- Michael Caines fueling F1 drivers
- Award-winning chef works for Williams F1
Twenty-three years and two Michelin stars later, he hasn’t just become one of his industry’s most distinguished figures, he’s also fueling some of the fastest drivers in the world.
A partner and ambassador for Formula One team Williams Martini Racing, the 48-year-old hosts the team’s sponsors, engineers and drivers on race weekends.
“You see your heroes on TV and think ‘wow!’ … and the next thing you know, you find yourself in the paddock.
“It is one of those pinch-yourself moments”
F1 has a relentless race calendar which runs from March to November and stops in 20 major cities. But from Australia to Abu Dhabi, the Brit shows it’s possible to produce top-quality cuisine on the move.
“They say an army marches on its stomach and Williams is no exception,” Caines tells CNN The Circuit.
“We’ve got to produce nutritious and healthy food for the drivers, but we’ve also got to provide for the sponsors over the F1 weekend.”
His team designed a purpose-built motorhome four years ago to deliver a bespoke product for the Williams team and its numerous guests.
It can be quickly assembled at any location on the F1 circuit to deliver the optimum culinary experience, with a ground floor brasserie and first floor Michael Caines Tasting Experience.
It might not be perfect, but as the chef puts it: “We get pretty close to what I do in my restaurants here on the track!”
On the menu
Caines stresses the importance of a good diet for drivers, especially since this year’s new rulings have made the sport even more physically demanding.
Even if Williams drivers Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll probably won’t be troubling the top of the drivers’ standings at the end of this season, there’s little doubt the British team is well catered for especially, says Caines, when compared with what their rivals offer.
“There’s no competition!” laughs Caines. “We out-qualify all of them!”
“Toto Wolff will tell you. The first thing he said when he went to Mercedes was ‘we want our hospitality to be just like Williams’.”
Because drivers are out on the road so much, the most important ingredient is a taste of home.
Both eat at a particular time on race weekends — “written in as part of the day” — and tend to not change their diet.
Stroll, an F1 debutant of Canadian descent, typically eats quinoa and high protein fish, like salmon or cod.
Massa, the first Brazilian since Ayrton Senna to win his home Grand Prix, rarely deviates from a dish of roast chicken, wild rice and tomato salad.
“Everyone has to be made to feel welcome,” says Caines. “When they’re not having to worry about racing, they’ll also indulge off the menu!”
The chef admits sponsors are “so key to survival” for today’s F1 teams.
It’s a fact Williams has embraced, going through 2,000 bottles of Prosecco over the course of the 2016 season.
“If results aren’t always what they should be on the track, at least through hospitality you can give the sponsors a great experience throughout the race weekend,” says Caines.
“I’m always thinking about how we can bring in different themes to different grands prix, whether that’s the cocktails or the food.
“We always try to influence that with the wine choices as well — English wines going alongside some of the dishes too.”
The opportunity to experiment is offset by the difficulty obtaining ingredients in some race locations.
He praises the produce on offer in Monaco, lauding “the fantastic larder of fantastic seafood and salads,” but adds it can be slightly more challenging cooking in the likes of Russia and Hungary.
Still, with opportunity to watch races in between his cooking, Caines is in no doubt as to just how lucky he is.
“I derive a lot of satisfaction from the fact that something I loved as a kid is something I’m now in touch with,” he smiles.
“It’s a team sport and it goes without saying that everyone involved with Williams is here to support the team to go on, race and hopefully win.”