If you want to know how to make 90,000 people happy in the shortest amount of time, ask Stefan Pappert. After all, the 3 Lions’ lead chef works at Wembley National Stadium, Emirates Arsenal, Chelsea Stamford Bridge as well as Windsor, indulging spectators, VIP guests and players on many a match day. At the same time, and just the way they like it.
When the final of the European Championship kicks off at Wembley on July 11, Pappert will have made these 90,000 people happy every third day.
Mr. Pappert, why is it that you cook for so many people?
I cooked for big events right from the start. First in Munich at the Tollwood Festival for 5,000 people, then at the Wirtshaus in der Au – that’s where I learned everything there is to know about traditional Bavarian cuisine. Then at Oktoberfest I added the basics that ensure I don’t break a sweat at Wembley today. I also really need the challenge. When I have accomplished something, I already have the next idea in mind and tackle something new.
How do you approach a match day at Wembley with 90,000 meals?
At Wembley, I have a core team of five people who can completely rely on each other. On a match day, there are 450 to 500 cooks in the various kitchens, plus around 1,000 servers. When it comes to food, a high standard of quality is important to me, which is why there are precise specifications. I have also optimized the kitchen processes so that we can reliably uphold these high standards.
How do you coordinate so many people?
WhatsApp is one of my most important tools for communication. I also send pictures showing how the individual meals should look. We prepare most of our food in combi steamers from RATIONAL, which are linked via ConnectedCooking, which is very helpful. This way, I can monitor the programs over an app and check the kitchen without having to run all over the place. It really saves a ton of time and energy.
But surely you won’t prepare 90,000 identical meals, will you?
First of all, you have to distinguish between the meals for the concessions, the boxes and the VIP guests. French fries, pasta, steak and burgers are popular. However, cooking in the VIP boxes is highly customized.
The cooking in your stadiums is quite exclusive, isn’t it? What is this like?
For English soccer fans, a game is an event, so dinner counts as much as the team winning or losing. As a result, it is not at all unusual to have a three-course meal before the game. Emirates Chelsea and Wembley are therefore usually open three hours before kickoff. After the game, cheese platters or mini-pies are available to keep fans hanging around for a longer, allowing them to leave the stadium in a more deliberate manner.
What’s it like in the boxes?
In the boxes we cook exclusively for VIP guests. This kind of group is made up of eight to ten people, and includes corporate customers, UEFA guests and sponsors. Each box has its own kitchen, which is supplied by the central kitchen. Pasta, steaks and the like are then freshly cooked on site. It just so happens that at the New Tottenham Stadium, for example, we have 180 RATIONAL combi steamers that we need to get the job done.
We’ve now learned quite a bit about food for spectators. But what about cooking for the athletes?
They’re all so professional, they don’t need to be told what to eat or what’s good for them. Athletes need proper food, which is well-prepared from the most ideal basic products. Here, too, I rely on kitchen equipment such as the combi steamers, which mean I can always create the same level of excellence. However, of course I know who likes to eat what or needs something specific in a particular situation. For example, if a player has been sitting on the bench, he doesn’t have the same energy needs as someone who has been on the field the entire time. In this case, he gets a sushi from me with various fillings, of course, like steamed salmon or chicken drumstick meat. What’s more, I know if there is anything they can’t or don’t eat, for example. If a certain coach comes, I know the pizza has to be vegan and gluten-free.
How do you know what your guests want?
I usually have known my guests for so long that they occasionally come into the kitchen and ask how I prepare something, or they eat kaiserschmarren right off the baking sheet. Then you know what the guests like or don’t like. Indeed, I don’t only cook for athletes, but also for celebrities, sheikhs and her Majesty the Queen. Actually, I cook for myself and the British monarch eats too, I always say.
Do you ever have any unusual requests?
People love my German-Austrian cuisine, my personal style is still very Bavarian. Truly outlandish wishes are rare, they are more likely to be individual preferences. One person only likes their fish without the skin and lemon, while others want star-level French cuisine. Sometimes I come up with some nice little touches, for example, homemade elderberry juice. The 1,800 liters I made ran out almost immediately. Otherwise, we serve a lot of fried potatoes, schnitzel, Kärtner noodles, as well as Frankfurter Grüne Soße. Nobody knows that here.
With these amounts, what is your inventory management like?
You can compare this type of stadium to a small city. Wembley, for example, has five levels, and Level 5 can hold up to 25,000 spectators. In line with this, my storerooms, freezers and cold stores can store food for two million people. 40 tons of French fries, 50,000 liters of cheese sauce, four tons of hamburger meat, that’s what my orders look like. Thanks to having the right kitchen equipment, I can cook 1,800 sunny-side up eggs in three minutes.
Is any food ever left over in the end?
Not really, because everything is planned very precisely. I have a basic stock in the building two weeks before the start of the game and it is all completely used up in the end. Perishables like fish are always delivered fresh. However, the lockdown caught us completely off guard. Suddenly we had 500,000 meals in the fridge and no one was allowed in the stadium. With a few players, I then spontaneously set up the charity project “Warmer Winters” and we distributed the food to schools, children, families and the homeless.
How are you getting ready for the European Championship?
We don’t really have to get ready at all because, for one thing, the lockdown really wasn’t a break for me by any means. I continued to cook for the players and had my charity projects. On the other hand, spectators in England are already allowed back into the stadiums. I’m kind of practicing with 22,000 fans and slowly working my way up. By the time I cook at the finals on July 11, it’s sure to be as good as ever.
Mr. Pappert, many thanks for the interview.
