Celebrating a Culinary Career
This article reflects on Sodexo Chef Malcolm Emery’s amazing career with some of the most prestigious venues.
Malcolm Emery is no ordinary chef. With a glamorous career that includes catering experiences at a whole host of the country’s most impressive venues and events – not least among them Windsor Castle, Hampton Court Palace, the Lord Mayor’s Banquet and Buckingham Palace Garden Parties – it’s nevertheless his incredible length of service at The Open which Malcolm credits as the most defining aspect of his working life to date.
Sodexo’s Principal Chef for the past 20 years, Malcolm counts among his accolades, Masterchef of Great Britain, Craft Guild of Chefs, La Parade des Chefs Hotelympia, 2010 (Gold Medal), La Parade des Chefs Hotelympia 2009 (Silver Medal, Square Meal Canapé Cup, Gold Cup and Critics Choice 2008) and nominations for Chef of the Year in 2007, 2008, 2009. Modest to a fault, even he has to admit it’s quite the roll call.
Since his first Open in 1975, Malcolm has seen the competition change dramatically, witnessing its incredible growth first hand and simultaneously developing a great relationship with the R&A, the ruling authority of golf throughout the world. 2015 marked the 144TH Open, and was the 29th time the championship has been held over the links land near the beautiful ancient town of St Andrews, so it comes as no surprise that over the years the event has become a popular place to entertain guests for a day of hospitality.
Malcolm works at The Open to personally deliver a special catering facility on behalf of the R&A, a role which has involved catering for the event’s patrons – including Rolex, Mercedes and Nikon – as well as their distinguished guests who often include politicians, actors, players and officials themselves. However, this luxury hospitality is in stark contrast to Malcolm’s early days feeding the players in a much simpler setting.
Speaking about the event Malcolm remembers: “As a young lad just out of college, when I first started working at The Open, it was mind-blowing to enter the world of hospitality and see the players up close. It totally changed the concept of hospitality for me, bringing me from the world of catering to a la carte dining.”
One of the obstacles that Malcolm has to overcome in his preparation for The Open each year is its changing location. Whilst other Sodexo hospitality venues such as Royal Ascot and Henley Royal Regatta are held in the same location each year, The Open is a somewhat nomadic championship. Over Malcolm’s 40 years, the event has been held at no less than nine locations, each presenting its own unique challenges for catering including working in a temporary structure and managing the logistics of delivering supplies to the middle of a course.
Malcolm has also worked to modernise the hospitality experiences, making them more convenient and accessible for guests. His team introduced The Champions Club, which includes roaming waiters offering a selection of pre-lunch canapés, chefs serving a variety of bistro style classics and savoury snacks from a central station and a centre piece garden with large covered bar area. The experience allows guests to enjoy the luxuries of fine food with the flexibility to enjoy it at any hour, rather than having to organise a set time.
While procedure is another crucial consideration at The Open, with 700 covers being served each day, innovation and quality is also of paramount importance. A different menu is presented each day, including everything from a full Scottish breakfast to a five-course lunch and afternoon tea. Malcolm sets high standards for himself and is only satisfied if the offer he creates at the patrons’ catering facility continues to evolve and impress year after year. A key to Malcolm’s success is that he always endeavours to discover new recipes and new ways of preparing ingredients to make fantastic meals, a pursuit which involves participating in food innovation tours and study groups as well as working closely with his supply team. In 2015 the team made agreements with over 22 Scottish suppliers for The Open in order to provide a culinary offering of the highest possible quality and with provenance at its heart, becoming the largest supplier supporting Visit Scotland’s ‘Year of Food and Drink’.
Malcolm was in good company (to say the least) when it came to special years at St Andrews. Coincidentally, Tom Watson, the legendary golfer who has enjoyed eight major victories over his career, five of which were at The Open (four of which were in Scotland), was also celebrating. Looking back to Carnoustie in 1975, like Malcolm, he celebrated the fortieth anniversary of his debut appearance at the championship, where he successfully won and was crowned Champion Golfer of The Year for the first time – achievements which the R&A recognised by presenting Tom with a crystal replica of the famed Claret Jug.
The last 40 years have seen The Open and its culinary offerings evolve in leaps and bounds, and this is thanks in no small part to Malcolm’s innovation and input – qualities which the event will undoubtedly continue to benefit from in the years to come. And one thing is certain; whether this internationally renowned event is creating sporting history on the links of St Andrews, in the picturesque surrounds of Hoylake or at any number of other beautiful venues, with Malcolm at the helm, the catering is sure to score a hole in one.