ESS Hosts Welbeck College Commemoration Dinner at Nottingham Castle

11 October 2021

ESS recently hosted the Welbeck College commemoration dinner to mark the closure of the institution.

The Defence Sixth Form College, originally located at Welbeck Abbey in Nottinghamshire and relocated to Leicestershire in 2005, closed its doors for the final time on 31st August 2021. During its 68 years, Welbeck College produced over 6,000 officers initially for the Army, but since 2002 for all three services. Six officers from the college died in combat and many were awarded gallantry medals in conflicts from Northern Ireland to Afghanistan.

To commemorate the role that Welbeck College has played within Defence, the Old Welbexian Association Committee organised an event to celebrate the institution. Alumni from across the years were invited, with intakes from the very first in 1953 being represented. 

ESS was selected to deliver the event, providing hospitality for 600 guests in the grounds of Nottingham Castle.

In a logistically challenging feat, the three-courses, canapes and welcome drinks were prepared across two sites with most of the preparation and cooking taking place in a military field kitchen set up at the castle. With a main course of Dry-Aged Organic Beef Rib, this was no mean feat! The ESS chef brigade, selected from sites across the UK, worked alongside an Army catering team and drew on the experience of our ex-military colleagues. They were supported by a front of house team representing a number of our contracts.

Much of the produce used was sourced locally, including Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire Longhorn Beef and Colston Basset Stilton, reducing the delivery mileage associated with the event and supporting local producers.

As well as producing thousands of canapes and a complex three-course menu, the chefs used a 3D printer to create 60 chocolate soldier centre pieces which proved very popular with the guests!

The team received some fantastic feedback from the event:

Major General (Retired) G I Mitchell CB MBE, President of the Old Welbexian Association, commented:

“A heartfelt note to thank you and the whole Compass Group team for their simply outstanding service at the Welbeck Commemoration dinner at Nottingham Castle on 25th September. Put simply it was one of the most enjoyable dinners I have attended in my 40 years in the military and much of that success is down to the fabulous organisation, service, quality of food and hospitality from your team.

"Over the last ten days, I have been watching, in vigorous agreement, with the rave reviews streaming in from the nearly 600 guests who attended. Almost every one of those reviews have mentioned the levels of your team’s service. In particular, the quality of food was a highlight; it was staggeringly good, the racks of beef simply amazing, and all prepared from scratch on a military field kitchen. The team should be on both MasterChef and Bake Off! I would though also pick out your staff, drawn from across the UK for the event, who were so positive and patient throughout the night despite a body of 600 who wanted to move around the room to catch up with old friends making your task much more difficult. It was a very long day for your team, yet they were magnificent from first to last minute.”

Mark Armstrong, Compass Group UK & Ireland’s Technical Services and HSE Director, and an Alumni himself having attended Welbeck College from January 1981 to December 1982, was at the event and commented:

“A massive thank you to everyone from Team ESS who was involved in putting on the Welbeck College Commemoration Dinner at Nottingham Castle on Saturday evening. It was a privilege to be there and I was very proud to say that it was Compass doing the catering. Jeanette McNaughton and her team were fantastic. Everyone I spoke to was complimentary about the menu, the service and, in particular, the enthusiasm of the staff.

"From a health and safety perspective I am not sure why they picked the Compass HSE Director to carve the beef at the table, but I am pleased to say that he managed to do so without cutting any fingers! The beef was perfect; just how you can turn out that many three ribs of beef all to perfection is amazing.”