Monday, 15 December 2008

Twas The Night Before Xmas Service

Bon après-midi mes batteurs joyeux de la Turquie !

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the kitchen,
Not a reindeer was stirring, not even poor Blitzen

The others were trussed up in the chiller with care,
And there hopes had been dashed with a telescopic glare

The Chefs were boozed up and snug on their tables,
While visions of turkeys danced in their fables

With jackets and ‘kerchiefs, and dark blue skull caps,
Were all washed and pressed and left in a stack

When up on the roof of the kitchen…a clatter,
They rose from their stupor to see what was the matter

Away through the door they stumbled together,
Apart from the Commis who had been tarred and feathered

The moon was now shrouded with dark clouds and fog,
And in the distance a howl from a lonesome old dog

On the roof they did spy a sleigh glowing bright,
All glittered and magical, “Oh my, what a sight”

But no driver or reindeer could be seen on the roof,
They all seemed to have vanished, disappeared...POOF!

Then all of a sudden, a voice boomed through the night,
And it was such a loud shout, that the Chefs got a fright

Hey Dasher, Hey Dancer, Hey Prancer and Vixen,
Oi comet, Oi Cupid, Oi Donder and Blitzen!

”Where are you, you bone idle bastards” he cried,
”Anymore of this nonsense and I’ll skin you alive”

But no answer arrived to this poor fat chaps yawp,
Nothing, nada, niente, nought!

With a rub of his nose and a sigh so distraught,
His head fell to his hands as if in deep thought

He looked at his watch, rubbed his white beard and ‘tache,
Sprinkled his magic dust and was gone in a flash

The Chefs stood stunned at what they had seen,
Unbelieving eyes transfixed by the whole scene

”Oh S**t” said the Sous “We’ve screwed Christmas this year”,
We’ve only gone and shot all of Santa’s f*****g reindeer”

They all turned to the Chef, a worried look in their eyes,
“This is your fault”, they said, “Though it’s not a surprise”

“You’ve been gunning for Rudolph for years!” they exclaimed,
“For years” they cried “You have been waiting to maim”

”That poor lovely reindeer with a nose so red,
You just couldn’t help yourself and lopped off his head”

“Oh for Gods sake” the Chef did retort,
”It wasn’t just me who was hunting for sport”

“You were all there too and if I remember correctly,
It was you my fine Commis who gutted his belly!”

“And you, my Sous Chef, with a smile on your face,
Removed his red nose and cooked it with mace!”

Then all of a sudden, an old man appeared,
And there stood next to them, a man they all feared

Not Satan, nor Judas or that guy from X Factor,
But the man they call Cringle, a demonic looking Santa

The crew cowered in his presence, there were no more excuses,
They had butchered his reindeer, but they had their uses

“Now”, yelled Santa, in his red and white suit,
“Who will pull my sleigh and deliver this loot?”

“Because of your antics, no children will see,
All the presents, made by the elves, under their trees”

“Considering all of my reindeer were slain,
There is only one justice, here, their reins”

And as quick as you like the Chefs had been muzzled,
To be very honest they were looking quite puzzled

With more magic dust and a kick up the ass,
They were hooked up to the sleigh, Santa just laughed

“This will teach you”, he said with a grin,
He reached for his whip, “Let the punishment begin!”

And as Santa drove the Chefs into the night,
They all knew that they were deep in the sh*te

When Christmas morning came to the restaurant in question,
There were no Chefs, no turkey or festivities to mention

Just silence and peace, a fitting end to our story,
After the slaughter, blood and guts that were so gory

But simmering in a pan of clarified butter and mace,
An item that no one could ever replace

A nose, still red, and glowing so bright,
Filleted from Rudolph, just the other night!

Chers lecteurs de Joyeux Noël. Ayez l'amusement!

Le Chef Grincheux

Monday, 10 November 2008

My Winter Hiatus or 'Oh Holy Crap!"

Bonjour mes amandes légèrement blanchies!

A long time has past my effervescent eggplants, but fear not! In true Chef style......I have my excuses and explanations at hand! So sit back, relax and get comfy on your favorite sofa......

There was an earthquake, a tidal wave, a monsoon and then Hurricane Latte Grande demolished my caboose! What a hiatus much has happened in our ever-revolving existence. Our Government is trying to collapse the job market from the inside out like a cheap microwave, Chef Ramsay is possibly going to loose his Chelsea restaurant Foxtrot Oscar ( apparently that stands for 'Formerly Occupied' but I could be wrong ) and CAMRA have warned that due to beer price increases, more pubs will close......Well, instead of combing their last Steak and Ale Pie from there beards and moaning about the temperature of the last pint of Black Sheep consumed, they should get off their lard-arses and do something about it! Like have a bath, a shave and try a Wine Bar or Bistro! Times have moved on Boys...stop looking like an extra in a Time Team Special and get up-to-date! ( For all my European, American and Worldwide Friends, if you are not sure about this, believe me, its all quite funny! )

Well...I guess we have to touch upon the recent unpleasantness of Chef Ramsay's extra-marital activity! I believe the count is up to 3 Mistresses, not to mention his Wife Tana! There is one thing that puzzles me......How in Hell did the Man have time????? Ramsay Holdings has 25 Restaurants in its portfolio, 24 Michelin Stars scattered throughout those restaurants, he has numerous Media shows and award ceremonies, Kitchen Nightmares (although the American Version has recently been cancelled in light of the accusations), his Cook-a Long show and I am sure that the Bookers Conglomerate will be putting him in adverts soon! So....where does the man find the time?

Personally, I work between 12-16 hours per day! So that leaves me with, on average, 10 hours. 5 of those hours are spent sleeping. One hour is spent driving to and from work. 30 minutes is taken up with coffee breaks and 30 mins is taken up with various amounts of shouting at kitchen staff and morons. Two hours, if I am lucky is taken up with Family time and the remaining hour is the one single, solitary hour i have for myself!

Chef Ramsay has built his career on aggression, verbal abuse of his staff and sometimes, and this may shock you, even his cooking! But one of the main reasons he has become as big as he is the fact he is portrayed as a Family Man. A hard, rugged, ego-tistical, no nonsense Chef at work, but a light-hearted fun-loving family man at home. What a way to create publicity....even the French agree! Though they bloody would!

I think there is a question to be asked......Is it true? Who knows? A sure fire way to answer that is in the lead up to this mornings papers...Almost every newspaper, on the front page, has been following the Mumbai issues.....devastating news! Only one, that i know of hasn't....The Sun/News of the World! You be the judge!

Once is THAT time of year again! This time though, things are different. For the Catering Industry, Christmas is not a time to be jolly. Most eateries are trading down on Christmas Bookings and a number of establishments are remaining closed for the most festive day of the year! Rises in food costs, wages and fundamental bills, like Gas and Electric, have forced many owners and managers to not only close, but close for good! An average of 3 Pub/Restaurants are closing per day! That's a colossal amount! Not to mention the loss of jobs.

The Industry is in a state of uncertainty and despite the good wishes of the major players who seem to be throwing up more hotels and restaurants every day, the smaller, lesser known pub companies and private restaurateurs are getting hit more and more with inflated costs.

We are in a downward spiral, my melancholy maroon chestnuts, and if you are really unlucky, you might find yourself having Chipmunk Roasting on an Open Fire.

Altogether Now!!! (to the tune of "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire")

Chipmunks roasting on an open fire
Hot sauce dripping from their toes
Yuletide squirrels fresh filleted by the choir
They poked hot skewers through their nose

Everybody knows some pepper and a garlic clove
Help to make them seasoned right
Tiny rats with a crisp golden coat
Will really hit the spot tonight

So.....on that delightful note and knowing that all the Ray Mears' associated gifts that you will receive this year.....

Til next time......Fumisterie de Bah

Le Chef Grincheux

Saturday, 13 September 2008

A Spanish Sabatical

Buena tarde mis gambas condimentadas sabrosas y blandas!

O, to be back upon the shores of this green and pleasant land we call Home! All I can say, is that since the Balearic's and Spain adopted the Euro as currency, they have had only one screw the British out of whatever cash they have brought with them. Then charge 0.83 cents to the British Pound when you have to withdraw money from one of their 'convenient' Banque Marcs'!

The bus driver seemed to think the Monte Carlo rally had moved to the quiet resort of Camp de Mar. I have never in my short existence, seen driving such as this! On a road wide enough to accommodate a VW Beetle, he managed to manoeuvre a two storey bus through the streets of Palma Nova and Magaluf narrowly missing hundreds of party-goers, pine trees and road signs. He managed all this at a minimum speed of 40 MPH and was forced to reverse only when he reached the numerous Strip Joints which were located on the second floor, on a junction and had glass frontage so that rear views were available to him self and any passengers on the left-hand side of the vehicle......So can we all 'give it up' for the Nigel Mansell of the Bus World. Thank you!

Once acclimatised to the heat, bugs and cost of living we ventured into a Supermarket where you begin your delightful journey at the start of the smoked, cured and cooked meats section?? Bloody why, its not Germany! We do not go around wolfing down schnitzel yelling "Mine lieder hosen est fallen doune!". We certainly don't have a liking for World Domination either. Every German I encountered abroad seemed to be promoting a car manufacturer, wore ridiculously over-sized shorts and sported a moustache Mussolini would be proud of.

Another thing on holiday, if you have teenage children, please, for the love of Cliff Richard, do not let them wear the new fashion accessory that has hit the streets as fashion jewelery. I can put up with almost every Chav-tastic abomination; Dolphin tattoos that appear to have been drawn by a 2 year old using old felt-tip pens , lip and belly button piercings, tattered Baseball Caps and T-shirts with pointless slogans. Although, things have now taken a seriously bad road... Rosary beads!

For the love of Mother Theresa, have some respect! If you ain't gonna use them, then don't wear them. My Wife asked a young colleague if he was Catholic the other day when she had noticed he was wearing a light mahogany-coloured set of Rosary. He replied 'Oh these......I got seven pairs, I'm not Catholic, it's just that my Dad makes them in Prison. Looks good, don't they?'. Imbecile.

