You are here

Serving a different kind of crowd at Wimbledon

BT_20200713_TENNIS1317I4_4173312.jpg
Strawberries and cream is a quintessential English pudding at Wimbledon. At the two-week championships, up to 30 tonnes of strawberries are sold and consumed. This year, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of the tournament.

BT_20200713_TENNIS1317I4_4173312.jpg
Strawberries and cream is a quintessential English pudding at Wimbledon. At the two-week championships, up to 30 tonnes of strawberries are sold and consumed. This year, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of the tournament.

London

STRAWBERRIES and cream are just as much part of the Wimbledon experience as tennis in pristine whites on the lush green lawns of the All England Club.

But this year the courts are empty and there is no clink of cutlery on plates in the rarefied surroundings of the London venue.

People at the core of the catering operation have had to adapt after the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of the tournament, with the men's and women's singles finals having been originally scheduled over the last two weeks.

The 30 tonnes of strawberries usually consumed at Wimbledon - picked on the morning of each day's play - have not gone to waste.

Your feedback is important to us

Tell us what you think. Email us at btuserfeedback@sph.com.sg

Hugh Lowe Farms in nearby Kent has been the sole supplier for the championships for the past 27 years.

A portion of a minimum of 10 strawberries cost £2.50 (S$4.40) last year. But the team, including star picker Katya Busheva, has not been kicking its heels because there has been no tennis.

"The days of the English strawberry season that you blink and miss it have gone many years ago", Marion Regan, owner of Hugh Lowe Farms, said.

"The strawberry season runs from April until November and we have a glasshouse for each end of the season. Wimbledon and strawberries are so closely associated with the summer, and the 30 tonnes in two weeks (they sell 5,000 tonnes a year) is so important to us".

Ms Regan, whose family farm has been producing strawberries since Victorian times, said the "quintessential English fruit" has the ability to transform people's moods.

"One of the people who works in the events team told me they (Wimbledon) are preparing strawberries for key workers. We have also supplied local schools who stayed open for children of key workers and one or two food bank arrangements supporting vulnerable families", she said.

"Eating strawberries brings a smile to people's faces - we are trying to make as many people smile as possible".

Ms Regan, whose daughter is the fifth generation of the family to become involved in the business, says she is enjoying a different type of sporting action.

Signature Wimbledon dishes

"Katya is here for her eighth season from Bulgaria and averages 50 kilos in an hour", she said."I see parallels between the pickers and athletes. Efficient and good strawberry pickers do treat it like a sport".

Instead of overseeing hundreds of staff, Wimbledon's executive chef Adam Fargin is providing adapted "signature Wimbledon dishes" for 200 members of the local community five days a week.

"We are doing dishes such as Coronation chicken, which is a classic at Wimbledon. We are doing some other dishes like teriyaki poached salmon. We take elements of the signature dish - it would normally be poached salmon - but we do it in a different way to suit the local community", he said.

"Wimbledon being a summer event, a lot of our signature dishes are cold so we have had to try and reinvent them for the project so they can reheat those".

The cancellation is something, he said, was out of their control but it makes him all the more determined to make next year's culinary experience even better.

"In September, as usual, we will focus on next year and draw up the menus with the new sandwich range coming later in January", he said.

"It is important we do exactly the same in terms of planning when it comes to those two weeks, that we know what is going into those restaurants".

Mr Fargin said it was strange coming to work with so little to do. "It is a strange place to be but the scenery and the venue are stunning. So to walk into work in that environment, it brightens your day up", he said. AFP

BT is now on Telegram!

For daily updates on weekdays and specially selected content for the weekend. Subscribe to t.me/BizTimes