My Event World - Sam Bompas

Sam Bompas co-founded Bompas & Parr in 2007 (credit: Ben Ottewell)
Sam Bompas co-founded Bompas & Parr in 2007 (credit: Ben Ottewell)

Sam Bompas is one half of the duo behind Bompas & Parr, an experience and contemporary food design company that has developed a reputation for its ability to add unique touches to an event.

He spoke to Event about how Bompas & Parr came about, the company's creation of a chocolate climbing wall, and penchant for cook books. 

I got into the event industry because… We started Bompas & Parr nearly eight years ago as something fun to do on the weekend. It’s still fun to do but the company has expanded to dominate all of our waking hours.

Originally our focus was on jelly. As we couldn’t afford the antique copper moulds we wanted, Harry [Parr - the other half of Bompas & Parr] started using the skills, techniques and technologies he’d learnt while training to be an architect to design jellies. This approach of propagating techniques appropriated from different disciplines is now a key approach for us. 

We love the creative rush that comes with sitting down with an ethnobotanist, civil engineer, micro-biologist, experimental psychologist, mycologist, taxidermist or magician.

I have worked here since 2007

I was attracted to this particular role because I wanted to offer people the opportunity to experience memorable occasions, by creating real emotional connections. At Bompas & Parr we do this with guests through the unexpected and sense of risk – perceived of course.

I strongly believe if the audience isn’t smiling it’s not right. The projects are always about putting smiles on faces thereby buying time in people’s brains. The good thing is that with our installations we often have people for up to an hour - we can tell them a really nuanced and complex story. 

Compare this to the two seconds brands have to attract people’s attention as they walk past their product in the supermarket, or the 30 seconds they have when people watch their expensive advert on TV.

Not many people know that I have worn the same style of shoes since I was 12 years old.

The best event I’ve been involved was... Good question! There are a few that really shine through. For me it is creating a chocolate climbing wall that flowed with 12,000 litres of molten chocolate per hour. Peter Andre used it to conquer his fear of heights.

For Harry it’s probably cooking with a 1.1 billion-year old rock that had to be heated to 1,350 degrees celsius in order to turn it into lava. It cooks extremely fast but doesn’t off-gas, which makes for an even char and extremely clean, meaty taste.

If I could do it all over again I would do it again. 

The one thing I can’t stand is... One thing I impress on everyone in the studio is the importance of ‘realness’. I hate it when stuff is just set dressing. I'd much rather tell you a real story about something that’s amazing in itself, not because of a theatrical production around it. 

Outside of work I spend my time reading books! Everyone looks at the same stuff online and as a consequence come up with work that all looks the same. We’ve now amassed an epic culinary collection. Although it’s not the most comprehensive collection – [British chef] Mark Hix has far more gustatory tomes – it’s incredibly eclectic and a sturdy basis for creative research.

Books on the archaic toasting and funerary feasts sit with Dieting with the Duchess – which includes Fergie’s figure secrets, and Slim While You Sleep. Cookbooks written by Barbara Cartland, Salvador Dali and [musician] Coolio normally offer somewhere to turn to for inspiration. Not all the books are outrageous or funny. There’s some serious works in there too – though they go unused.

If money were no object I would build a time machine and stand next to Salvador Dali when he is writing his cookbook! No really… if I wanted to make a lot of money, I would do something else, but I love my job and it's so fun.

If I could switch places with anyone else in the industry it would be [director] Alejandro Jodorowsky for his creative vision and mysticism.

If I ruled the event industry I would have everyone abide by our studio motto from William Blake: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom."

Bompas & Parr is currently delivering a range of festive classes at its recently opened British Museum of Food (BMOF) site, and it is also behind The Shard's winter experience, which is open until the end of January. 

More: My Event World - Jerome Mass

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