Simon Mason, EventCity’s Executive Chef, has catered for Premier League giants Manchester City and Manchester United, as well as at the Olympics and Commonwealth Games. His global career has seen him work alongside a host of culinary legends – including Marco Pierre White – yet in person, he could not be further removed from the stereotype of a hot-tempered, superstar chef.
Softly-spoken, polite and eternally humble, Simon radiates calm composure – insisting that every person he has ever worked with has been as much of a teacher to him as the big names he refuses to drop.
Undaunted by the unique challenge of catering for up to 3,500-plus diners, he exudes a relaxed self-confidence that would put any EventCity client at ease.
“I love the buzz of a big event!” says Simon, who learned how to deal with the situations that arise around catering for bigger numbers during his time with City and United.
“You train yourself to deal with the pressure and the stress. One thing I have learned is that the more you lose your head and the more you panic, the more mistakes you’re going to make. For me, it comes through the experience... You refine what you do by evaluating the events – working out where we can improve on certain areas to fine-tune our processes.”
When catering for big numbers for conferences and gala dinners, Simon explains that the logistical side is probably harder than the cooking. Every last detail is analysed and evaluated, such as the amount of trays a certain food product will need; how much oven space; and how much surface area you need for fridges.
“We have a process and a plan that covers all these variables,” he says. “By capturing everything, we have a well-planned event. We always cover extra numbers and the ‘what ifs’ that always occur.”
For large-scale event bookings, EventCity is the first-choice venue in the North – boasting an in-house catering facility, known simply as The Kitchen, that is staffed by around 20 Head Chefs who Simon has worked with personally for 10-15 years.
“They’re all top people in the industry – some of whom are major players… They’re people I can truly rely on,” the Cheadle resident says. “They sub-manage the supplementary team who come in and help us. We use solely one agency, who we have an upstanding relationship with, for the purpose that we get the continuity of the staff.”
Simon admits that it was his own experiences of poor-quality mass catering that led him to want to make a difference in the industry. “I used to get annoyed when I went to big dinners with the corporate standard of food that you got offered across the board,” he explains.
“It was a challenge more than anything: to try and improve what we did in the business. I have always been interested in the big events, as they are very challenging to operate and orchestrate, so for me, there’s a lot more that can be done in that side of the industry to improve the level.”