Brimming with delicious food, botanical cocktails and live music, and all curated by Raymond Blanc, Jardin Blanc is an extraordinary place. And, subsequently, the individual realising this event has a pretty extraordinary job. Richard Gee is the Project Manager for Jardin Blanc. For the past five years he has worked with the Sodexo Events Team, Raymond Blanc, The RHS and countless other creatives and contributors to help build and run this beautiful garden restaurant.
Richard has been in the hospitality industry for over 25 years and is the founder of his own events-consultancy. His past work with Sodexo on prestigious British events - such as Henley Royal Regatta and Royal Ascot - gained the Jardin Blanc team’s attention, who brought Mr Gee in at the projects very beginnings. Richard is responsible for delivering Jardin Blanc’s concept, and works closely with the Sodexo Events Team to make Raymond Blanc’s vision a reality each year.
Today, we speak to Richard about what contemporary hospitality looks like, his passion for project management and how best to realise your clients' (and your own) creative vision.
Hi Richard, please can you introduce yourself and your work at Jardin Blanc?
My name is Richard Gee, I’m the Project Manager for Jardin Blanc. I oversee the operational planning throughout the year, working with Sodexo and Raymond Blanc to create our little oasis at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Jardin Blanc is the perfect project for me; creating the ultimate environment to enjoy fabulous hospitality. As a hospitality consultant I have the privilege to work on a number of hospitality events throughout the year, with Jardin Blanc starting the summer season in style.
This is a creative project, where do you draw your inspiration?
The concept for Jardin Blanc was born of its location within the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Sodexo’s relationship with Raymond Blanc, and the changing demands of hospitality clients. Each of these shaped the brand that is Jardin Blanc.
I of course draw inspiration directly from the customers. RHS Chelsea attracts a discerning client who enjoys hospitality that is thoughtful, unique and immersive. We therefore strive to create a product that has all of these qualities and more.
As the shining light in the horticulture calendar, Chelsea is so well attended we found that, after a few hours at the show, clients needed a base for the day. Situated within the serenity of the Ranelagh Gardens, Jardin Blanc provides just this (as well as a tranquil spot to enjoy a delicious lunch, afternoon tea or cocktail). Couple that with the absolute inspiration and hospitality-icon Raymond Blanc, and you have the makings of something truly special.
Raymond and I meet on a regular basis to discuss the project and update him on the direction of the product. As we look towards the 2019 edition of Jardin Blanc, we’ve further enhanced the aesthetic and feel of the environment with the addition of a new-look interior. Raymond has been involved in the design, to ensure we bring his infectious joie de vivre to Jardin Blanc.
How would you describe your taste, as applied to your working practice?
I like to push boundaries. It sounds corny but why does a hospitality programme need to be a round table with a white table cloth and 3 courses of food? Why can’t we ask more of our clients and ourselves? At Jardin Blanc we almost enforce the social element to our guests through the way we bring them the menu and its sharing concept. Looking at the ‘changing shape’ of the way we enjoy food and good service is something that drives me forward.
To answer the question, and I know this sounds obvious but I try to understand the clients’ requirements first, then aim to create a package tailored to suit. To do this I carry out a lot of research, I really try to put myself in their shoes.
Taste comes to the fore – the clients’ and my own – when creating partnerships. We partner with a number of incredible artists and artisan producers to further enhance the program at Jardin Blanc; be that someone like Stephen Myburgh with his iconic copper pumpkin or Warner Edwards Gins, who distil our very own Jardin Blanc gin onsite. The benefits to the end result are an immersive, creative and unique experience.
What do you enjoy most and least about your job?
The events industry is the purest form of hospitality. You don’t get a second chance - get your planning wrong and it fails. What I enjoy the most are two things: getting it just right and the team work that goes in to achieving it. What I enjoy the least is just missing the target and knowing we all could have done it slightly differently and achieved a better result.
What advice would you give for someone looking to be a Project Manager?
The advice I would give anyone wanting to become a Project Manager in the events industry is to strive to understand what your clients are looking for, make good notes, lots of notes and never let your passion for creativity be stifled.
Finally, please can you describe Jardin Blanc in three words.
If I had to pick out the words that best describe Jardin Blanc to me it would be playful, luxurious and social.
Thanks Richard. It’s been an absolute pleasure and we look forward to seeing Jardin Blanc in its 2019 incarnation!
To learn more about Jardin Blanc 2019 enquire at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0845 268 0251 or watch our video here...