings for the city's VIP market.

Events will not have to be related to motor sports, and we would be prepared to take on operations on a huge scale while delivering free range, fresh and organic food into venues.

"We're setting up a company that will involve and incorporate Aspire Hospitality, and we're trying to finalise contractual details but we hope to launch in Dubai early next year," revealed Steven Saunders, creative director, Aspire Group in an exclusive interview with Hotelier Middle East.

"We are experts at running events including the British Grand Prix - at which we witnessed an influx of 26,000 people - so we have the best people in the world, and we're good at organising temporary structures and security."

Product launches are another potential area, and the company intends to fly its entire team of experts to events, including design teams and chefs trained at Michelin-star level.

"Events will not have to be related to motor sports, and we would be prepared to take on operations on a huge scale while delivering free range, fresh and organic food into venues," he said.

Aspire Hospitality has handled the public catering, conference and banqueting, and corporate hospitality for Silverstone's event calendar since the two companies signed a joint venture agreement in March. Aspire Hospitality is also responsible for other key events including World and British Super Bikes and the FIA GT Championship.

Saunders, one of only 17 Master Chefs of Great Britain said the new "intelligent product" would be capable of taking on events for hundreds of thousands of people down to sophisticated events for 100 covers.

"We're looking at massive events, for example in the horseracing and horse polo worlds, and we have huge amounts of contacts and would like to extend them to Dubai," Saunders said. "With our expertise we can pull off catering to substantial numbers of people while maintaining attention to detail and innovative products, such as the champagne fountains at our drivers lounge for Silverstone, which we would ship over, and other organisers would not be able to compete with that."

The company's culinary brigade have been trained for two days per week since January for the new project, Saunders revealed, and the team would fly to Dubai alongside a manager for each event.

"Dubai would need our absolutely top offer, and we're looking at the top of the range, so I would come myself," he said.

Saunders had the honour of catering for the wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, and he said the company has stood apart in the UK's event industry due to its commitment to organic and high quality ingredients.

As one of the driving forces behind the ambitious strategy, Saunder's accolades - including his Michelin-starred and three AA Rosette-awarded restaurant The Pink Rosette and international consultancy with some of the world's leading hotels - should strengthen the brand.

The company has extended its dedication to superior produce at its mobile catering units at events with menus including organic burgers and Aberdeen Angus. In the move to Dubai, Saunders said developing deals with fresh fruit, fish and vegetable markets would be crucial.

"We would provide high standards in our food and beverage delivery, unlike the rubbish and frozen battered fish which is being offered by other big event operators, and we would look at what is available locally," he added.

Recruitment is set to begin at the end of this year for "very specific personnel", including food specialists, wine sommeliers and professionals boasting experience at venues including Ascot and Wembley.

"We're using the same formula as before in terms of working with our training and recruitment consortium, and we will also have marketing-orientated personnel who will assist with the launch and going live next year as we want to become an international company that can facilitate requirements for massive events."

Europe and the US have been earmarked as part of the global expansion plans, Saunders revealed, yet Dubai has been pinpointed as a serious attraction due to existing relationships formed between Aspire Group and hotel groups in the city.

"Securing business in Dubai for next summer is underway, and we're excited about making noise with all of our contacts out there," he said.

"We also hope to create bases in most of the major countries in Europe, such as France as we have connections there, and we're thinking about Eastern Europe as well.

"Although the company has not been launched yet, we are very enthusiastic about it, and we would basically club together and put our knowledge in a pot to work internationally," Saunders added.

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