Now, to the Food. It was as you would expect from most standardised restaurants. Catering for all and sundry is really the only way to describe it. Mass produced Chicken Curries, Omlettes and Lasagnas. Basic grub for the undiscerning diner. throw into the mix the usual suspects of Paella and Chateaubriand (only ever for two people), Sangria with more fruit than an orchard, the 'free' bread rolls with either aioli or green olives and olive oil and the obligatory sweet liquor with your bill and you have a Culinary experience equivalent of eating at McDonald's or your local Pub.

Why do most restaurants serve this food when people should be experiencing with different flavours and cultural dishes not available in their home town? When I am away from my comfort zone of French/British Cuisine, I want to experiment not gulp down Pizza or Spaghetti Bolognase. Leave the Chicken Goujons to the Schools, let's starting enjoying something new.

So, to sum up my 'relaxing' holiday. Damn expensive, crap food, painful mosquito bites, bloody Germans, 'speed' restaurants and to hot. We are going to Wales next year!

Now....the News. Major kudos to Chef Marcus Wareing for escaping the clutches of Ramsey Holdings and venturing out into the big, wide world to take on The Berkley. The acclaimed restaurant which holds 2 Michelin Stars has recently been described by one critic as "the best restaurant in London" and is apparently "as good as it gets". Personally, I don't think it will be to long before that 2 Star restaurant will hit 3 Stars, the highest accolade any Chef can expect to attain.

In regards to the blog, things have been moving slowly, even slower with the website......but progress will resume shortly. I have been working on a future competition on the FoodBuzz network which has been taking up most of my spare time and energy. As I'm sure you have noticed, I have succumbed to the ever popular 'advertising' of another website on my main page. All I can say for that is "Sorry", if you get a chance, visit the FoodBuzz site. It's not as bad as it seems.

Meanwhile, life moves on and I will be back soon as the Winter season approaches and time will become readily available.

Until then......

Le Chef Grincheux

Monday, 1 September 2008

Press Play......NOW!

Bonsoir à vous tous, mes tartlets tomberry scrumptious et savoureux !

There is an incandescent light at the end of that exceedingly long and arduous tunnel that is the School Holidays. Eight weeks of shear Hell on toast and it is now almost over. In just over 24 hours, the waifs will be back at their re-inforced chairs and tables behind double-glazed windows with only their teachers to control and hear them. No more juveniles scampering around the restaurant like it was some outdoor adventure playground. Never again (well, at least until October break) will I hear screaming toddlers and babies crying in unison and drowning out the thrash metal music I have taken to listening to during these distressing times ( I don't like that sort of music, but I thought it would drown the high pitched sound of the youngsters......they just seem to be able to tune in to the high notes and sound just like the 'singers' in these bands causing my ears to bleed and finally my brain to implode. I now also seem to have a disturbing penchant for ritual sacrifice, face painting and smashing the living crap out of pots and pans with wooden spoons. Time to go back to my Soft Rock, Hed Kandi and anything by Blue Man Group I think! ).

Which brings me to this weeks 'discussion'!

"If Music be the food of Love, then play on". If Shakespeare were alive today, I would personally deliver a message and that message would be that he is a blithering idiot! Music is not the food of Love. Music was designed and made with Chefs in mind. I know, I know, I struggled with this revelation also but it is true. Chefs cannot and will not survive without Music. It is one of the staples of the Chef diet. No Music, no food. It is that simple. In my Kitchen I have three means of satisfying my desire for the elevating sounds of which I cook to. I have a main CD/radio, a small and compact portable stereo set up in my Pastry Room and an Apple iBook conveniently placed close to my section of the Kitchen where I can indulge in my own obscure tastes of Music, Film and, if all is quiet on the Western Front, surf the Web.

My Staff hate my Music! I love that. It means I have that balance right. So when I am not there, they love being in the Kitchen. It makes them happy, which in turn makes me happy as they work better when I am away. They can listen to whatever they want and I don't have to put up with Classic FM or Radio 'bloody' One.

I have to thank Chef Anthony Bourdain for this in a way. After reading 'Kitchen Confidential', ( available from Amazon at around £5 ), he tuned me into his passion for NYC Punk music from the seventies. The New York Dolls, The Stooges, Dead Boys and Richard Hell and the Voidoids are bands I would never had come across unless I had read His Book. There are many other Chefs I have to thank also. Colin for his introduction to The Smiths and Alternative Eighties, Matt for promoting Drum and Bass during the mentally crippling busy nights and my Father for everything else. My Dad ain't a Chef, but he sure knows his 'Choons'!

So where would the customers be if no Music was played in Commercial Kitchens? Buggered, that's where. No Chef in his right mind would have a calm Kitchen. In fact, I adjust my Music during service just to make sure the right song is playing at the right time. It's almost an art form. In the morning, when I wake, I think about which Specials I will do for the discerning diners, then I make myself a very strong cup of coffee and after that I sit down at my PC and record the Music I will need for that day. Chill out for the quieter days and more upbeat Music for the weekends. It is an integral part of my time which borders on ritual or quite simply O.C.D!

Without Music in Kitchens, there would be no Food. Music helps create Food. So, to correct Mr Shakespeare, "If Music be a contributing factor to the Love of Food, then play on". Case rested and now it's time for Tea.

It is with great regret that I must tell you that I will be on Holiday next week and that my darling wife is refusing to let me take my precious laptop with me! She seems to think that Holidays are far more important than my regulars here at Who Dares Cooks. I am trying to rectify this situation, but to no avail, so far. Maybe a shopping trip will warp her mind enough? Who knows, we will just have to wait and see. I will try my hardest my Culinary Cookies, but just in-case I fail, remember I will be back the week after and prepare yourselves for a Spanish Rant!

Now the News......

If you have been perusing the Telly Box recently, you might seen a little program called 'Rogue Restaurants'. It exposes the Health and Hygiene standards of some very large Pub Companies running your average restaurants, most likely in your area. So far the Yates and Punch Groups have been targeted which has resulted in many Chefs and Front of House Management being fired due to negligence and extremely bad hygiene standards. Do yourself a favour when in these nationwide corporate houses of boil-in-the-bag products and demand to see the Kitchen. You have the right! Grasp it with two hands. You may get a shock!

Hell’s Kitchen winner Terry Miller has been forced to close his Tyneside restaurant as a result of the credit crunch, it emerged today.

The Geordie chef, winner of the show in 2005, opened Rockafella in Newcastle using his £250,000 prize money.

However, Miller’s daughter told the BBC that tough economic conditions had lead to the decision to close down the venture and concentrate on the family’s catering business instead.

I feel for him. It has become a very different world for the owners of restaurants, hotels and general foodie eateries this year. The 'Credit Crunch', that is apparently a figment of our imaginations, has struck hard at the Catering Industry. We only hope it will get better soon. Here's hoping......

I have a quest for you all this week. Not only Chefs, but for you all! I would like to know which musical track spurs you on when cooking in the Kitchen! Don't be shy now. We seem to have a lack of commenter's here and that is very worrying. Chef Sturgeon, Chef Watson, Cyst Bovine and Grumps, I'm looking in your direction! No pressure of course. :)

Well, until next time ( unless the missus caves in about the laptop )......

Bonne Nuit mon épi de maïs culinaire!

Le Chef Grincheaux

Monday, 25 August 2008

Bitter and Twisted

Bonsoir mes rillets merveilleux de jambon!

I dislike Bank Holiday Mondays! In fact, to be a little more precise, I loathe, despise and detest them. If Bank Holiday Mondays' were an entity in their own right, I would make it my life long ambition to render their existence obsolete. Gently gutted, filleted and then slowly, quickly seared over an excruciating high heat, flamed with Louis XIII Brandy, a dash of Lea and Perrins, a few succulent Green Peppercorns and finally lashings of Devonshire Double Cream, reduced to perfection. (Pont Neuf Potatoes and luscious Baby Vegetables on the side).

Why were these holidays invented? Banks don't open enough at the best of times, so why do they need more time to be shut? There is usually only ever one teller at the window while the others sit around comparing their latest St Tropez Tan, Males included! At Christmas when you go to do your banking it smells like the whole office has just bought shares in Lynx toiletries. I will never go banking on a Wednesday where I live as they do not open until 10am due to "Staff Training" and then they are only open till 2pm as it is half-day closing!!! I honestly thought we had left the 19Th Century over 200 years mistake! Now I must go and light my lantern before I continue as the daylight is fading fast and my Internet server has to wind up its generator, so with the lantern I will be able to see even though my screen will dim for a short time. God Bless modern technology......Which reminds me, I must replace the Hamster that powers the printer or I will be completely buggered.

Its not just the Banks that wind me up, its the Shops, Supermarkets, Petrol Stations and my Suppliers that annoy me also. You don't get Gordon Ramsay saying to his many restaurants, " Look Chaps, it's a Bank Holiday on Monday, take the day off and spend time with family, visit your loved ones, have a BBQ with close friends and relatives, but most of all, have great fun ". Of course you bloody don't!

So why do these 'extended weekends' mean so much to us? To the general Public, its an excuse to eat, drink and be merry. So what would you do if, God forbid, the Government took Bank Holidays away? Would you join the thousands upon thousands of minions and, let's be honest, sheep and petition Westminster? Or would you accept your fate and agree that they are a pretty damn stupid excuse to get pissed and cause grief to the Chefs that work their kahonas off in unbearable heat for ludicrous requests like, " Can I have my Tuna Steak pink, or I will send it back!", " Why don't you have Quorn Burgers? Us Vegetarians is what is making this cooking lark profitable! " and, my favourite, " What's Mango Tout when it's at home? Is it some sort of fish 'cause I don't eat fish, it's bad for ya! ".

For information only, the patron that requested her Tuna pink, received exactly that......She sent it back because it was not well done!? The patron that queried the 'Mango Tout' was extremely embarrassed when he was informed that 'Mange Tout' was a vegetable and not an inhabitant of the North Sea. Finally, the 'Quorn Burger Vegetarian' was treated like a Bank Holiday Monday, although I did throw in some celery and shallots to keep Him happy. I do not like to see unhappy customers, but unfortunately for Him, I bloody hate Vegetarians. Sorry!

