CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

Charlie Thellusson - director and head chef of Red Olive Catering Company

PUBLISHED: 15:12 29 September 2014 | UPDATED: 15:12 29 September 2014

Charlie has stepped away from the kitchen to focus on managing the business

Charlie has stepped away from the kitchen to focus on managing the business

Red Square Photography

Charlie Thellusson talks about life on the front-line of event catering

Menus reflect changing trends and tastesMenus reflect changing trends and tastes

Now in its 14th year of business, Charlie Thellusson established The Red Olive Catering Company in a modern but basic production kitchen in an industrial unit in his home town of Derby. In the intervening years the company has become a familiar presence on the event catering scene; successfully catering for numerous weddings and corporate events, winning a host of awards, and moving to new state-of-the-art, custom-designed premises.

How has your background in the catering industry influenced your approach to your business?

Gaining experience in all the restaurants and hotels for which I was lucky enough to work has been the bedrock of my business. I was fortunate to have an apprenticeship in France, work for the Roux brothers in Mayfair, and work at Hambleton Hall and Le Gavroche. It’s all about delivering the very best you can and understanding how to achieve high quality.

Red Olive catering for an exclusive event in a marqueeRed Olive catering for an exclusive event in a marquee

How different is running a catering company to owning a restaurant?

Logistics play a huge part in making sure you deliver on the day. If you forget a sauce in a restaurant then it’s easy to quickly run one up. If you forget to pack the sauce for an event an hour’s drive away then you’re stuck! It takes experience to transport an entire kitchen and dining room to and from an event without making mistakes.

Event co-ordinator Beth Angris helps a couple plan the details of their event  in the Tasting Room at the new premisesEvent co-ordinator Beth Angris helps a couple plan the details of their event in the Tasting Room at the new premises

Have your ambitions for the company changed in the last ten years?

Yes. If I had known where I would be today I wouldn’t have believed it. I’m not sure I had an ambition other than to make sure every client’s expectations were exceeded. Before I was the chef, kitchen porter, marketing manager and logistics manager but now we have a team with members working in every area. I want to ensure that Red Olive Catering continues to grow and develop so that we can continue to offer excellent service to our clients for the next 100 years or more! I’d love to think we can keep wowing our clients even after I’m long gone. This is all about having a great team and having great processes and procedures.

Do you think the food industry has changed a lot in this country?

Yes, people are able to do so much more now than ever before. Thirty years ago the food on offer was very simple, for example, prawn cocktail, melon, egg mayonnaise and ham. Now, it’s about food from around the world. The internet has made it much easier for people to learn about new cooking styles. Some of our most popular canapés are chicken tikka poppadums, Thai fish cakes and duck pancake rolls.

What would you say is your greatest achievement?

I’m proud of many things but staying in business for 14 years, winning Best Wedding Caterer 2012 for the East Midlands region and cooking for Royalty all rank highly. Having a loyal, talented and friendly team who consistently deliver a quality experience to our guests, from the moment we meet them to the day itself, time after time, has to be my proudest achievement of all. It’s all about good people!

Any disasters?

We often face difficulties with power (particularly if a marquee is in the middle of a field), which is when experience really comes into play. We were on our way to a wedding in a marquee in the Peak District recently when we got a call to say there was no power in the village. As most of our equipment is electrical this caused a lot of problems. We managed to cook six hot canapés and an entire three course meal for 100 guests with one gas oven. Fortunately the couple were really understanding and relaxed. Our resourceful team served the meal impeccably and without any difference to our normal high standards. Just as the desserts were served and it started to get dark, the power came back on!

Do you still spend time in the kitchen or is it all management and marketing now?

I moved out of the kitchen two years ago to concentrate on office and front of house duties. We have a business coach who keeps us on track. I try to spend at least four hours a week working ‘on’ the business as opposed to ‘in’ the business. Of course, I am still a chef but it is difficult to oversee everything from the kitchen so I am being coached on how to run the business more efficiently by taking a step back.

What do you feel are the most important elements for a successful event?

