Carousel has proved to be a thrilling ride for the Templeton family, as William Sitwell discovers
It was October 2012 and a few of the younger members of the Templeton clan were travelling between France and England. Four members of this tight-knit family – based in London and Oxfordshire – were returning from a holiday in Spain, the clan’s European outpost.
The Templetons are one of those families whose cousins, aunts and uncles frequently gather and behave as one big family. Marry one and you get a clan who all feel they own a piece of you. The Templetons played together, but many also worked together.
Indeed, two identical twin brothers who ran a sixth-form colleges business actually thought it should be compulsory, so on that Spanish trip they asked their various offspring why it was they had chosen to pursue careers in different fields.
It was weighing on the minds of siblings and cousins Ollie, Anna, Ed and Will as they entered the Channel Tunnel. By the time Le Shuttle emerged at Folkestone, a plan was born. That idea was Carousel.
Based in Marylebone, it is a multifaceted food business that combines events and a celebrated rotating chef residency. The company curates spectacular launches for leading brands – from Instagram and Google to Barclays and the BBC (many at its second site in Seven Dials) – as well as producing elaborate private parties.
Chefs from around the world are given a four-week residency to show their skills to a hungry London market. Talent has come from Kyoto, Stockholm, New York and Mexico City, and some home-grown talent has also emerged from stints at Carousel.
Both Tom Brown of Cornerstone and Ravinder Bhogal of Jikoni had residencies at Carousel before opening their own restaurants.
In the feverishly competitive dining scene that is London, many restaurateurs look at Carousel with envy as month in, month out they create fresh ideas and coax back a loyal band of regulars eager to try food from around the world. The cousins have turned a natural family talent into a very successful business.
‘Catering is definitely in our blood,’ says Ed, whose focus is marketing, ‘and you have to be when you’re 30 for Christmas.’ ‘We’re also all very entrepreneurial,’ says Anna, who heads up events and sales.
Ollie, the youngest of the cousins whose role is the kitchen and front of house, adds: ‘It’s a genuinely creative hub, encouraged by the managed chaos that comes from having new chefs arriving each month.’
Will, who looks after the finances, explains that there was no investment needed at the start: ‘We simply began as a secret supper club and sold tickets in advance.’
That first event was a Pan Am-style party in March 2013 in an old post office sorting office in Notting Hill. The four hired actors to play the parts of Sixties airline staff – from sexy air hostesses to a sleazy pilot propping up the bar – and what Ed calls their ‘immersive dining experiences’ ballooned from then on.
Their alternative dining appealed to those bored with conventional restaurants and began as the supper club craze – on a smaller, informal scale in people’s houses – began to emerge.
After two years of creating pop-up events in locations across London, the gang felt they needed a permanent home. ‘It was draining,’ says Ed. ‘We would stage an event for up to four days, get about one and a half hours’ sleep a night and be dragging props and catering equipment across London from our lock-up in Clapham.’
When they were shown an empty building in Marylebone with 4,000 square feet, without knowing quite what they would do in it, they took on the lease. Five years on, there are events and workshops in every corner of the building each night, a fixed kitchen and restaurant for the chef residency, a seasonal magazine and 150 employees.
‘A lot of locals treat us like a neighbourhood restaurant,’ says Anna. ‘We have one customer who has been here nearly 70 times. But we really don’t see restaurants as our competition. Our business has so many elements that we are simply just very different. And unlike a restaurant we never have to turn tables and because people pay in advance we never have no-shows.’
A meeting with the Templetons gives one an idea of what it must be like to spend Christmas with them, as they compete to talk with increasing energy.
‘When one of us has a relationship with someone, if it ends they always miss the wider family more than you!’ says Ollie. ‘If you join our tribe you get indoctrinated,’ jokes Anna.
As for that indoctrination, the tribe members now include Ed’s wife, who was one of those ‘air hostesses’, Ollie’s girlfriend, who was a diner, and Will’s other half, who was the Carousel yoga teacher. The Templeton family’s delicious entertainment can only grow…