As for Staff on the holy day that is a Bank Holiday......Well, that is for next weeks post.

So, as I am sure you have noticed, Monday is the new day for posting. My days off have changed, so, therefore, the postings will now be on Monday instead of Sunday. If you usually read the post on Monday then it will not affect you and if you usually read them on Sunday, then you will have to wait. Unless, that is, I post on a Sunday because I am particularly annoyed, in which case this is all completely irrelevant and doesn't matter at all. Confused? Me too.

In the News this week......Quite a few things happened, then not much else. Although, due to current figures, we seem to be eating in more often as Supermarket Sales rose by 3% while the Industry as a whole dropped by 8%. Yet, as stipulated by the Government and Gordon 'My hands move just like Tony Blair's' Brown, there is no Credit Crunch and everything is nice and peachy. Obviously the Prime Minister has moved from 10 Downing Street into Willie Wonkas Chocolate Factory!

So, 'there is no life I know too compare with pure imagination'. Nice one Gordy!

One last thing before I go, the Website is slowly taking shape. I am excited! Just got to get the hang of this 'coding' lark and everything should fall into place. Just like the time Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister or when Anthony Worrall Thompson (Poisoned Dwarf) thought it would be a good idea to encourage the Public to eat a toxic plant called Hen bane. Apparently getting confused with the herb Weed Hen Fat! The Healthy and Organic Living's website - who published the interview - were forced to publish an urgent warning about the advice saying: "hen bane is a very toxic plant and should never be eaten."

What an Idiot!

On that note my snozberries prospères......

Le Chef (Oompa Loompa) Grincheux

Monday, 18 August 2008

The Younger Generation

Bonjour mes escargots de mer fermentants!

The Youth of today need a damn good short, sharp kick in their posteriors! Obviously not content with mugging old age pensioners, spray painting structures on a whim, getting pregnant, drinking vast amounts of alcohol, getting pregnant again and victimizing anyone stupid enough to actually point out that they are being wee B******s, these hoodie hooligans feel the need to work for a living is beneath them.

After recently taking on a young go-getter in the position of Commis Chef, I realised that giving opportunities to the younger generation made my job a little bit more worthwhile. Passing on recipes, skills and trade secrets was actually exciting me. It was a joy to explain the five cuts of vegetables, why you put a dash of vinegar into a pan while poaching an egg and the finer points of towel whipping fellow workers.

Then, of course, he began to turn up late for work, blaming buses and road works. An acceptable excuse I suppose. In the end, he didn't turn in for work yesterday putting pressure on the Kitchen and its many hard working bodies. After interrogating my Kitchen Porter by way of towel-whippings, mushroom missiles and the threat of some serious hugging, he divulged that said Commis had been out drinking with him the night before until 3am. For a brief moment, my mind wandered. I remembered past exploits of a personal nature. Early morning breakfast shifts after two hours sleep, mid-afternoon naps under kitchen benches using sacks of flour as pillows and drinking gallons of espressos' and energy drinks, sometimes even both together.

Now if I could do all the late night parties and nightclubs before starting work the next day, why on earth can't these youngsters? I still cannot sleep till gone two in the morning and I can still make it in looking and smelling fresh as a daisy and I expect my staff to be able to do the same. It's really not that difficult, yet these whipper-snappers find it difficult actually setting their alarm clocks, getting out of bed, dressing themselves properly and making way to their place of employment without any help from their mums'! Who do these bloody kids think they are?

Well, they are the future and that scares the bejeezus out of me! To think I will be putting my pension years in the hands of young adults that wear jeans ten times bigger than a marquee, trainers that you could fit a family of asylum seekers in so as to send them back over the blustery North Sea and shape their hair so they look like Woody Woodpecker on a bad hair day!

So, when you have to work with these insolent, rooster-fied, cheeky and belligerent cretins, put your foot down. Especially if you run a Kitchen. I usually give my newly employed youngsters a small insight into the world of Catering by means of a little speech written for the fabulous series 'Chef' starring the amazing Lenny Henry as Gareth Blackstock, a Michelin-starred Chef on the brink of full-on mental collapse.

I give you......The Commis Chefs' Creed!

"I will work very long hours for very little money. In the Winter I will always be hot, in the Summer, even hotter still. In time my hands will develop a heat-resistant quality even NASA would be proud of. I am the lowliest of the low, but given the opportunity and by my own effort, I will become a valued member of the Team."

This little quote will give even the most eager recruit a few things to think about. If they then decide to carry on with the signing of a contract, they are ready and may the Force be with them......they will need it.

In the News this week......not much has happened!

Jusqu'à ce que nous rencontrions encore mes daikons délicieux!

Le Chef Grincheux

Sunday, 10 August 2008

"Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho. It's Off To Work We Go"

Bonjour mon peu gastro cuisiniers!

How are we all this fine Sunday? Sorry, couldn't quite hear you. How are we? Excellent. So I can begin......

Bloody Staff! Every week there is some problem which finds me either lending an ear to a disgruntled employee or up to my armpits in dishwater scouring the pots and pans I have just used to create another culinary masterpiece. EVERY WEEK! I now suffer from the shakes and cold sweats before I even arrive at my place of employment. I am a gibbering wreck when I walk through the Kitchen door, fearing the onslaught of "Chef, I've been sick" phone calls or excuses of late buses, accidents and the very popular, but extremely brazen and foolish, "I slept in".

This, dear Readers, is not good enough for my liking. It happens way to often, especially in this Industry. I have quite a simple outlook upon absenteeism by members of my Brigade. The only rule I have is that unless you have been stabbed, shot, mortally wounded or are pronounced dead, then I expect to see you full whites and checks, allowing for plaster casts e.t.c, on time and ready to work.

A Chef with a broken leg which has been plastered can still sit and peel numerous fruits and vegetables. "Ah", I hear you cry, "What if the Chef in question were to have a broken arm, which has been plastered. What of that Chef?" My answer is to the point and to hammer home the answer which emanates from my lips, I tell a little story.

Are we sitting comfortably......then I will begin.

Once upon a time, a young Junior Sous Chef named Pete, was on his merry way home from a night of supping Poteen (Mash Vodka). On his way home, extremely merry by now, he happened to fall into the re-inforced shop window of a local estate agent.

Perturbed by this involuntary action, as he calmly removed himself from a mangled heap on the floor to an almost upright position, he became aware of a mass of blood oozing from his left arm. The oozing turned to a spurt which, within Milli-seconds, became a flow of pure Claret. Pete had managed to sever a few veins and arteries in his arm, which was causing the now worryingly steady flow of the red stuff. Luckily for Pete, the friend with him was trained in the actions and repercussions of falling through plate-glass windows and with no hesitation, removed his belt, stopped the blood escaping from Pete's body and managed to call for the Emergency Services.

Pete was lucky. The fabulous Paramedics got to him in time. He was rushed to Hospital, given blood to replace the stockpile he had lost in his unfortunate 'accident', and was later that evening tucked into bed with a mug of hot chocolate. a copy of Jamie Oliver's latest book "Pukka Tukka, Mukka from the Mockney F****" and a vast amount of tranquillisers which could render a Rhino unconscious.

The point of this delightful story is coming, I assure you.

The next morning Pete's arm was placed in a big chunk of plaster and he was informed that he should not work for at least 2 months. Major surgery had saved his arm and the plaster would have to be on for 8 weeks with a scan and x-ray every 2 weeks to check on progress. Pete nodded. Compliant with the Doctor and Surgeon.

Three days later, Pete was back in the Kitchen. One arm in plaster, one arm working like a Trojan. His plastered arm was duck-taped to his chest so it wouldn't get in the way. He worked for the next 2 months, six days a week, fifteen hours a day. He became a Legend, and his story is still told by myself and many others. I have never seen such dedication, determination or sheer stupidity since that day.

The End.

Now let us catapult ourselves back to the present day. Lunch hours, coffee breaks and the ever popular split-shifts scenario do not apply to this Trade. When you become a Chef, you fore-go the Working Time Directive. Like Hanger 18, the Man in the Moon and a Souffle does not exsist. You will work as and when you are told. You will not moan, cry, shout, jump up and down screaming "I am tired" or "I have to have a break, it's the Law". There is no Union you can turn to and even if there was, they wouldn't blink an eye. It is how it is. Get used to it, because if you struggle with your first day of being pushed from pillar to post, shouted at and mentally abused then it is time to hang up the standard issue apron and walk out the door. You will never get used to it.

Forrest Gump was wrong and so was his Mama. Life is not like a box of chocolates. You do know what your going to get due to the piece of card on the top of the chocolates and by reading the fine print listing the chocolates and ingredients on the back of the box. You join this Industry, you better be prepared for all that comes with it. It ain't pretty, sociable or easy. It's hard graft and it will break you, but, you will become accustomed to it and you will succeed if you want to. Long Live The All-Day Shift!

Great news my fellow foodies, I now have a website! Still under construction though and will hopefully be ready within the next four weeks. My Blog will continue as normal even after the site is up and running.

One thing I have noticed recently is the lack of comments! Do not be afraid my dears! Grumpy Chef Groupies......where have you gone? I feel abandoned! Comments help Blogs to move forward. Not happy about something, let me know. Happy about something, then let me know. I write for myself, yet others enjoy reading it and that makes me happy.

And finally......the News.

Two companies, Cains and Food and Drink Group, have called in the Administrators this week. It is starting my wonderful Woodcocks'! The beginning of the End for the Pub Industry. Yet the larger groups are not only seeing a fantastic profit, but are building more Hotels, Casinos and even Restaurants. Why? Answers on a postcard please!

Bonne nuit mes soufflés de fromage légers

Le Chef Grincheux

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Letting Go......

......and tonight, I let go.

Dear Eddie and Heather,

May God Rest You In Peace. Forever In Our Thoughts.

Craig, You Will Never Be Alone.

Bonne nuit mes chocolats chauds de consolation. Puits de sommeil !

Le Chef Grinchux

Sunday, 3 August 2008


Bonsoir ma crevette délicieusement sensible de Devilled!

