He’s been creating make shift restaurants since 2003 but the King of Pop Ups, Jimmy Garcia, has also expanded his catering expertise and is starting to create something of an empire. The pop ups still exist and go from strength to strength but alongside this he’s been bringing his creativity to the event business.
We’ve worked with Jimmy on various events and he never fails to bring something new to delight our clients with, one example being the edible cigar he made for our 1930s themed dinner at Kent House Knightsbridge served with whisky from a drinks trolley. You could also experience treats like an edible pear tree, smoking starters, chocolate gardens, an exploding Toblerone dessert or full on feasting stations. From bespoke weddings, canapé receptions, fashion and brand launch parties, corporate events to conference catering, at the heart of all Jimmy Garcia’s catering is true creativity, attention to detail and incredible taste of the food. Suffice to say Jimmy is a very busy guy, always rushing from one culinary adventure to the next with regular TV appearances, a raft of celebrity bookings and sell out residencies to look after but we managed to catch up with him for a chin wag about all things foodie and how he’s injecting his style into the events business.
What’s your food background?
I grew up around cooking, with a Spanish father; good food was always important to us and when I used to visit my Grandma she used to cure all her own meats, make her own chorizo, pick all her own vegetables and keep all her own chickens and rabbits, so it was an incredible place to grow up!
Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are watching football Italia on Channel 4 whilst eating lamb’s kidneys as a 7 year old. I’ve always been taught to try everything and appreciate different flavours.
From the age of 15 I was put to work in a restaurant as a commis chef on weekends and after school, and worked my way up to CDP. I was young and inevitably the whipping boy, but it was just what I needed to realise my passion. After college I went and did the obligatory ski season, and then at the age of 20, managed to get myself a job on a private yacht for a really cool Arabic gentleman, who I worked for privately for 3 years. He was demanding and had an incredibly high standard, but I learnt so much about my style, myself and had access to the most amazing fresh markets and ingredients all over Europe. It was an incredible experience that really grounded me.
How did you get involved in popups and what makes a successful popup?
I came back from 3 summers on the yachts and was head hunted to go and work as a broker (don’t ask!). I came from the yachts to take this job in the city, as that was what I believed was the done thing and instantly regretted it! So after 4 months, for a total laugh and just to keep cooking, I decided to turn my front room in to restaurant! I handed out 100 scrolls through neighbouring doors in Balham, borrowed the tables and chairs from the Balham Baptist church. My housemates acted as waiters, I cooked and it was born!! 25 people in my front room, eating dinner and then partying hard – it was truly magical and words can’t describe how great the feeling was. It was raw, there was no expectation and it was all just so exciting!
We did it once a month for 3 months until my housemates all agreed that it was a bit much having strangers dancing on the tables until 4am, so that pushed me to find other, more interesting venues.
A successful popup should be authentic, unique and definitely not in an existing restaurant! (in my opinion!) It’s about creating something that does what it says on the tin – pops up and pops off! It should wow people with not just the food, but also the environment; the feeling of dining and being somewhere you really shouldn’t be, or is only available for a limited time is what you want the customer to feel..Guerilla!
Do you feel any pressure to live up to the successes of your sell out popups?
Of course – I always get nervous before we launch a popup, the hope that people will buy in to what I’m trying to do and understand what we’re doing… touch wood, we’ve done OK so far!
Do you have a favourite dish that you serve?
One of my favourite dishes is one that we used to serve at one of my first popups in the wine shop actually – it’s a take on egg and soldiers, but we fill egg shells with a Duck Liver Parfait, but we completely enclose the shell so the diner has to crack it open with the back of a spoon as you would for breakfast- we have an Orange and Earl Grey Chutney in a little espresso cup, and Brioche Soldiers and Crispy Duck Skin… great fun and super playful, which is what we’re all about!
When and why did you make the move from pop-ups to event catering?
Whilst I was doing the popups, particularly in the wine shop (it was an open kitchen, 25 guests, 5 course menu, 2 chefs and 1 waiter, so we could really spell our passion out to everyone), I started receiving emails from couples who had been saying they loved my style of food and would love to have it at my wedding, so not one to back down from a challenge, we went with it, and then I started to realise that our type of food, creative style and catering with personality was exactly what a lot of the event industry needed.
What are the challenges of corporate events compared to popups?
They’re very different- with a popup, these concepts and ideas are all born out of mine and the team’s imaginations and our ability to think creatively.
With a corporate event, we get to take a client’s objective for the event and think about how we can communicate that message creatively. I love it and it keeps me on my toes!
Where do you get the inspiration for your menus from?
Anything and everything. I take inspiration from the weather, the seasons, eating out, my holiday. I went to Egypt a few year back and managed to bring back some camel milk, I also got my hands on a foraged desert tea leaf, so came up with an pre dessert dish called ‘An Evening In The Desert’ made with camel’s milk ice cream, dried leaves (I can’t remember the name!), pomegranate jewels and smoked almond ‘sand’
These days people want to experience food not just eat it; how do you combine theatre with your food?
With a whole host of magic tricks! It’s all about interaction; we’ve got 5 senses and being able to engage all 5 of those senses is what an amazing event is all about to us.
What food trends do you predict for 2018?
Cleaner food – we’re getting a lot of that, and it’s a fun challenge!
Where can we experience your food and what’s next for Jimmy Garcia catering?
We’re currently looking to launch a fire pit restaurant in the summer and of course the BBQ club will be doubling in size on the Southbank this summer! I’ve just got back from catering at World Economic Forum in Davos, so we’re super excited about the year ahead…. bring it on!
At Evolve we regularly share news about latest venues, styles and events on our blog and social media. You can visit our blog here and follow us at @evolveevents.
To get more ideas or help with your event talk to the team on 020 7610 2808 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about Jimmy Garcia Catering visit his website here.