My Event World - Julian Saipe

Julian Saipe is managing director of Zafferano Catering, which recently won the contract as in-house caterer at the Foundling Museum.

Zafferano managing director Julian Saipe
Zafferano managing director Julian Saipe
I got into the event industry because I gave up a career as a professional opera singer and started Big Voice Productions, which produces Opera Events for the corporate sector. In 1998 I married Zafferano founder Vivienne Gonley and the rest is history.
I have worked here since 2001.

I was attracted to this particular role because it allowed me the freedom to drive a small business with a strong product onto the front line of London party catering.

Not many people know that as an opera singer I sang on the soundtracks of The Phantom Menace, Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean.

My worst experience at an event was when one of our staff mini-buses broke down (see below) on the way to an event at a stately home outside of London. I was already at the venue with one of our operations managers, and the guests had started to arrive before we had any of the 17 Zafferano staff on-site.

If there's one thing I've learnt it's don’t put unleaded petrol in a diesel engine.

The best events I've been involved in are the flamboyant private parties where the client goes completely over the top. For example, booking The Australian Pink Floyd Show to play in your back garden.

If I could do it all over again I would have employed a top-flight general manager from the start.

The one thing I can't stand is lateness.

Outside of work I spend my time trying not to ‘twitter’ about Zafferano. I also enjoy cycling, going to the opera, travelling with my family and seeing friends.

If money were no object I would buy two or three of the companies I admire.

The one event I will never miss is the Enotria wine fair. It’s a fantastic day comprising more than 50 wine producers from all over the world, 800 guests who really know about food and drink, and lunch by one great caterer.

The recession has meant that we have looked after our existing customers and worked harder for a smaller margin. The recession has also meant that we are enjoying coming out of recession. It’s a bit like yoga – the real benefit is the relief one feels after the pain of an uncomfortable position.

The next 12 months will be great. New clients, new venues, new developments and lots of fun.

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be my wife, she works part-time.

If I ruled the event industry I would review the culture for commissions payable.

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