It has been far to long my little cupcakes. I must, once again, thank you all for your patience. My working Summer has begun and it is filled with all the miscreants, chavs, scallys and neds that seem to roam this beautifully globally-warmed and gently basted world we call Home. It is also, with great regret, that they too call this world their Home and that is a general shame for most inhabitants struggling to survive on this wonderful planet.

So this first message goes out to all the trailer-trashing, nedified, scally-blooded, woolyhat wearing, trackies-tucked-into-socks, baseball capped, hoodie morons......For the love of God......Please do not ever step foot outside of your homes again. For pity's sake. The off-licence is cheaper and a burger from he local Kebab shop will cost less than the one you are trying to share between three of you. The small china dishes you have received with your accompaniments are not bloody ashtrays......neither are the glasses you just finished your last WKD Blue from. Nor, my dear ruffians, are you to relieve yourself on anyone elses car, except your own. Nor do you turn to the Chef and shout, from the other end of the bar, "Oi, Fella. Can you put gravy and cheese on me chips, mate? You know, Nudge, nudge, wink, wink? Forget the salad and how about a couple of rashers of bacon mate?"

My reply was quite simple. It was courteous, well thought, polite and yet to the point so that an imbecile could comprehend. "F*** O** t* M*******s, you miss informed rapscallion! These are local burgers for local people! Away with you, your girlfriend, your six children, father-in-law, uncle, auntie, aunties' second-cousin, the bloke you met up with earlier in town today, and your three bull terriers!"

As I sit here nursing a black eye, dislocated pinkie and a collection of slight injuries, I believe my answer should have been, "Of course Madam, would you also like some Foie Gras collops and hand-shredded Gold Leaf with your Cheese and Bacon Burger? Maybe some Black Truffle Mayonnaise and HP Brown sauce would enhance your experience of Culinary perfection? Maybe even a robust Pernod and Blackcurrant sauce which could render you unconscious would ease your ever increasing urge for blood?"

The misconception that these types of people only come out at night is a fallacy! They are now everywhere. Usually milling around pubs with large beer gardens or Wilkinsons, loitering with intent on upsetting some random individual who just wanted a quiet day off, getting their messages for the week.

If you hadn't guessed already, my restaurant is full of them! Uneducated requests for extra gravy for a Steak and Ale Pie, only to have it sent back because they assumed that it had none. It cannot be made without Gravy! Only Chip Shops have to add the said sauce and they charge as well! There are TV programs and websites that will educate you on these things. Use them!

I try and I try. I try to educate the minions of this green and pleasant land and it seems to fall by the wayside. What can I do? At the current moment, the United States seems to be leading in this Industry......where is the honour in that?

When you look at it, it is the French that created the way we eat. The style, the order, the way we consume. You cannot deny them that accolade. It is written in Culinary History. We are taught it in Colleges, Schools and on-the-job training. I just wish someone would denounce this molecular gastronomy, stand-up for what is right and coax the general public back to the classics! The way we should eat......with our hearts and minds.

And, in the words of Jeremy Clarkson, its time for the News;

Dominoes Pizza Company will be enhancing your experience at their restaurants by enticing you with an open Pizza Theatre! A glass panel will be Incorporated to their restaurants so you can view your pizzas being made. It is their commitment to the fact that all their products feature fresh ingredients......I completely agree, I love to see a Chef, sweat dripping from his brow, onto my plate, before it served by a jumped up student who insists I give him a tip for carrying a plate and referring to me as "Pal"!

Also, within the foreseeable future, your children will be assessed on how obese they are at school. The new Government Legislation will chart the progression of a child's weight so as to inform the parents if the child is gaining a few pounds. There are too many routes I could take with this idiocy, so I will leave you to your own, fine judgement.

And again, in the immortal words of the Clarkson, "On that bombshell", it is time for me to bid you goodbye.

Au revoir mon poulpe légèrement chevronné de bébé. Until next time......

Le Chef Grincheux. xx

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Taste Is Everything

Bonsoir mes kakis patients!

It is extremely unfortunate that I begin my first post in numerous weeks with a slightly sombre tone. Recently, my mentor passed away. I have been rather insular since then, soul-searching if you will. The only way I could deal with this loss was to reminisce about times past with his wife and son, family members and work colleagues. He was a man of great pride, always up for a laugh, a fantastic husband, father, friend and mentor. He will be sorely missed and thought of often. Thank you Eddie.

What can I say? Summer is now upon us, although you would not realise it with the amount of rain and gale force winds battering the green and pleasant Cheshire countryside at the moment. My herbs, especially my Basil and Chives, have been hammered forcing me to buy them in from my fruit and vegetable supplier. An extra cost my Boss could do without. Bearing in mind that is without the increase in many other types of produce, meat just being one of them.

My busy time is now beginning. Hoards of ravenous locusts descending on the restaurant demanding well-done Mixed Grills, over-cooked Lamb specials and a jug of gravy with anything that could remotely have an actual flavour permeate my reality as well as my dreams
I recently had one customer tell me that they preferred a bought in, frozen pre-batterd ChipShop fish to the freshly caught and lightly battered Cod fillet we are currently selling. I would like to know how these people are brought up? Do they actually have buds to experience flavour and texture or is it that they are so used to the bought in crap that seems to plague the public houses of this green and pleasant land that they have forgotten how fish actually tastes?

As Chefs' we strive for perfection, no matter what we are cooking. We trial dishes, correct the seasonings and accompaniments and then place it on the menu knowing we have the balance right. We yearn for the average punter to taste what we taste. To appreciate the actual flavours of the dishes we produce without being smothered in condiments. When you next cook at home, buy a nice cut of fish or meat. Cook it correctly, meat toward medium at the most, and do not smother it in sauce . Eat it plain. Taste the flavour and then decide which produce would enhance the experience next time you cook it. Its almost like meditating, be at one with the food, caress it, nurture it and respect it.

I think I will leave it there for the time being. Just working my way back into the saddle. So I will leave you, hopefully not to disappointed, with the news.

Glasgow’s school children are being “driven away in droves” by healthy school meals, the head of the city’s catering has warned.

Fergus Chambers, executive director at Direct and Care Services, Glasgow City Council, told delegates at last week’s Local Authority Caterers Association that school caterers were losing out to local shops and takeaways.

Would you believe it? Why would this happen? After all, Glasgow has given us the deep-fried Mars bar, deep-fried half pizza and deep-fried kebab. I don't know about you, but where could they have gone wrong?

The Government is set to close the loophole that allows restaurants to use tips to make up the minimum wage, it was claimed today. Len McCluskey, Unite assistant general secretary, said:

“We welcome the decision by the Prime Minister to ensure that the principles of the minimum wage legislation are not betrayed by the practices of some employers who are solely interested in making a fast buck.

“There is now the opportunity for the Government to clean up the system and give consumers confidence that when they eat out the staff who serve them are being treated fairly.”

The system will never be clean! It is one of those Industries that relies on immigrants, students and young trainees to run the businesses and make money. How many of you, except people in the trade, either currently or before, even remember bothering with such trivial matters? Answers on a postcard to......

On that note, I must away. This post has been short and sweet......just be glad it was!

Special thoughts go out to parfitt who had noticed I had not been around for a while. Thanks for the kick up the arse!.

Until then......

Le Chef Grincheux

"Remember Me With A Smile" - Mr E. McKenzie (4th July 1944 - 2nd June 2008)

Monday, 30 June 2008

A Scottish Sabatical

Salutations mes pâtés en croûte de pomme appétissants!

Fear not my my gently poached poissons! I am still here, a bubbling and smouldering pot of sarcasm brimming over with the edge with a sprinkling of contempt for the Industry.

I have recently been on sabatical in the Outer Hebrides, foraging for flora and fauna on an exciting adventure/ramble type course (just in case Gordon Brown does carry on as Prime Minister and we end up having to eat our own garbage and Spit-roasting urban foxes to get some form of nutrients). I have been learning about the different types of poisonous mushrooms, how many different meals you can make from just one squirrel and how it can be possible to marry your Uncles' Sons' Daughters' Daughter without anyone finding out that it is actually a sheep called Doris!

I will be back on Sunday with another look at the 'Death' of an Industry as it cowers beneath its bedsheets, gripping its pillow and waiting for the rude awakening it has been expecting......involvement from the Government!

Until then......

Le Chef Grincheux

Sunday, 22 June 2008

A Staff Oddity

Bonsoir mes hocks de jambon vitrés par muscavado!

Hurrah! At last. An uneventful week. No impromptu journeys to either Hospitals or other Countries. No more worries for the foreseeable future in regards to staff. In fact, I now have too many staff. Okay, they are not trained Chefs but......alright, they are not Chefs, but that is okay! To be absolutely and completely honest, I could not wish for a better Brigade at the current moment. Sure they have their flaws (like we all do) and of course they are not trained to a level or standard I would usually expect (as I always do). I prefer to call these minuscule flaws by a different name. Lets call them quirks. That sounds much better, my staff are slightly quirky.

I believe the majority of them are late almost every day, now that does not ruffle my feathers......Well, actually, it does. A few of them find it hard to retain the slightest piece of information and I care not a jot about repeating myself over and over again like a demented parrot......Well, to be truly honest, that does push my buttons a few times a day and I can get a tad irate about that. Sometimes they call me by my first name which......Bugger It, that really does p**s me off! In fact, all the above 'quirks' do. They may not be trained but they could show a little respect and show up on time and even my daughter knows the fundamentals of cooking and she is only 3 years old! As for the first name terms business, well, I haven't worked half my existence on this planet to be called by my first name! I have had to work damned hard to earn my title and that means, when at my place of work I am to be known by one name and one name only. That name is CHEF! They can even call my all the most blasphemous names under the sun, as long as the word 'Chef' is at the end of the sentence, I don't mind. Insult me, that's fine, but show some respect while your doing it!

