Rose - 'Delia Smith tried to pinch my recipe for chilli!'

City's catering manager explains how she cooks up something special for hospitality guests at every home game

Those who have enjoyed hospitality at one of Exeter City’s home games may have wondered what it takes to prepare meals on the scale necessary to have everyone fed and watered before kick off?  Well, the person responsible for all the catering at the Club is Rose Clace. Rose, originally from the Phillipines, has been living in the UK for 25 years, learnt her trade with the Rank Organisation in Plymouth before joining City’s catering staff in 2004.

The Grecians catering side has an excellent reputation – scoring 5* at all Environmental Health inspections since the regime began – which starts and finishes with Rose. Rose is now well experienced at preparing and serving food to as many as several hundred guests during a very short time window.

Taking the recent ‘Devon Derby’ match with Plymouth Argyle as an example, the 450 guests were in several different locations, including the Boardroom, Executive Boxes, main hospitality suite in the WTS Stand, and a number of smaller rooms. The menu that day was pork chops served in a creamy mustard sauce with new potatoes, green beans and carrots, followed by white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, with tea and coffee at half time. On top of that the catering staff prepared curry (to be served to guests in the Boardroom and Grecian Centre), sandwiches (for players, officials and those not wanting curry), vegetarian options for the c.5% of people who are not eating meat, not forgetting the 300 sausages that are cooked in the kitchen for serving hot dogs in the kiosks around the ground. So that’s a tall order for serving between 11 am and the start of the match at 1 pm.

Rose’s focus is very much on the preparation – “planning and organising in advance is the key to success”, she says. So the Friday before match day is set aside for food preparation and room set up. On the match day itself Rose is assisted by Mark the Chef plus 3 others in the kitchen and up to 20 staff (on busy days) waiting the tables, attending to the match sponsors, Boardroom and Boxes. Once the match starts, it’s a matter of clearing the rooms, getting the plates and utensils washed, setting up for tea and coffee at half time, and deserts for the Boxes. Her day for the Plymouth match started at 5 am – cooking the sausages – and didn’t finish until 7.30 pm, so this is no easy option!

As many hundreds (thousands?) of guests will testify, the food served is uniformly excellent. Rose admitted to being very worried before City’s first match of the 2009/10 season – against Norwich, whose Chairperson is the legendary cook Delia Smith. She shouldn’t have been concerned – Delia loved the food, saying “my empty plate indicates that I liked the food”, and even tried to pinch Rose’s recipe for the chilli that was served that day – which was politely refused! Celebrity Chef Michael Caines is another regular visitor to the Park who has been impressed with the offerings, particularly given the limited timescale in which everything has to be delivered.

Rose’s biggest wish would be to have a re-organised kitchen, with improved oven, warming and dish washing facilities, so she can do even more. It is great credit to her and her staff that the Grecians have a continuing reputation for excellent hospitality.