The most exclusive, prestigious restaurant in the racing world isn’t a restaurant at all — go behind the scenes of F1 Garage Hospitality with one of the world’s most in-demand chefs.
As Formula 1 has exploded in popularity around the world, its festival-like weekend events have become a playground not just for motorsport fans, but the famous, prolific, and well-connected. Attending a race and being a VIP at the luxurious Paddock Club and exclusive team garage areas is now a must-have status symbol that goes for five figures in a given race week. Available at 11 races during the 2023 F1 season, that experience is enhanced even further with the three-day F1 Garage Hospitality package.
On a Sunday in May at the Miami Grand Prix, cloud cover granted a much-needed (albeit partial) respite from the weekend’s hot, sticky, muggy days. Inside the first garage in the team paddock lounge, music played as high rollers enjoyed the finest food you’ll find at an F1 event — and possibly any sporting event on earth — courtesy of an a la carte menu curated by two Michelin Star chef Tom Sellers. In Miami, the London-based Sellers was personally on hand to oversee his locally-themed grazing table and open bar featuring specialty cocktails and Ferrari Trento sparkling wine.
“It’s a sporting event crossed with a top food and beverage experience, and a place to hang,” Tom Sellers told Boardroom that Sunday morning in south Florida, mimosas already flowing amid the brunch rush. “With F1, there’s not many sports where you can get that close to the action. Being in the paddock, you can be fully immersed with the teams and drivers.”
Sellers said that F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali shared a vision a couple of years back — he wanted to create a distinct space at certain races that felt even more exclusive than the “regular” VIP treatment. After trying the concept at five Grand Prix events last season, the program further expanded to include half the season’s race weekends, including earlier this season at Bahrain and Montreal. Looking ahead, fans can expect similar offerings in Austin, Great Britain, Monza, Mexico City, and Abu Dhabi.
The chef’s award-winning restaurants are based in London, where he received his first Michelin Star in 2013 at just 26 years old. That acclaim has allowed him to join up with global partners like Rolls Royce, Bang & Olufsen, and Audemars Piguet, where he can spread his wings beyond the traditional restaurant setting, something the diehard Manchester United fan said greatly appeals to him about working with Formula 1.
“As a chef, I love being able to step out and not always be in the restaurant, but working with brands and companies in sport or music,” Sellers said. “Wherever you go, food is always a central piece, so it’s nice to be able to do that, particularly with F1, and travel around the world.”
On the menu in Miami, a buffet spread featured everything from chicken Caesar salad to deviled eggs, smoked salmon, and local staple key lime pie for dessert. But the show-stopping a la carte menu is where Sellers truly got to express his artistic flair, where offerings ranged from a melon and caviar combo to scallop crudo to start, sweet corn and girolle agnolotti, Cubano sandwiches, and a sumptuous looking wagyu dish for mains, and a strawberry tart and almond and dill soft serve for dessert.
“Menu-wise, we’ll always take into consideration where we are in the world,” Sellers said. “And then, I it’s also important that I stay true to myself, so we’ll make sure that the food from a level of product is hitting the high notes.”
Sellers’ partnership with the 1 Hotels chain, with whom he’s opening a new restaurant in London, ensures he’s working with top purveyors so that every race he creates a menu for is on point and maintains the quality these guests are used to and pay to receive. He said he’s been lucky enough to make food at these events for Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt at previous races, and for the likes of Vin Diesel and Serena Williams specifically in Miami.
This particular F1 initiative has become so successful that Sellers said he’s had conversations to bring this unique experience to other sports, but he identified some key components that would need to be in place to make the concept work like it has for Formula 1.
“What’s really important is the demographic of people that either are prepared to spend X amount of money at sporting events or want that intimate experience,” he said. “They always want great food and beverage. They always want great music. They always want a great place to hang aesthetically.”
These are all elements Formula 1 has manage to nail with equal parts consistency and aspirational ritz unmatched by any other sporting competition on earth. Sellers praised the organization for being progressive and forward-thinking as a brand, constantly trying to reinvent their platform and endeavoring to bring the fastest sport on the planet to every continent (save perhaps Antarctica!) with a mix of local culture, entertainment, and an excitement that captures the spirit of the racing itself.
“To be in the paddock is like being in the changing room. It’s one of the very few sports where you can be that close to the action — like, actually be in it,” Sellers said. “And they realize that they have an opportunity to create spaces like this, and I think there will be more to come in the future. They just offer something that’s a larger-than-life experience.”
In providing that full-sensory experience to a similarly larger-than-life clientele, hospitality experiences like the ones Tom Sellers provides at select F1 events is a major reason why the world’s biggest stars keep coming back for more — and it rolls right along on July 9 at Silverstone as the excitement heads to his native UK for the British Grand Prix.
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