When I was a young Plongeur/Trainee Chef, I daren't breath the wrong way. Even the Commis was higher than I was. Days were hard and nights were even harder. "Fetch this" and "Fetch that" would echo in my ears during the night terrors I started to suffer from. Years of mental and physical abuse have left scars, I can tell you. You never forget the first Jacket Potato that has been launched at you by an egotistical and angry Chef de Partie. You don't forget because it exploded into the back of your neck and you can still see a slight splatter mark when you are looking in the mirror at your latest brandings and slashes after a busy weekend service.

I must quickly just throw in a note of interest for you, dear reader. Chefs are not vain people! It is true that when we go out on the town that we like to look our best. We have to. We look like last weeks rubbish most of the week, so we put the effort in when we hit the tiles and strut our stuff at the local dance hall. The only time I have known a Chef to be proud of the slices, cuts, brandings, scars, burns and amputations is always in the presence of others Chefs'. We trade battle-scars if you like. It is a competition. Who has the largest and most gruesome scar. Pathetic......Yep! Necessary......Damn Right!

As for being late, well, lets just say that I don't believe there are many reasons to be late. I never thought I would hear myself say this but back in my day you were in thirty minutes before you were due to start work. That gave me fifteen minutes to make the coffee for the other Chefs, have breakfast, have a cigarette and get changed. The next fifteen minutes were spent getting my section set up, collecting heat cloths from the laundry room, sharpening my knives and making sure I had filled my stainless steel thermos with coffee (just in case I couldn't take a break later). Every staff member had their heads down and were working before the Head Chef even arrived in the car park. God help you if you were lagging behind. If you were even seen to be slacking, then the Sous Chef was always on hand to either shout obscenities at you, throw a large blunt object in your direction or, if nothing happened at that moment, you would be reminded of it later with a late night finish helping the kitchen porters or a good attempted rogering with a whole Salmon, head first. Those were the days of innocence. I remember them well.

Years ago, in a kitchen, you had to be able to retain as much information as possible. To forget or let a task or order slip by, could be a fatal mistake. You learnt to adapt to hearing three different voices shouting numerous tasks and orders. When your everyday punter has several orders shouted at them, you will usually get the first and last orders answered correctly. A Chef, on the other hand will multi-task, take every command in, take a millisecond to determine which command is the most important and then act accordingly, assimilating the order of the other commands as he/she continues with the first. A natural talent? No, a survival technique. Get it wrong and you will soon be experiencing the pain and suffering of the blunt objects, coarse language and hot foodstuffs being thrown in your general direction again.

This neat little trick of evaluating the order of commands comes in very handy within a commercial kitchen environment. Unfortunately, my staff have never worked in a proper kitchen environment which makes my job a little harder. "Example", I hear you cry. Well, today I asked for my small tub of Risotto from my walk-in fridge and it didn't arrive......instead......I got an egg. So, in retrospect, I should really have asked for an egg! How silly of me.

Joking aside, I have a lot to thank my staff for. They pulled together when my Father was ill and I was called away to Scotland to be at his bedside. They covered me when I had my daughter during the afternoons and they generally put up with everything I throw at them......literally! In fact, they put up with a hell of a lot and work as hard as possible. Each one of them doing the job required to the best of their ability. Which I must admit, is a very high standard. Even my Boss has the odd night working the pass and he is getting quick!

So a great big thank you to all of my Brigade. THANK YOU! I think highly of you all and thanks for putting up with me.

The end is nigh my succulent lemon sorbets and I must bid you Adieu, Auf Wiedersehen and Goodbye once again.

I leave you with the news that restaurants, fish and chip shops and the like will soon be requested to display nutritional value of their dishes on their menus. Its like a runaway train all this healthy eating and watching what we put in our mouths. I'm sure when I joined this Industry it was to cook, not be sat with test tubes and bunsen burners working out nutritional values and fat content. Bloody stupid. Also, McDonalds is set to increase prices on certain items on their menus due to the rise in produce. The 'one price fits all' strategy seems to be costing them a little more than a burger with cheese since their produce costs rose by 5%. What a damn shame. maybe the McDonalds restaurants in the UK should start using local produce as suggested by certain Chefs. Then lets see how easy it is to run a fast food joint.

On that note......

Le Chef Grincheux

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Waiting For My Leprechaun!

Bonsoir mes dorades subtilement assaisonnées !

How are you all? Here we are again with another twisted, 'through the looking glass' view of an Industry on its knees, begging and pleading not to be taken over by large conglomerates, TV corporations or Jamie 'The Mockney' Oliver and his fellow cooks.

I would be over-whelmed with joy if I could say that is has been an uneventful week. A quiet and serene time of inner-thought, soul searching and plenty of down-time to recuperate from my fathers incarceration in an NHS hospital. Unfortunately, it has been a week of busy services, staff shortages and my Father's re-admission into another NHS hospital. While on the subject of hospitals and the staff within, I would like to thank all the Staff Nurses, Doctors, Surgeons, Consultants and the 'God-like' Senior Consultants for looking after my Father so well, that he nearly did not want to leave!

Special thanks to Mr Boom, who realised that the remedy to my Father's ailment only required a dab of Silver Nitrate and to Mr Richards who took pity on an old gent just wanting get home to his own armchair with a cup of his favourite brand of tea and a KitKat.

From myself and my family, we thank you with peace and love in our how about reviewing the parking charges in Hospital grounds?

To Business! For those of you able to enjoy a fun-filled Fathers' Day, I salute you. To all Dads, I hope you have milked it as much as possible! I do believe Mothers get to much of the credit and I also believe that when it is Mothers' Day, they are actually not that bothered. Fathers Day, I feel, should be promoted a little more. Better gifts, like a harrier Jump Jet or Porsche 911, now that would be a start. Maybe even a 'Dads Only' room that will hold the users most valued possessions like Scalectrix, train set, computer game simulators and an Action Man fortress. I m positive I asked Santa for those items when I was younger and they never appeared......should have gone to Argos. Stupid Bugger!

Times are steady at the current moment. Warm temperatures and sunny days are keeping the flow of patrons at a constant tick-over. Although, around the corner, madness awaits. The Summer Holiday season is creeping closer and closer. Everytime those words are mentioned I cower beneath my stainless steel table, slowly rock back and forth muttering the phrase, "There's no place like home", over and over again to myself.

For all you civilians out there, especially school teachers, college lecturers and university professors, it is a time of fun and larks. Apart from those individuals in the Education Sector (who seem to stop work when they need another pay rise), it is an eight hour day within an air-conditioned office, a minimum of an hours' break and enough canteen-supplied cold drinks to quench the thirst of a third world country. What a hardship! I do you pity you all. It must be a terrible chore to move from your comfortable seat to even have to go to the bathroom. To even get to your mode of transport at the end of a tiresome day must be unbearable.

Every member of my Brigade understands that all personal activities cease to exsist around this time of the year. A member of Staff wants the day off to go to a family re-union......bring them to the restaurant for a meal and maybe I will let you out of the extreme heat and discomfort for five minutes. My Commis Chef wants a day to go shopping with his girlfriend.....Tough! In fact, unless you have a family bereavement or you have managed to die on the way to work, forget about any time off unless I am obliged, by employment law, to give it to you.

So far this year I have been absent from one 21st Birthday bash, three Family Birthdays, two Stag weekends, a Bamitzvah and numerous trips to parks, farms and general days out with my Wife and Daughter. I will also be missing, later this year, from two Christenings and another Stag weekend and that is only if nothing else crops up.

When you are chosen by this Industry, and it is the Industry that chooses you, it is almost like selling your soul to the great Chefs that have gone before you. It is ingrained in your progression through the ranks of the Kitchen. You will work as and when you are needed. No arguments, quibbles or huffs. This is now your primary objective. Work as hard as you can everyday until you retire. If you are lucky, you will find an employer who understands the need for personal time with family and friends. A need for interaction with 'the outside world'.

'Once in, never out' is only one of many phrases banded around the kitchens I have worked in. You can leave the Industry, but quite a few of us do not really have another road or path to follow. If the lucky ones do achieve another goal outside of the tiled and stainless steel walls of a kitchen, more often than not, it will be as a sales representative for one of the many corporate food distributor's or advisors for restaurant management companies.

There is a silver lining though. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The jobs I speak of are very rarely advertised and are usually acquired by knowing people already within these Industries. One such position is working for gigantic pub and restaurant companies as a Development Chef, doing the job you love to do, but with the hours of an office. You could go even better than that and work in the Private Sector. Private Hospitals, retirement homes and even the Prison service have great opportunities for Chefs of all ages and levels, but these jobs are so hard to come by that they seem to be riding on the wind of myth and legend!

So, as many of us do, I will carry on catering for the ladies who lunch, business types, hooded teenagers, drained parents with excitable children and wrinklies for a while longer. Ever searching for my pot of gold, waiting to catch my Leprechaun......

Au revoir mes puddings roly poly de camarade. Until next time......

Le Chef Grincheux

Sunday, 8 June 2008

"Is It Really Worth It ?"

Bonsoir mes lapins légèrement rôtis !

Let me start at the beginning as that is the best position, I believe, that will make the most sense. I am completely exhausted. Drained and depleted of all energy, enthusiasm and stimulus. Since returning from my Fathers' bedside, which resided in one of Glasgow's' finest hospitals, I have been working like a Trojan for seven days now. Twelve hours a day. Which, for all you non-mathematical people out there, equates to 84 hours of hard graft in the space of one week. Now that is not including time in my less than comfortable office preparing specials, rotas or placing orders with various suppliers.

Unfortunately, and with great reluctance, I must work tomorrow also. Finishing my total hours worked at a phenomenal 96 hours in eight days. Had I been pimping my skills at previous establishments, then that figure would have been greatly higher. Going back, say 5 years, that total would rise to approximately 108 hours (not including breakfast shifts!) possibly even more. Go back even further in my mediocre career and I don't think my calculator could handle the equation!

It raises many questions and I'm sure a minority of Chefs would agree that once a month or even just every now and again, we wonder to ourselves, "Is it really worth it?"

So, is it worth it? Well...... Yes and no. That may sound slightly ignorant as everyone has to work, except students, and everyone has too make a living (except students) and everyone......except students and those on the dole.....has to earn to survive! We all strive for the better things in life but do we actually get there? Do those material possessions make us who we are? Of course not. Time is precious to us all. Time with family and friends is paramount to our existence. Without it we would be lost. Time and money provides us with our extra curricular activities and yet I would not change my days off during the week for anything. They are sacred.

