My Event World - Paul Boon

Paul Boon, events director for Sodexo Prestige, on good food, golf and cheering on Chelsea FC.

My Event World - Paul Boon
My Event World - Paul Boon
I got into the event industry because of its diversity. There is nothing like the adrenalin or buzz of pulling off an event, whether it be a small private dinner for 30 or a high-profile public event such as the Open Golf Championship for 200,000 people. The event industry is full of challenges that are there to be overcome.

I have worked here since December 2009 in my current role of events director for Sodexo Prestige, and prior to that was head of operations at Ascot Racecourse, also for Sodexo Prestige. Before joining Sodexo I spent 16 years in the hotel industry, including venues such as The Grand Hotel in Eastbourne, The Cumberland Hotel, and as director of operations at the Café Royal, which included managing the closure project of the famous London banqueting house.

I was attracted to this particular role because of the portfolio of events that Sodexo Prestige caters at. To be responsible for delivering the catering element of events such as the Open Golf Championship, RHS Chelsea Flower Show and Royal Ascot is something I was very excited about.

Not many people know that in 2008 I was awarded with an Acorn Award from the hospitality industry. Being recognised as one of the top 30 talents below the age of 30 in my industry was a great honour and something I am very proud of.

My worst experience at an event was probably the time we had chicken delivered instead of lamb, which was for a specific main course dish we had on the menu. With no time for suppliers to fix the issue, we quickly distributed the team out into several local towns to source enough racks of lamb for a couple hundred people. We got enough with minutes to spare, the chefs did a great job, but it was a challenging few hours.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that the detail is in the planning. If you do not invest the time in the planning stages and look at every detail, then you pay for it later when you’re on-site. The beauty of event catering is that you do not get a second chance, it's get it right first time or forget it.

The best event I’ve been involved in was the Open Championship at St Andrews in 2010. Personally, as a golf fan, to oversee the catering at such an iconic venue was very memorable. Professionally, the pure diversity of the site and the variety of food we produced is not seen very often in the UK. We had a food offer for every requirement – from public catering on-course to sponsor villages and fine-dining hospitality – there really was all levels of catering on-site.

If I could do it all over again I would do exactly the same. This industry has been very kind to me; I have worked with some fabulous people at some wonderful places, and gained many friends and contacts over the years that I would not change for the world, including my wife-to-be.

The one thing I can’t stand is wasting time. It is so precious that you should make every minute count. Utilise your time to make a difference and produce the best possible result.

Outside of work I spend my time watching football (I’m an avid Chelsea fan), playing golf (or at least trying to), and trying new food styles and trends, both eating out and cooking for myself.

If money were no object I would buy myself a football club to run and keep me occupied.

The one event I will never miss is the Ryder Cup. Having watched the tournament on TV over the years and then to be involved in the catering at this year’s event was just amazing. The atmosphere and quality of golf were fantastic, and to see the winning shots played out in front of our facility ensures I will be a fan for many more to come.

The next 12 months will be very exciting but also full of challenges for us. We have some exhilarating events coming up, including the 2011 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and the Open Championship at Royal St George’s in Sandwich, Kent.

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be the head of the England 2018/22 Fifa World Cup bid. What a great event for us to host after our Olympic efforts. And let’s face it, surely we have a good chance with all the quality stadiums and facilities we have. Selfishly, though, I would like to see it here in my lifetime if nothing else.

If I ruled the event industry I would improve the foundations of training within schools, colleges and universities to ensure the event catering industry is securing and attracting future industry professionals. We need to focus on what we do for young people coming through, and ensure they have a good all-round knowledge base as well as access to gain experience in the industry.

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