Steve Wren: Chef at Saïd Business School, Park End
"I believe our success has been dependent on two things – the expertise of the team and the quality of the food and drink we deliver."
Catering for the Saïd Business School, a school of 54 nationalities with a high percentage of mature students, can be quite a challenge.
Three dining rooms and conferencing space offer the capacity to serve up to 1,000 people at any one time, and a luxury service is required to appeal to world business leaders in the Thatcher Business Education Centre. Chef Steve Wren is the man in charge of this huge operation, and we caught up with Steve to find out how he takes on the challenge.
It’s not just knowing how to prepare a good meal as feeding such a huge number of people can be quite a logistical challenge. Steve explains:
“The opening of the school’s Thatcher Business Education Centre in 2012 saw the site grow and require another element to be delivered. With this, my team increased from five to 18, and I was tasked with overseeing both the main school site and the new centre. To help our team deliver to this standard, they are given the opportunity to make the most of BaxterStorey’s extensive network of experts. Our kitchen team has spent time at other locations around the business to better refine their skills, including Berkshire-based Michelin-starred restaurant, The Woodspeen.
“BaxterStorey’s heritage has been built on sustainably sourcing fresh, seasonal, local produce. It is this passion that enables my team to create restaurant-quality dishes for up to 1,000 people every day. We are fortunate to have such a huge variety of local produce at our fingertips and I have real autonomy when it comes to the suppliers I work with.
“Aldens is a firm favourite of mine. It is a family run-butcher based in Osney Mead with a 200 year history. Because they are based locally, our chefs are able to visit the demonstration kitchen to refine their traditional butchery skills. It is Aldens’ high quality produce that is always a success in our executive dining room. Their dry age rooms produce the most incredible beef which allow our team to create favourites such as slow roast dry aged sirloin, with seasonal local vegetables.
“Such a unique location brings challenges to any corporate catering and hospitality team. I believe our success has been dependent on two things – the expertise of the team and the quality of the food and drink we deliver. Our growing team thrives on the opportunity to constantly develop their skills, deliver restaurant-quality food and showcase the very best of Oxford produce.”
Here is Steve’s recipe for a popular dish, regularly on the menu at the school, featuring Aldens famous dry aged sirloin.
Slow Roast dry aged Sirloin of Beef – serves six
Fondant potato, sweet onion puree, tender stem broccoli, horseradish crumb
For the sirloin
1kg dry aged sirloin, trimmed (keep trimmings for the sauce)
4 sprigs of thyme
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
Splash of olive oil
Red wine sauce
Trimmings from the beef
4 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
400ml red wine
1.5 litre fresh chicken stock
150g Panko bread crumbs
50g beurre noisette
½ lemon, zested
½ bunch flat parsley, finely chopped
1 table spoon of fresh horseradish, finely grated
6 large potatoes cut with 6.5cm pastry ring
200g butter, clarified
2 sprigs of thyme
2 cloves of garlic, roughly sliced
Sweet onion puree
1kg onions, sliced
A splash of olive oil
A splash of balsamic vinegar
1 table spoon soft dark brown sugar
Sprouting broccoli, 3 per person
½ lemon, juiced
Season the beef and seal on a high temperature evenly on each side. Wrap tightly in tin foil with the garlic and thyme, and put in a pre-heated oven on the lowest setting/55 ̊C. Cook for two hours or until the core temperature has reached 55 ̊C.
Sauté the onions on a high temperature in olive oil to caramelise, then turn the temperature down. Add the balsamic and sugar and cook for approximately one hour until the onions are soft. Puree in a food processor until silky smooth and season to taste.
Red wine sauce
Sauté the beef trimmings, carrots and onion on a high temperature until coloured, add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, chicken stock and red wine and reduce by half. Pass through a fine sieve into a clean pan and reduce by half again, until plum in colour.
Pan fry the potatoes in a splash of olive oil until golden brown on each side, then cover with the clarified butter, garlic & thyme. Cook for 45 minutes in a pre-heated oven at 170 ̊C or until cooked through.
In a frying pan heat the beurre noisette and fry the bread crumbs and horseradish. Keep tossing to ensure evenly coloured. Pour onto kitchen paper to remove excess fat and allow to cool. Season and mix with the lemon zest and parsley.
Trim the ends, peel the stalks and then wash. Blanch in salted boiling water for one minute and put straight into ice water.
Allow the meat to rest for 10 minutes in a warm place. Have the potatoes, purée, and sauce hot and ready to go. Sauté the broccoli for one minute on a high temperature to heat through and season with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Carve the beef into six even pieces.
Put a generous swipe of the onion purée on each plate, top with a fondant potato, three pieces of tender stem broccoli and a slice of beef. Add a pile of the horseradish crumb on top of the beef, cascading onto the plate. Serve the sauce in individual jugs or spoon onto the plate last minute.