And so to my point as to why I would not give up my days off that are usually in the week. People! People is the sole reason I enjoy my weekdays off and the answer to the reason is that if you enjoy the privilege, and it is a privilege, of having the weekends to party with friends, hold barbeque's at your home, embark on mass shopping sprees and generally have great merriment on these days then you will notice one thing. Its damn busy! Queues upon queues. People falling over themselves for the latest bargain or sale, acquaintances descending on your home for a taste of your adequately cooked ribeye or T-bone with that nice Cajun spice you bought from Sainsburys and served with a mache salad. Even going to the local supermarket or shop to purchase your groceries becomes a survival of the fittest. It is like watching marauding hyenas devouring an antelope. A 'get out of my way' attitude that seems to have engulfed our society.

I can take my daughter out for the day and not have to push through large amounts of shoppers, chavs or old age pensioners to get to where I'm going. We can enjoy a delightful visit to a park without footballs being kicked in the general direction of the children's' play area or dogs running around you trying to nip at your heels or take a chunk from your quadriceps. There are no baseball capped braggarts yelling obscenities at each other or those annoying scooters buzzing around like demented wasps.

So, is the work worth it? This is where it can become a bit of a conundrum. I love what I do and on an exceptionally busy night, it can become almost euphoric. An adrenalin buzz that is very hard to describe. After a monumental night of catering for a large number of people you feel elated, proud of yourself and your crew and that kind of high is very difficult to come down from. It is also extremely hard to give it up. There is a flip side though, as there is with everything. The hours are long. Not as long as other types of jobs but long enough to cause chaos in your personal life. Missed Birthday parties, weddings, christenings and other events of this nature, that are usually reserved for the weekends, plague my past years.

Moaners and groaners calling in sick from some airborne disease. I even once had a young Commis call in sick as he had Glandular Fever. He is back in the next day looking and feeling fine. I have to admit, he wasn't the brightest when it came to skiving off work. These are the ones who will not last. They will give up. It's inevitable. They don't feel that accomplishment at the end of a busy weekend. More often than not, they were probably pulling a sickie and were out with their mates or watching the football at the pub.

When you are in your kitchen, nothing else really matters. It can't. you take your mind off the job and your eye from what you are doing and you could lose a finger, literally! Yet your life is full of all these missed appointments, barbeque's and parties that you wanted to go to, but couldn't find the time.

Finally, with out going into more detail about the pros and cons of the Industry......IS IT WORTH IT?

I don't know. I will have to think about it some more......

We are at the end my gently poached parrot fish. I bid you 'Adieu' once more and leave you with the news that the hospitality industry must stop ignoring front-of-house staff and start giving waiters as much credit as chefs. WHY???. Also, according to the fifth annual City & Guilds Happiness Index, Chefs' are some of the happiest employees in the country. The research shows that nearly half of the Chefs' interviewed put their happiness down to a better work / life balance. What a load of cobblers! Show me a Chef that is truly happy with his work/life balance and it will either be a catering student or a pub company cook. Finally, the UK has won the right to opt-out of the European Working Time Directive for the next eight years meaning that Hospitality employees can work More than 48 hours a week. Well thank you very much! I was getting a bit worried there. I thought to myself the other day, 'I am really not doing the amount of hours I should be. I hope we do not have to get in line with Europe and only work 48 hours a week, that would never do'.

On that bombshell, I will leave you with a new addition to my 'Beyond The Hotplate' Section. An amazing blog with some fantastic recipes and info on healthier eating, additives and preservatives, the list goes on. If you enjoy it that much, scroll to the bottom of Sher's blog and vote for her in the Blogger Choice Awards. Just click the link! I will update my other pages within the next few days, so keep checking back. Until next time......

Le Chef Grincheux

Sunday, 25 May 2008

"I Would Walk 256 Miles"

Bonsoir mes morelles magnificant!

As you may have noticed, I have been absent from the information super-highway for quite some time. Unfortunately a family member was taken seriously ill which catapulted me from my quiet, picturesque village in the heart of the English countryside to the west coast of Scotland and some of the best sunshine and light breezes I have seen this far.

Although, this was no time for sight seeing, just before my sister and I returned from the Jewel of Ayrshire, we managed to reminisce about childhood days, favourite schools and the best place to get your "poke o' chips wi' sauce an' a bottle of Irn-bru"! We may have even argued on which gastronomical purveyor should hold the coveted 'Best Chippie in Troon (and surrounding areas').

For me, it was the Tudor Tearooms which used to be owned by good friends of the family and my mentor, Chef McKenzie (H.C.I.M.A Scholar and Chef De Cuisine). He is one of the few Chefs' I have known over the years that has given the majority of his life to an Industry designed to crush you from the inside as well as burn, slice, stab and cut you from the outside. He came out the other end and is now able to stick 2 fingers up at the culinary establishment and bellow the words, "I beat ya, ya B*****ds".

Chef McKenzie has had many achievements over the years; he was the inventor of Emergency Catering, holds the Scottish record for PC Solitaire (most games played) and also holds the highly regarded award for most Scotch Broth served to the over 60's.

Chef McKenzie's wife, Mrs McKenzie, is one of the most experienced, organised and proficient Front of House owner/managers' I have ever had the privilege and honour of working for. You cannot find anyone anywhere who is more than capable of planning and executing a function from as little as 7 to a massive 700. Ruthless and uncompromising in approach to staff, I have never seen so many whippersnappers get their comeuppance, including yours truly!

Now both retired, which I must say is well deserved, I felt obliged to enlighten you on two of the greatest unsung heroes of this flailing Industry. They remember the highs of the 70's, 80's and 90's. The good wholesome dishes, classics like Coq au Vin and late night prep sessions.

So to you both, from a very grateful person, Thank You!

There is nothing like a trip down 'Memory Lane' to clear the cobwebs and brighten the soul. Yet I feel grumpiness creeping back into the conversation. Something is niggling me, gently nibbling and gnawing away at my light hearted, dare I say, happy mood. It has been bubbling underneath the surface for some time now. Slowly simmering away like a poached egg, gently dancing around in its pan of exuberant water.

There is now a new way to ensure that you can charge your customers more for their meals by using the term 'sustainable source' on your menu. There has been a huge push from within the Industry and the likes of Caroline Bennet of the sushi chain Moshi Moshi has mentioned that the use of farmed fish isn't the way forward and that menus should change more frequently to help educate consumers. Apparently the Hospitality Industry needs to take more responsibility regarding this subject and that no-one should be able to hide behind the excuse of 'this is what the consumer wants'.

So lets get this into perspective. Certain individuals are of the opinion that the majority of consumers would like locally sourced, organic, humanely killed, free range, sustainable sourced produce? I think this list is getting way to long. In fact, it is becoming ridiculous to the point of insane.

I can tell you what the consumer wants......value for money. Meaning a nice place to eat with a good atmosphere, freshly prepared and nicely presented food and a quality service all at a reasonable price. It would be nice to have all those criteria met, every single one, but it is an impossible task. We may all want those things; protection of species, helping local businesses and less cruelty to animals, but are we ready to be able to pay for it because it will not come cheap.

A friend of the family recently went for a light lunch in a pub owned by one of the large corporations that litter our cities and towns throughout Britain. Not only did she enjoy her meal but it only cost £6.95 for TWO main courses. Now, all together, lets half that figure......that's right, £3.47! For those readers in the United States that is $6.80. For those readers in Canada that is $6.86. For those of you in Australia it is $7.16. Finally for those using the Euro it is 4.40EUR. My first question is "why so cheap?" and my second is "where has the produce come from?". So, for interests sake, how does that actually fair with your own countries' restaurants, bistros and bars? Is it cheap, expensive or completely ludicrous? Can you really guarantee that is fresh and not boil in the bag or microwaved? Please leave a comment and let me know.

On that note, I must away and prepare myself for another day of very little staff, vast amounts of consumers and a lot of mis en place (for those of you who struggle with French, go to Babelfish online and that will translate it for you).

A few questions needing answered this week, but very important ones I feel. Let me know your views and, as always, I look forward to reading your comments and points of view. I have also added a wonderful blog to my 'Beyond The Hotplate' called Slurp and Burp which will inspire and educate you on the path to greatness in all things culinary.

Before I go, I would like to thank everyone who knows my Father for their positive thoughts, good wishes and get well cards. It was a real eye-opener, a shock and extremely heart-warming and a big thank you goes to you all for your support at this difficult time. I hope to see you all again soon.

Until the next time my delightful Dairylea Dunkers......

Le Chef Grincheux

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Has The Thrill Really Gone?

Beau jour mes Cornichons Culinaires!

It is that time of the month again where I begin to become even more disillusioned with this trade. Is it possible to be grumpier than just plain grumpy?

Despite the slight drop in temperature across the country and the odd drop of the wet stuff, we are still surprisingly busy at the restaurant. A new menu seems to have produced a revival in the amount of clientele crossing our little threshold. The canal boat companies are beginning to rent more boats out to stag and hen parties, groups of middle-management on team building exercises and the annual subscribers to 'Saga' magazine and the Sun has been flourishing its warming rays on the general populous packing them with more energy than your average solar panel.

My main gripe, I suppose, is where were all these people a few months ago when the restaurants and hotels outside of the bustling cities and towns actually needed the support and patronism? I personally like nothing more than going out during the wintry showers to a pleasant and cosy eatery, ordering a delectable Agnelez le ragoût, les boulettes d'herbe et la purée de pommes de terre and washing it down with a robust and flavoursome Faustino Gran Reserva '81 Vintage. We have become slaves to the abundance of bistros, ready meals and gastro-pubs. Only eating out when life has dictated it. Sunshine and sombreros define our eating habits. Where has the thrill gone? I remember different times though......