June 28th, 2021
The stars of football stadiums are not only found on the field, but also in the kitchen.
Chefs such as Harry Lomas, MBE BEM FIH and Stefan Pappert who work for Wembley Stadium look after the physical well-being of the players but they don’t forget the fans.
On match days they have to produce up to 90,000 meals, taking into account preferences, intolerances, allergies and all the other aspects of high-volume catering.
And outsiders will be able to get a peek behind the curtain courtesy of a webinar being hosted by Rational next month.
The combi oven manufacturer’s first ever ‘Championship in Sports Catering’ webinar will kick off at 2pm on 1 July 2021.
Mr Pappert and Mr Lomas will be joined by Rational MD Simon Lohse to discuss how their roles and how they manage such a unique kitchen operation.
RATIONAL INSIDE: Championship in Sports Catering
June 11th, 2021
April 29th, 2021
How can you bring out a top gourmet experience to someone's home during a pandemic? Stefan Pappert and German Chefs London decided this is a challenge to break. Together with a number of partners (including ScanBox) they put together a concept of bringing the full F&B experience to your doorstep. ScanBox's mission was clearly to create a small-scale catering box with the full feature and functionality of a professional food transport and holding box. The result, a portable ScanBox with an excellent capacity to keep food fresh at exact temperatures while blending into the environment of a private home setting. Check out the video below to see the result!
April 16th, 2021
Hotel, Restaurant & Catering talks to German Chefs Catering founder Stefan Pappert about creating a VIP home dining experience, charity work and reducing food waste.
Stefan Pappert makes what he does sound very simple and, suitably enough for a German chef, very logical. Over the course of 2020 he oversaw the launch a new high-end catering business, cooked thousands of meals for charity and advocated for the use of smart catering and kitchen equipment to reduce food waste.
It all got started with a phone call in March 2020, just as the Covid-19 lockdown began.
“Özil called me saying ‘can you cook, to give food to people?’” Pappert explains. “In less than one week we’d set up a charity.”
That would be German footballer Mesut Özil who, in addition to his skill on the pitch, has become known for his generous charitable giving and ownership of London coffee chain 39 Steps Coffee.
Pappert already had a football-adjacent culinary background before arriving in London, having been a caterer at the Brazil and South Africa World Cups, but it was in the UK capital that he began to make the connections that would define the next stages of his career.
Specifically, it was at the Landmark Hotel in Marylebone. Pappert had joined the hotel in 2016 and one day found himself catering a 50-person event attended by well-known figures including Jose Mourinho, Pepe Guardiola and a number of German players, happy to find a German chef in London.
“They took me to a Wembley final,” continues Pappert. “I spoke to the head chef at Wembley who showed me his kitchen and I was so impressed I quit my job! From there word of mouth was really quick: there’s a German in the stadium.”
In addition to taking on the role of Lead Chef at Wembley Stadium’s Three Lions restaurant, Pappert became the Lead Chef for Arsenal football club’s box-level corporate hospitality, and made close connections with many of the German players who passed through.
Fastforward three years and, like most in the hospitality industry, Pappert found himself suddenly unable to do his job due to the Covid-19 lockdown. In partnership with Mesut Özil and working from the footballer’s North London coffee shop, Pappert and his team began to cook for charities and communities in the local area. At its peak the charity was producing upwards of 1,500 portions a day, with a group consisting partly of Özil’s own management team.
The pivot to takeaway meals and the enforced break from the busy Wembley kitchens also provided an opportunity to launch Pappert’s new business venture – German Chefs Catering. With his connections in the footballing and foodservice world, he established a new VIP takeaway experience designed with a premium client base in mind.
At each stage of the food delivery process, Pappert was looking for ways to perfect the experience for his customers. Partnering with Swedish company ScanBox, he could ensure the food stayed at exactly the right temperature from kitchen to table.
German Chefs Catering worked with the London black cab community to transport deliveries, and used Wembley suppliers to provide reusable cutlery and plates, doing away with disposable plastic alternatives.
London and LA-based luxury brand OnlyRoses (another German-owned business) provided atmospheric details such as flowers, candles and tableware, while South Tyrolian brand Lieselehof provided the wine menu.
“It’s the highest winery in Europe,” explains Pappert. “There is more colour and the sun is higher concentrated. The wine grapes are better quality; they have to survive the weather so they’re stronger. It’s one of the best wines I’ve tried.”
German Chefs Catering has a growing community of partner businesses and chefs which mean the company can offer a wide range of culinary choices to its customers – adapting to their specific needs and requests.
“The whole company is about flexibility and high performance,” continues Pappert. “It’s always growing and going further and we’re creating everything bespoke and from scratch with our partners.
“I could make each component myself but it’s much easier and more efficient if we all help each other and have a level of co-working. It’s like a puzzle: you can add a new piece and it just gets bigger and better."
Co-ordinating thousands of charity meals alongside a high-end catering business requires superhuman levels of organisation, and Pappert is a passionate advocate of smart kitchen technology to reduce food waste and assist accurate ordering. Products like the Rational iCombi Pro and apps to track stock and ordering are a key component of the success of German Chefs Catering.
“It all comes back to zero waste too,” says Pappert. “I know exactly how much salt I have. The oven has density control so I can see how much red cabbage has been used, for example. It works as an ecosystem for us. Plus, if I have 200 portions left from evening catering, I can send them out for charity. When we talk about sustainability and zero waste it’s about valuing our products and ingredients and using them in multiple ways.
“Every chef should have this love of cooking, bringing it to people and presenting the food. I always say I’m not working. It’s my passion, it’s something I’m in love with and I’m investing in my future.”