Emma Southwell is an internationally recognized food designer, born in the south of England, half way between London and Brighton.
She first came to Romania in 2000, as her boss attended a party event that her team from Rhubarb Food Design produced. Suitably impressed by what he saw, he immediately thought about creating an outside catering events company in Romania.
In order to do this, an experienced professional with a serious sense of adventure and not afraid of a challenge was required, so Emma was chosen to be an ambassador in her field.
Over the past years she’s been part of the Fratelli / Flavours Food Design team and one of our most important and dearest collaborators. She added her experience in Fratelli venues and events all over the country and also brought a major contribution to our latest location in down-town Bucharest, Biutiful.
You arrived in Romania in the 2000s. What was your first impression?
Although nothing could have prepared me for the challenge ahead, as Romania was a very different place at that time, in the catering world we’ve come a very long way in those years. For example ingredients that we take for granted that are readily available to us now simply were not even heard of back then, let alone available to us.
When the enormity of the challenge ahead dawned on me it was almost overwhelming but I started from scratch and very soon the rewards of working with such special people far outweighed any fears I may have had and so Flavours was born!!
I was met with the most enthusiastic, hard working, wonderful people who are still my dear friends and colleagues today. We had selected from our family of loyal staff some very promising and talented young individuals. I have an eye for this and so does my boss and I am very proud to say we were not wrong as the original team is still a happy family that is Flavours as we know it.
We invested everything we could into their training. I brought with me all of my knowledge and experience. We then sent our key personnel on international work experience with top chefs around the world to broaden their horizons and fully develop their natural talent. The rest shall we say is history.
How did you start working as a chef and what defines you?
I chose this career just as a practicality at first; having absolutely no idea that it was something I had a natural feel for. I just loved it and almost immediately my work stood out amongst my fellow students, I am proud to say that this is what I am meant to do in life.
I am extremely passionate about my work and I love what I do. I’ve always said I paint beautiful pictures but I use food instead of paint. I am naturally intensely creative and an enthusiastic, motivating leader, as well as a loving and caring person.
What is the most amazing experience of your career?
Has to be being chosen to represent the company I worked for at the time to go to Windsor Castle and produce the canapes for the royal wedding of Sophie, Countess of Wessex and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex (it really was something to be proud of waiting for the family to arrive).
I looked out of the window and there, less than 3 meters away, was the Queen of England and all her corgis. It was a very surreal moment in my life I shall never forget it. Quite cool that the royal chefs were asking me if there was anything I needed or if they could help me
I was also head hunted by an ex head chef of mine for the Lord of the Rings movie premiere party in Tobacco Dock, London. My brief was to design and produce the canapes, canaptrays, seven different buffets and theme seven different rooms based on seven different chapters of the book for 2500 people.
I worked for two months on this project and was extremely proud of my work, which proved very worthwhile as the amazed film producers congratulated me personally on my designs. They said they couldn’t believe that one individual could match the look and feel of seven different parts of the film, bring it together in one venue and still give the feel of being able to actually walk through the story. This was definitely one of my proudest achievements.
Who are some of the people you cooked for?
Well now. The list is quite something but name dropping is not something I like to do as most of the events I have worked on have a privacy clause in the contract, but a favourite was Piers Brosnan’s birthday party at Stings house. I still have my much treasured hand written thank you letter from Piers.
John Cleese of Monty Python fame loved my food so much he called the airline he was flying with after the wrap party and told them he was bringing his own food. He promptly told me to pack all remaining food to take with them for the flight.
Elton John and Vivienne Westwood was great fun for me as I was able to imitate their colourful characters with my design with the presentation of the food.
I did a few film launches. I designed for Chocolat with Dame Judi Dench and Juliette Binoche, Mission Impossible, Casper, Shakespeare In Love, My Fair Lady, Rob Roy, Apollo 13 with Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon .
The entire Royal Family at the wedding and various events over many years.
You designed Biutiful’s menu. Tell us a little bit about that process and what would you recommend?
Firstly I saw the venue, and then I listened to the opinions of the partners. Another factor was what was being offered all around us by our competition. The menu had to be based on a type of food that’s affordable and able to be ordered, prepared and served within a 15 minute window.
I settled on a retro Tex-Mex style dinner menu keeping with the Flavours style of using only the freshest, finest ingredients. We created and experimented with many dishes and very quickly identified our favourites which became our launch menu.
We pride ourselves on always being leaders in food trends, so we stuck our necks out on this one and got it just right .The food and style was an immediate hit as was the amazing venue. Put it all together and it rocks. Fratelli & Flavours are a very special team to be a part of and were all very proud of what we achieved.
What do I recommend? Again almost impossible as I have to say all of it with all honesty, but if I had to it would probably be our signature dishes: Burger, Burrito, Fish and Chips, Knickerbockerglory, Espresso Tart.
What do you like to do in your spare time? What are your hobbies?
What is your favorite dish?
Hmmmm impossible to answer this I’m afraid. To make or to eat I ask myself??
I love food. I am a foodie. I appreciate all freshly produced, beautifully prepared dishes. It’s very hard to beat a traditional English roast of rib eye of beef with magnificent Yorkshire puddings, divine gravy and the most amazing selection of roasted root vegetables though or the simplicity of the freshest fish grilled with a green salad and a squeeze of lemon.
What guides you in your work?
To wrap it up, what is the funniest memory you have from your events?
Now that would be telling… But yes I have a few! For example, I remember a particular UK wedding where I decided to serve my welcome canapes on trendy ladies wedding hats, thinking this was lovely and very much in keeping with the day.
All appeared to be going beautifully when I noticed to my absolute horror that some of the very well to do ladies attending the wedding as guests were wearing the very same hats as my props.
I obviously had to re think the whole concept on the spot and come up with an alternative pretty quickly. Luckily these are the challenges I absolutely thrive on.
Emma helped design Fratelli & Flavours in Wonderland, an event that marked the launch of the 2011-2012 food collection. For more details about the event please follow this link: