INTERVIEW II THE COUTURE WEBDESIGNER MEETS NEIL PRESTON

I had the pleasure of meeting with Neil Preston from Edible Stories early last week (Job title: Event Publisher and Director at Edible Stories). Full disclosure, I went to school with Neil and had not seen him for twenty years so it was nice to catch up as well as learn from a hospitality (dare I say it) veteran.

Neil has vast and varied experience in the hospitality industry. He is well-versed in the operational as well as business sides of things. The advice Neil has for anyone starting in the hospitality industry, which I think translates to any venture, is to get the basics right. The foundation, the core aspects, have to be sound. For hospitality, the three pillars are Service, Food and Atmosphere. Having all round knowledge is important. One has to understand Operations in order to manage successfully. Knowledge about key business areas such as Finance and Marketing are important. You can hire experts wherever you like, but as a manager understanding the essentials is vital.

Neil said that each endeavour should be treated as a project, for example when building a kitchen; one has to look at health and safety, equipment, staffing and have a backup plan!

I was interested in finding out more about his latest venture, Edible Stories.

There is a myriad of eateries consumers can choose from in London…so to differentiate from the norm, one has to think of something out of the ordinary. In fact, Edible Stories’ tagline is ‘Dine with a Difference’. Edible Stories was founded in 2012 by Chloé Morris, a Food Technology and Design expert who had a vision of presenting a unique dining experience. Neil brings his gastronomy experience to the table and together create ‘story’ inspired immersive dining experiences. Rounding out the team is Joanna Helsby who is the ‘Illustrator’/Set Designer.

Edible Stories is currently undertaking a  residency at LIBRARY, a privater members’ club located in Covent Garden, London. The building was used to store records for Westminster Council in the past but is now a Members Club/Boutique Hotel. LIBRARY is a perfect setting for Edible Stories.

Neil describes the offerings as an all sensory experience – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. The team investigate and source surprising ingredients to include in their menus. For example, using the Oyster Leaf (Mertensia maritima) to recreate the taste of Oyster – the flavour without having to include any seafood!

The premise is such: a theme is decided upon and a menu is created around the idea. Past examples include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland and Fifty Shades of Grey. The team can host a party at your home, in a venue of your choosing or at LIBRARY itself. Edible Stories has a balance of clientele, they are popular with corporate as well as private clients. Book launches are fittingly ideal for Edible Stories.

I asked Neil about how the event’s subject matters are decided upon. Sometimes it is the client’s idea, however, the plan is to try to tie in the themes to what is happening in the literary or pop culture world today. For instance, the latest idea is themed around James Bond, with the new film ‘Spectre’ about to premiere, this was an opportunity not to be missed. The event’s name is ‘For your Eyes Only’. Guests are invited on a secret dinner mission to find the man behind S.P.E.C.T.R.E.

From the Edible Stories website:

“This carefully themed dining experience brings to life the well loved stories by writer Ian Fleming through a dining experience where the guests are “00” agents.

On the night…..

You will be escorted to a Martini Reception with caviar canapés and a private message from your hosts for a sinister plot… But keep an eye out for an undercover agent in the field for a special message…

You will then be invited to dine in the St Luke’s restaurant for a four course menu with a difference, playing on your senses and always keeping you alert to the mission. The food, the interaction with the people at the table and your environment will allow you to pull together the clues and gradually uncover the mission which will reveal itself at the end…

On the Menu….

.A Smoking Walter PPK Parfait

From Russia with Love but beware if your drink is spiked you may need help from another agent…

Diamonds are forever on this plate

Casino Royale Roulette, uncover a hidden secret on your mission…”

By tying this theme to a current event makes great business sense. Whenever a new Bond film is released there is a multitude of marketing surrounding it, especially around product placement…so why not capitalise upon something relevant? This can be applied to most industries…link your product to something in the public realm…make use of pop culture.

The Edible Stories team is now thinking ahead for 2016 in terms of deciding on themes and ideas. For Christmas, they are hosting a Dickensian Christmas Carol, with LIBRARY being a perfect setting to evoke a Victorian London atmosphere.

If you are thinking of organising a corporate event or a private party and have some literary ideas, get in touch with Neil or Chloé to discuss…they have some great ideas and the skills to bring stories to life using culinary techniques.

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