Introducing Damian Clarkson, Managing Director of the London Kitchen. Damian has worked for some of the biggest names in event catering, including The Admirable Crichton, Rhubarb Food Design and Mosimann’s. Damian also enjoys being a Mentor at Oxford Brookes University for Hospitality Undergraduates. We caught up with the man himself to ask him a few questions about life at the London Kitchen.
Tell us a little about your background…
When I was a student I worked as a waiter for the Admirable Crichton, then joined Lucy Gemmell at the as then un named Rhubarb for 6 and a half years. I went on to be General Manager of Mosimanns before starting my first company, Red Snapper Events
Where are you from?
I’m from Lancashire’s beautiful Ribble Valley, and have always lived in London. It’s home!
My Father used to be Chairman of infamous local Team Accrington Stanley, which may explain why I don’t watch it!
What was your first job?
I was a teenage waiter / kitchen hand in a busy local Italian restaurant, which often included whole days peeling garlic, and hiding in the freezer sneaking gelato…
What inspired you to create the London Kitchen?
I wanted a name that would explain what we do, without grandeur or drama. Although we have done events nationwide, most of our business is on our doorstep and post recession people are more conscious of how they entertain, and might be misunderstood, hence the relative modesty.
Could you tell us a bit about the London Kitchen’s history?
Before the London kitchen I launched Red Snapper Events.We grew very quickly in a buoyant economy and had a great time, winning some superb events; I mentored several tasks on The Apprentice, and Michael Winner gave us great reviews in The Sunday Times. We even had two of the team who met working with us get married and are now expecting their third child!
Like everyone, we were very exposed to the recession, being medium sized. Many clients ceased entertaining and the events that we did quote for were inevitably being given away at below cost which was unsustainable. Our costs didn’t fall and our options became limited. I was utterly committed to the business and it was an incredibly painful period. It’s a situation that no one would wish to be in and not everyone can understand
The new company is smaller, profitable and have some good bookings as far ahead as 2014.
What has been the London Kitchen’s Greatest Highlight?
Personally, without a doubt, the confidence of clients and supporters. We’ve won some great events, and also built a young and dynamic team. It’s harder having to give staff experience over time but very rewarding to see the end result and it really feels like working with friends.
What is the greatest strength of the team?
Most caterers can do good food, but I think we are unrivalled in how we look after our clients. This could be short notice meetings, turning around proposals and just being there for seemingly minor questions. I do get calls over the weekend, which is fine – I just can’t bring myself to switch my phone off
Which has been your favourite event?
Our first major dinner – for 1,275!
What are you looking forward to this year?
The Olympics being over! It’s great for London but clients seem to be avoiding this period, so were hoping for back to business as usual…October looks busy!
Tell us something we didn’t know about London…
Our office is on Lambeth Walk, formerly the clay banks of the Thames, where the major Potteries such as Wedgwood, Doulton were founded before relocating.
Sum up the London Kitchen in three words
Fun, dynamic, mischievous
Which is tour favourite place to eat or drink in London?
My favourite restaurant is probably Roka for Superb Japanese (Charlotte Street), Bodeans (Poland Street) for amazing pulled Pork Sandwiches , and Hot Stuff (Vauxhall) for a curry! You didn’t expect me just to have one did you?
Roka, Charlotte Street
Finally: Tell us about your favourite hidden gem in London?
Whenever I take time out to show friends London I love Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincolns Inn Fields. It’s eccentric and engaging. Go to the picture room, and ask the guide to show you the wall panels showing Hogarths ‘Rakes Progress’ – every time I go I learn something new!