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Community Showcase: Chilli Bees

Updated: 2 days ago

About Us

I'm Ellie! I've been running Chilli Bees for over ten years. We've been in Garratt Business Park for probably over ten years too. We've seen lots of businesses come and go, and luckily, we're still here!

Chilli bees is a boutique luxury events company: we do everything from weddings to 40th birthday parties to setting up 'chi-chi dinners' for those in Wimbledon that can pretend they've cooked for themselves! And yeah - weekends are busy with parties, events, weddings, etc: then the weekdays are more corporate, so we do a lot of corporate events in central London. From big anniversary parties to corporate get-togethers, barbecues, canapé parties, fashion shows, PR stuff. 

So it's a real mix: we haven't got just one type of client, it's a real varied base. We go as far as doing nursery school food: we look after all the little-ones in south west London, delivering food to them. I have young children, so it started with one of their nurseries and has expanded since then. I also do sort of healthy eating, encouraging really healthy non-processed food from a young age.

About Our Food!

I would say we're fusion: we don't try to be over pretentious, It's more about using the ingredients that we've got; not messing with them too much. A lot of central London restaurants have amazing food, but they've got a lot of processes... We're very much not that type of catering company: it's more about using the flavours to just create really organic, beautiful dishes with the produce we've got here, which are seasonal.

Events Both Large and Intimate

We've done many amazing events. Right at the beginning of when we were doing big events, we catered an 18th birthday party and they had a Cirque du Soleil team! And trapeze artists coming down from the roof and stilt walkers everywhere. All the waitresses had their faces painted as zebras. All the bar staff had caricatures of who they were and every time I walked past the bar I just couldn't help but laugh, because the face-painting was so amazing with capturing their animal caricature... It was just unbelievable for an 18th birthday party to see the amount of production. So from the food aspect, we had loads of canapés (we love a canapé!) and all these food stalls that we'd set up: we had like a burger stall, a noodle stall and things like that. But all being put into this amazing circus-style themed barn which had been transformed. I got home at about 6:00 in the morning, having arrived there at 10:00 in the morning the day before! I remember being on my knees by the end!

That will always stick in my mind for just being one of the first mega-events I personally did. Then you then have other ones which are quite funny... One of my event managers messaged last week saying "oh my goodness, a dog's eaten the doughnuts"! So I was like, well, at least it's only the donuts - we've had a family dog eat the wedding cake before! The wedding cake was there in the pantry and the family dog just jumped-up and ate the top tier and half of the bottom tier. It became a joke to be made in the speeches, but for the photography; there was no top tier so we decorated that. Then we just made sure the front (unbitten) side was facing the camera and any little scratch marks or anything was covered by florals... 

So last weekend, I was just sitting having a glass of wine in my garden. And heard the news about the doughnuts and I thought - don't panic, it's not a cake! We can definitely get more donuts... But keep them away from the dog!

The Beginning of the Bees...

I set up this business myself. I used to do acting a very long time ago, but then I hated going to auditions - so that's not a very good acting career to have! So I started doing city lunches as a freelance chef, going to city offices and then, you know, they would then want canapé parties - and it grew organically.

I got to the point where I was too busy to carry on by myself and we found this space in Garratt Business Park, where I managed to save enough money to deck it all out. Before that,  I was in my mum's kitchen, so she was very happy to get rest: to stop the smell of lamb stew and frying of prawns! I remember one time I had a dinner for 500 people. It was a charity dinner, so they were having quite a cheap main course, but it was all Halloween themed... And my mum literally just has a normal domestic kitchen, but I ended-up cooking batches of the lamb stew for a month and then freezing them. The smell! I've never been able to eat lamb stew since, nor did she! I mean, everyone in the party loved it, but no more for me... Luckily, my mum and I get-along… Just NO COOKING!  

Garratt Business Parklife

We have lots of cross-pollination: so we use ice companies sometimes. Park Bakery were our go-to before they even moved here, so we were very pleased when they moved just down the road. Cakes by Robin (which you should definitely go and see) are amazing. They do all our cakes for celebrations and things... Except the cake the dog ate - that was not them! 

There's lots of audio-visual production companies I need to go and pop into. And then also we've done various little events for a few of our neighbors. We've lost a few of our long-term friends, which is a shame when they've sold rather than just moved-on. It's a friendly neighborhood.

The Wimbledon Arts Centre: we love it. The staff go up there at lunchtime and then I take the kids for the weekend, which is always fun. 

What's in a Name?

We were really struggling for a name at first. My mum's called Bumble, so I wanted bees in there somewhere... Then, my sister in law is a graphic artist (very talented) and she drew a chilli with a bumblebee and the name came from that. The busyness of the busy staff and fusion style food - there's a chilli in there quite often! Not very spicy, but y'know, you have to warn the chefs to take the chilli out if needed!

Team Culture

I think we have a real tradition on Friday... It's very physically demanding for everybody - mentally demanding as well, for the girls in the office - and by the time it gets to Friday, even though there's a big push to make sure that everything's ready for the weekend, it's just making sure everyone has a beer. At least we try to do it once a month, when the weather's nice we put a little barbecue on, making sure everyone's eating together.

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