Eating out used to be a delight. I looked forward to my day off where I could indulge my senses and treat them to an evening of fine food and choice wines, finishing the night off with a palette cleansing snifter and a chunky Henri Wintermans Cigar. Do not get me wrong, times have changed for me. I now have a wonderful wife and beautiful daughter which fill me with joy everyday. We still eat out, although not as often and it will usually consist of child-friendly pubs, homemade picnics and the inevitable trips to the odd fast food chain for a burger and fries. So when did dining out become such a minefield? Is it me that has moved on from experimenting with obscure combinations of flavours? Am I the one who is being left behind in the race to define Culinary perfection? What is perfection?

To me, perfection is French Cuisine. Traditional, homely and classical in its creation and more often than not, rich and bold in flavour and texture. This style of food has led the Industry to where it is now but I feel it has been forgotten and pushed aside. Nowadays it is expanded upon or broken down to its key elements and resurrected with complex titles or 'play on words' descriptions. Items such as Horseradish Snow, Virtual Ham and Popcorn Cloud intrigue and challenge the consumer to experiment with texture and enhanced flavours which, to a certain extent, is driving the Industry forward into the 22nd century, pushing the boundaries of the culinary institutions that once appeared old and haggard. Yet, should we forget our roots and carry on with Mussel Spheres and Boneless Chicken Feet? Or is it maybe time to roll back the clock, turn back time and visit the traditional world of perfection? Careme pushed the boundaries, as did Escoffier and Montagne. Although, they created the basis that is fundamental cookery. I believe it is about time someone stood up to be counted. Tell these experimental Chefs' that Egg Yolk Spheres and Basil Foam are going that little bit to far. In short, prices are to high and the food is to fiddly and elaborate. Bring back the fundamentals.

With all this healthy eating lark comes a price......Enjoyment! When we want to enjoy ourselves, we indulge our senses. Be it mentally, physically or gastronomically, that is what makes us human. For example, every Thursday, I make 2-3 special dishes for the board above the bar and I try to make sure that somewhere on that board is a dish of reputation. A warm and comforting dish that, even if it doesn't sell, will fill me with joy and excitement to make it. That is my one sanity within my week of work. That is my enjoyment. Everyone has a favourite dish. It may be something from your childhood or a dish you ate at your wedding, even a particular sweet that has disappeared from the shelves of your most visited sweet shop. The point is, that is your comfort food. Its personal to you and I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with Nitroglycerin, car-paint sprayers or olive oil spirals.

Let's get back to the basics! Let's rekindle our love and passion for what is not good for us and spoil ourselves once in a while. They say that you eat with your eyes......Well, I think its time we started to eat with our hearts and memories!

"Go on, try something gastronomically naughty today!"

Le Chef Grincheux

Friday, 16 May 2008

Local Produce For Local People!

Bonjour mes Gastro Pamplemousses!

I must thank you for your patience. Due to the immense hours that I work, sleep is featuring very highly on my agenda at the moment and more importantly, so is the time with my family. As my Daughter's birthday has been such a monumental occasion, I have been venturing far and wide to animal farms, secluded seaside resorts, castle gardens and pits of multi-coloured balls to ensure her enjoyment and excitement have been at their peak!

Yet I cannot help seeing the newspapers, hearing the radio interviews or watching the television and so many incidents are sprouting from the four corners of the media that have passed me by. I have lapsed regarding the information required to maintain this style of blog. But......I'm Back! The only conundrum, is where to start?

Let us begin with the rollercoaster ride that is Chef Ramsay. I believe the man has lost his mind once and for all. In fact, I believe he resides in Cloud Cuckoo Land with all the culinary fairies and gastro goblins attending to his every whim! Ramsay has once again stepped on some very big toes. Chef Ramsay now feels it is time, just before the release of the new season of the F word, to enlighten the eager public with his general feelings on local, seasonal produce. Apparently, any Chef found using non-local and out of season produce should be fined for doing so. Surely Chef, you have that wrong? Flogging should be the punishment for such a depraved crime, dare I say dismemberment in extreme cases. I mean, how dare someone fancy a nibble on a strawberry during the winter season! A robust casserole of game and juniper should be frowned upon by all while the Sun hangs high above. The Chef disemboweled for such a travesty of justice!

Please do not misunderstand me. I would rather buy produce grown within the region I live and work in. There is nothing better for a Chef to stand proud and shouting loud that the majority of the produce on his/her menu is sourced locally, farmed locally and produced locally. Farmers Markets are increasing in number which is a fantastic thing. Consumers appear in droves just to snap up organic vegetables and free range eggs. Obscure cheeses are still a firm favourite, mouth-watering sorbets and ice creams, roasted suckling pig and real dairy butter will draw people from all over the countryside, chomping at the bit to buy this flavoursome and wholesome produce.

As always, there are three teeny weeny snags. Price, price and price! I have concluded, for example, that when you purchase a nice Cashel Blue cheese for your penultimate course on your menu, that it is not last years' wrapping paper it has come wrapped in but 24carat gold leaf! The succulent and juicy marmalade made buy the 'Auntie Maureen Marmalade Company' is in fact orange jelly crystals mixed with an inferior Asda marmalade, although the price seems to have tripled and I honestly cannot remember when Seville oranges grew natively within the British Isles!

It is all so damned expensive. Chef Ramsay, please understand that most restaurants and public houses cannot charge £150+ for a five course meal. We have to cater to the customers we have. They pay the bills and sometimes even the wages! To even use 50% of locally produced food on my menu would result in loss of trade and jobs.

So why is local produce so expensive? I have no idea! It costs less to ship in beef from abroad than it is to buy from 500 yards round the corner! It makes no sense. The Industry is set for a recession. There are no two ways about it. All produce has gone up a minimum of 7% and it is due to rise again. Transportation costs, animal feed and import tax are just a few of the issues we face at the moment. Add to that the increase in living expenses and the stagnant pool that is wages and you will see a very scary situation that appears to have no end.

So to put it all into a nutshell, buy local? YES! Take out a second mortgage on your home to pay for it? Ummmm......? Point made? I think so!

Let's move on , shall we, to the new Sainsburys advert featuring Jamie 'The Mockney' Oliver and his delightful wife. An exquisite and palatable pasta dish for a fiver. Okay, I will admit that it is possible to eat for a fiver at Sainsburys......but......thats another pasta dish! The first advert was for a pasta dish. Wait a minute, is Oliver trying to fatten us up so he can start another campaign on healthy eating? He is obviously missing the comfy sofa at No.10 Downing Street, but with that accent, what would he accept from the former, I mean current Prime Minister.

Now, I went to Aldi a couple of months ago as I had been volunteered to cook a one course dinner party for six. Something simple and classic, yet elegant in design and full of robust flavours. Coq-au-Vin! A classic in its own right and a beautiful dish to chew the fat over. The recipe I have is quite a few years old, about a hundred years old to be precise, and I went on my merry way to source my produce for the feast. To cut a long story very, very short, I found my ingredients, went to the till and packed my items to the best of my ability. The total cost of this peasants dish? £15.00. Now I do believe that if you were to break that down and divide it by the number of guests, it would appear that it cost £2.50 per person. So that would equate to £1.25 more, per person, than Sainsburys claims you can eat for. Okay, lets re-cap. Sainsburys/Oliver are promoting pasta with a stodgy sauce, cheese and vegetables. I am promoting a classic and traditional cuisine containing the main food groups and a good helping of self-indulgence into the bargain! Which would you prefer?

Finally we have a 'waiter-less' restaurant, German in design and absolutely pointless. Customers are given a chip and pin card which they swipe at both the bar and restaurant, choose their food which has been miraculously prepared in front of them and pay on their way out at the cashier point. The company, Vapiano, feel that Europe (especially Britain) will prove the hardest to break. Really Gentlemen, I wouldn't have guessed!

In Britain, we thrive on banter! The art of conversation with waiting and bar staff alike. Why not just resurrect HAL and be done with it. Soon we will all be using replicators while we watch re-runs of Star Trek and Deep Space Nine. Inserting Babel Fish into our ears to communicate with alien lifeforms before sticking a skewer up its arse and BBQ-ing it. When will this madness end?

On that very obscure note, I must bid you Adieu! My other pages will be updated as soon at it rains and I stop being inundated with customers. Until next time my croissants colorés......

Le Chef Grincheux

Monday, 5 May 2008

5 Loaves and 2 Fishes?......Kids Play!

L'horreur... L'horreur! Quand finira-t-il?

What a fine Bank Holiday it has been. Heart-warming rays of sunshine, ducklings swimming in uniform lines with their mother while the culinary masters visualise their next 'confit de canard avec les pruneaux et l'armagnac'. Somewhere, in the distance, a lone starling twitters for its mate and the day has begun with such vigour.

Unfortunately, like the Trojan Horse of Troy, it holds a dark secret. A sinister undertone within its virtual belly. The secret lurks deep within its bowels, waiting and watching for the Sun's shimmering glow. Poised with anticipation and excitement. Eagerly waiting for the start of that day when people can go mad with gusto and enjoy that 'Holy Grail' that is a Bank Holiday Monday.

If you have ever witnessed a horror film full of carnivorous zombies clawing and chewing their way through a humans' digestive system, then you can picture my restaurant on a day that should be put aside for D.I.Y and barbeque's. Most of the nocturnal Egor's can resist the urge to venture out during daylight, but the ones who thrive on the thrill of eating out bombard the eateries of the UK for light lunches, high teas and full a la carte experiences. They decimate a plethora of creative courses meant for the discerning diner and drag it into an abyss of chips, baked beans and eggs over-easy.

They came in droves. Gnawing and chomping their way through steaks, battered cod and burgers, some even without cutlery! It made the apocalypse look like a day trip to Bangor. Every table strewn with food debris and crushed napkins, it looked like the end of the world was nigh and the Pont de Barre was the epicentre of it all.

With the aftermath came the 4 hours of wind-down time I needed before even contemplating sleep. Three hundred people on the Monday alone with a total of 600 served on the three days prior to that. When you dish up that many meals with little or no complaints, then you know you have done your job and done it bloody well. You feel on top of your game and quite rightly so.

So as I languish on a beach in North Wales with the sun beating down from on high, the icy waters lapping at my toes and seagulls dive bombing overhead, this weeks' rant will have to be postponed. Yes, that is right, you read correctly. It has been put on hold, saved for future posts and held back!

