The Concorde Conference Centre is a historic and memorable backdrop for a variety of events! Based at Manchester Airport, it’s home to the purpose-built super hanger which contains the legendary flagship of the British Airways’ fleet, the Concorde G-BOAC! To get your next event off to a flying start, host your meeting or conference under the wings of a world-famous aircraft!
Known for first-class catering, there is a selection of tempting menus for event organisers to choose from. The Business Take Off Buffet, Conference Refreshment Menu and Lunch and Dinner Menu are just a few options! To find out more on the delicious dining options for delegates, we caught up with the venue’s new Head Chef, Ben Smith. Here he shares an insight into his life as a chef, his go-to ingredients and what inspires him:
What made you want to be a chef and when did your love of food first start?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking, from when I was little and helping my mum and grandma. I decided to train as a chef after I spent some time working in the outdoor education industry. One of my roles was cooking for the kids we had on camp. I really enjoyed it, so I decided to pursue it. Once I got my first job in the kitchen, I never looked back. The varied life in the kitchen where no two days are the same is what I love most!
Who or what inspires your cooking?
Inspiration comes from everywhere I go! I take lots of photos of food, menus or quirky service when I’m out and about. And I’ve got a shelf full of cookbooks! My family joke that I’m the only person they know who will sit and read a cookbook.
I think the ultimate source of inspiration has to be a market though. When I go away I always search out the best market and just look at the produce on offer, and think about what I could make. The fish market in Catania, Sicily is the best. The array of fish and shellfish there is incredible. Full size tuna and swordfish are sliced up in front of you; it’s great!
What are your go-to ingredients?
I enjoy Mediterranean flavours, tomatoes and peppers, anything that makes me think of warmer climates. I also enjoying working with middle eastern flavours such as sumac, zaatar and preserved lemons. They can be used to make anything taste amazing. This region has great combinations and the subtle spice and sweetness which makes for great food.
What’s proving to be the most popular dish this month and why do you think that is?
Our homemade elderflower custard tart. It’s smooth and creamy and the freshness of the elderflower really freshens your pallet after a meal.
Do you have any stand out dishes or packages which are popular with corporate guests? What can they expect to eat when attending an event at your venue?
The beauty of choosing Concorde Conference Centre is that we have a number of different menus that can be tailored to an organiser’s needs. We cover everything from hot carved sandwiches to buffets, all the way to three course sit down menus. All of the food is prepared by our chefs in the kitchen using the best ingredients we can source.
What options are available for bigger events such as celebrations, parties and conferences? And how much prep is required for these types of events?
There’s many options available for groups of all sizes, including sit down meals, buffets and bowl food. As is to be expected the bigger the group the more prep is involved. Our chefs can sometimes start three days in advance to ensure everything is ready for when the event starts!
What can you offer clients looking for a fine-dining experience? How do you make the occasion unique and how do you get the right combination of food and drink?
Our menus have something for all tastes, using the best ingredients and cooked well, we always ensure that a lot of thought goes into the presentation as well. Most clients have a tasting beforehand where they get to try some of the dishes and that gives them a better idea of which to choose. If they don’t like a certain aspect then we can look at alternatives to ensure they’re very happy.
Do you use locally sourced ingredients and produce, and does this change seasonally?
We always try to use local produce, whether it’s British fruit and veg or meat from our local butcher which comes from a farm in Staffordshire. The seasons play a big part too, in the summer I would suggest a lighter option lunch with lots of fresh salads to help delegates concentrate in the warm weather. Once winter rolls in, then it’s the turn of warming comfort food such as homemade soups and stews, which will keep everyone warm and full.
What three reasons would you give event organisers to choose Concorde Conference Centre for their next event?
- Good fresh, honest food with lots of choice
- The venue is one of a kind, there is nothing like having a meal under the wings of Concorde, with planes taking off and landing out of the windows
- More than just a room in a hotel, we can create special events.
Are there any interesting facts about the history of your venue which would interest our readers?
This year see’s the 80th birthday of Manchester Airport, the 66th anniversary of the treaty agreement between Britain and France to build the aircraft and 15 years since the aircraft G-BOAC was retired to Manchester! Plus, The Concorde won the 2006 Great British Design Quest organised by the BBC and the Design Museum and this supersonic masterpiece makes the perfect centrepiece for any event large or small.