The most important element for success is organisation. Good preparation is vital to feeling confident that nothing has been overlooked and experience teaches you how to solve problems before they occur. I am always a bit nervous about an event as each one is so important and especially with weddings – you don’t want to be responsible for letting the bride and groom down on the most important day of their lives! But as you get into the flow and start to look after the guests everything falls into place. We find we usually exceed expectations, which means guests enjoy the event all the more. The worst thing would be an unhappy client, so we work extra hard to make sure they never are!

What is special about the service you offer?

We put just as much effort into the service as the food. Our team is trained in-house so that they share our passion, dedication and willingness to do whatever it takes to make the event fantastic. We also employ experienced event managers who work full time with Red Olive Catering and see the event through from the enquiry to set-up and the clearing up. This allows a rapport to develop with the client so we’re all working together to create an unforgettable experience.

You’ve moved to new premises. What were the most important considerations when you were designing the kitchen?

You need a large amount of fridge storage space so we have a 28ft x 6ft walk-in fridge and freezer. We have an oven that roasts and steams and we can even programme it from home. At Christmas I put the turkey in at 6pm on Christmas Eve and it cooks on a special program which takes about 18 hours, then holds it at the perfect temperature until I turn up.

What advice would you have for anyone just setting out?

You have to be prepared to work very hard and be dedicated. Set yourself one year, three year and five year goals and keep moving those goals forward. Too many people think the catering industry is an easy profession to fall into but after three months they realise the grass isn’t always greener.

Aside from weddings, what have been the most memorable events you’ve catered for?

We cater for all sorts of occasions including private and corporate events. We felt very privileged to cater for the Aviva athletes in 2012, including Mo Farah, Greg Rutherford and Christine Ohuruogu. Another big achievement has been catering for over 700 people at the Leicester Mercury Business Awards dinner for the past two years. I am proud to have Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Coutts and Bang and Olufsen amongst our corporate clients and we enjoy being part of the inauguration events for the High Sheriffs of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. We know that every guest at every event has the potential to be a new or returning client, so we ensure that they all leave impressed.

Where would you like to be in ten years time?

I would love to have the same business I have now but to be less involved in the day-to-day running. My son Oliver is keen on cooking, so who knows…

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Derbyshire Life and Countryside visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Derbyshire Life and Countryside staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Derbyshire Life and Countryside account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from People

Community spirit is alive and well in this charming, characterful village five miles north of Derby where residents pulled together to rescue their 400-year-old inn

Read more

David Marley discovers how Jacci Woodcock, an inspirational Derbyshire activist who is dying from cancer, is leading a national campaign to secure better employment protection for terminally ill people

Read more

Kevin Palmer talks to Mike Perry, who is retiring after a lifetime of public service

Read more

As we commemorate the 1918 Armistice, Pat Ashworth looks into the poignant local projects that have brought to life the effect of the 1914-1918 conflict on our ancestors’ lives

Read more

Adrian Farmer can certainly be said to ‘put his money where his mouth is’, backing his role as Heritage Coordinator for the DVMWHS with support for Belper’s history and heritage.

Read more

Gamekeepers and the ‘ton up’ boys learned to live in harmony – and for a time they somehow made it work!

Read more

David Marley talks to Ashley Fulwood the Derbyshire-born chief executive of OCD-UK who swapped the corporate city trading world for a life leading a national health charity.

Read more

Hartington Rural Social Group in Derbyshire is celebrating after being awarded a grant of £1,000 to help fund new seating for the elderly, as part of rural energy provider Calor’s annual funding scheme.

Read more

Sally Mosley scans her bookshelf for a brief round-up of Peak visitors across the ages who were inspired to celebrate its people and places.

Read more
Peak District

Lissa Cook finds out about the new experimental Active4Life initiative which aims to help communities to get up and about.

Read more

Tinnitus sufferers are being invited to use a new online, sound matching tool to help better understand their type of tinnitus and the potential treatments available to them.

Read more

Mary Berry talks to Pat Ashworth about why she loves the Chatsworth Country Fair

Read more
Chatsworth

John Wright reveals what became of some of the county’s first convict colonists

Read more

Pat Ashworth meets Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, the Derby-born founder of the national award-winning charity Karma Nirvana

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest


Local Business Directory


Property Search