My apologies to all my avid readers but as it is also my daughters birthday today, the insane mutterings of the Grumpy Chef will just have to wait until next time. I'm sure within a few days, my insanity will be back to its' normal 'through the roof' levels and the painful throbbing in my head will return with great enthusiasm. Also, the others (Sebastian, Molly and The Evil One) will soon be back from their hols so I think my compact and bijou brain will begin to get quite crowded again. (But it won't be for long if Sebastian makes me wear that damn pink tank-top again. I just don't do glitter! It plays havoc with my complexion and as for Molly, well, once she starts to yap on, no-one else can get a word in edge ways)

As a parting gift though, I would like to give you a couple of tips regarding 'on the edge' Chefs'. If you ever see one, do not approach! Quietly send in a young child asking for some ice cream and watch the culinary nutter melt into sighs of 'Aw, how cute. Of course you can'. Or, a little easier I feel, offer him a brace of pheasant and a few bunny rabbits. Always does the trick!

Till next time my beloved Belgian Waffles......Have a fantastic week!

Le Chef Grincheux

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Vice City

Bonsoir mes omletes wonderous de baleine!

The Bank Holiday is looming over the horizon and the rooster is preparing his morning overture to awaken the masses, ushering in the weekend of fried foods, alcohol and an extra day off. I'm sure the rooster means well, but I will serve him up in my classic Coq au Vin recipe for my eager consumers. I'm sorry, I just cannot stand a pushy bird!

This coming weekend, for many kitchens, will be a bombardment of screaming children, adolescents in baseball caps and hoodies, middle-aged Peter Stringfellows' and blue rinse brigade o.a.p's, all foraging for their reformed chicken teddies, homemade beef burgers with relish on the side, burnt sirloin steaks with gravy and battered cod and chips. I have always wondered how I, personally, have managed the onslaught that is a Bank Holiday and now I have the answer. It is a variety of items you will use everyday yet as a Chef, I use to the point of overkill and mass indulgence.

First, we have coffee. For those of you who drink the delectable brown sludge, I would hope you would understand where I am coming from. The first cup of the morning is like a breath of fresh air, a rude awakening to the imminence of a busy, hard working day ahead. It 'sets us up' to be prepared for anything. Reviving our withered, exhausted bodies from a gentle slumber. As the first sip flows down the gullet it slowly rises to a crescendo of "Good morning world, here I am, give me your best shot!" After my tenth cup though, I am starting to wither. The buzz has gone. Even an extra hit of espresso in my standard Latte doesn't help. So its on to phase two.

Second, we have sugar. Most people will partake in a tub of Hagen Daz during a good film or that sneaky danish pastry while out shopping. For me, I don't think you can beat chocolate fudge cake. This is not just any fudge cake though, oh no, its also laced with two robust layers of dark fudge, rich chocolate icing and succulent chocolate fondant and the only way to make it even better is to drench it in in thick, luke warm custard and finally dust it with a blizzard of icing sugar. Over-indulgence never tasted so good. As you pour the custard on you can hear the cake soaking every last morsel up like a sponge. I then make another coffee.

Third, we have bread. Lightly toasted ciabatta, with a diced chicken mayonnaise, fresh roquette, sliced plum tomatoes and basil pesto. Sounds healthy, but certainly not in reality. Full-fat mayo, pesto and ciabatta. Full of extra virgin olive oil, enhancers and covered with lashings of butter. As I am sure you all know, any type of bread in vast quantities is bad for your waistline. If you have a jar of Hellmans in the fridge, look at the fat content and as for pesto, its mainly just oil! Omit the 'bad' stuff and it ain't going to be much fun, is it? After another coffee......

Last, and by no means least, I will treat myself to another derivative of the sugar family......Jellybeans. The Food of the Gods is among us and comes in the form of a bean. You can't just have one jellybean or even two, it has to be all or nothing! Each flavour opens a world of nostalgia to the consumer. Summer days of building 'dens', riding bikes through the local woods and football on the bright green common spring from every memory gland within the brain. A sugar rush of great magnitude pushes you further through your evening, egging you on into the final furlong of service.

As the evening draws to a close, your on your way down. Customers are making you irritable and grumpy. The food they have ordered won't cook with the speed you require. The end is in sight, the end of service is nigh......but wait...... some 'person' is looking at the menu! That can't be right? It's time for all Chefs' to be heading home to their comfortable beds. What do they think their doing? Ah, it's a booking for next week. Peace is restored and the clearing down can begin. All the stimulants have now left your system and your finishing your day with the inadequate waste products they have been enhanced with. Never mind, a Belgian Waffle with Banoffee Sauce has just been returned, topped with a Vanilla Bean Ice cream......Nice!

We all have vices or habits, it's human nature. Be it edible, drinkable, movable or touchable, we all have them. It gets us through our day to day existence and makes us happy. The items above are just a few of mine. Without them, I would cease to be me and that would make a pretty boring life. Tell me, what are yours? Please keep it clean, we Chefs' are very easily embarrassed.

Well, it is that time again. My comfortable bed beckons and tomorrow is my wife's birthday, so sleep is next on the agenda. My sister site, 'The Chefs Prayer' has been updated regarding the new seasonal produce and a new recipe as always. I have also added a new link to a site called 'The Brigade' that will be explaining the internal mechanics of kitchen personnel and their roles within the lunacy that is catering. So until next time.....

Au revoir ma lumière hearted des langoustines, soit heureuse!

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

'Television Killed The Chef De Cuisine'

Bonsoir mes expressos excitables!

I hope you are all well this fine day. Here in Cheshire the Sun has graced us with its presence, eminating its delightful glow over the flowing waters of the Thropshire/Debenham Canal, brightening the flora and fauna of the gardens and promtly braising my herb patch as it had recently been doused with a gallon of Evian. I have decided that Chefs' are not green fingered. We relish the thought of having an abundance of freshly grown herbs and then the realisation hits us after killing numerous plants purchased from the Garden Centre. Also the fact that most kitchens will go through a colossal amount of the green stuff that within a day you have exhausted your supply and end up back at the Garden Centre searching for more!

What a fun filled week it has been. Vast amounts of blog-worthy news over the last seven days but, unfortunately, most of it has become dull, mediocre and lifeless. Another Chef is in trouble with the courts. This time Ramsay and the production company are being accused of staging certain events on the TV program 'Kitchen Nightmares US'. The 'Chef in shining armour' has found himself at the centre of a scandal that could cost him and his holdings company around $1 million to a disgruntled employee from a New York restaurant. Even if the case does go back to court, I am certainly positive that the egotistical and foul-mouthed Chef Ramsay would be able to withstand the loss of such a small amount of money from the vast fortune he has worked exceptionally hard for. With the upsurge of more and more reality shows appearing on TV, should we not be asking whether these programs are actually genuine or have they become staged and setup just to boost ratings for the TV and production companies that seem to have jumped on a bandwagon?

What will the next selection of hard-hitting, fly-on-the-wall documentaries be? How about Dishwashing Nightmares with Ainsley Harriot as he guides uneducated young adults with a brood of juvenile delinquents on the Top Ten Fairy Do's and Don'ts with a crash course in rattling pots and pans while wearing stupidly loud coloured shirts and grinning inanely. Or how about, Jamie's Guide to Rhyming Slang (or 'How to Insult Londoners and Patronise Your Viewers') - Jamie Oliver guides his viewers on the meaning of words such as 'Pukka', 'Blinding' and 'Tukka' while educating viewers on pronunciation, grammar and the promise of transforming into a complete 'Mockney Pukka' by the end of the season. Finally, Delia Cheats! Well no surprise here as Delia Smith manoeuvres her way through a selection of dishes and snacks while putting the new Norwich City manager through his paces where he makes her look even more sour-faced by saying "Its not the winning, Its the losing gracefully that counts". Actually, this is already on your current TV schedules, make a point of being out when its on. How many more cooking programmes and culinary reality shows can one nation take?

For a long time we have realised these type of shows have been increasing in number creating an epidemic of cooking disasters and culinary catastrophes. What the general public fail to realise is that many of these 'shows' are presented by trained Chefs, star trained Chefs and employ trained ex-Chefs to assist in the overall production of a majority of the programs on the TV. Christ, we even have numerous Food Network channels! Whole channels dedicated to shopping for food, equipment to help make food, making food and even selling food to other food-minded people.

I remember one instance on a popular cookery programme when two Chefs and two members of the general public, who claimed they could not cook, produce a mediocre piece of chicken with a sauce, potatoes and vegetables all the while trying to copy the same dish created by a Chef of some 25 years experience with his own restaurant and kitchens. Fantastic for the lovers of daytime telly until they get delusions of grandeur, try to replicate said dish at home for a select few of their closest friends and realise they should have ordered out to Dominoes instead of attempting to massacre a perfectly decent chicken and the rest of the collective ingredients. Trying to create these types of dishes at home is possible, I am not denying anyone that, but to get them to a standard worthy of a restaurant within an alloted timescale and for fifty people. Well that takes a trained individual. Even if the cook is trying to produce this exquisite masterpiece for only six people, it will become a nightmare within the first ten minutes of preparation. Or at least, when they realise they have either forgotten an ingredient, have set the oven to high, received an epiphany that they should have used Dolmio or purchased Jamie Oliver's 'Flavour Shaker' (I believe the correct term is 'Pestle and Mortar')to decimate the flavoursome and earthy herbs into a mushy substance which would probably taste better on your beef paste sandwiches.

Would I want to be on TV? NO! Would the majority of my colleagues in the Inustry want to be on TV? No! Would we be on TV if it was us that had been offered £50,000 a year, a mass marketing deal and as much Foie Gras and Black Truffles as our stomaches could handle? YES, of course we would, who wouldn't, but would we become that wrapped up in our own self-importance that the reasons we actually thrive on this job would evaporate just like an over-boiled pan of Conchigelle Fromage? I hope not.

My time is now at an end, my little madelines and I must bid you farewell once more. So, until next time......

Au revoir mes escargots furtifs