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


SheR. said...

I totally agree with you Chef!

It's so silly that all these organic and local are astronomically priced compared to those lobsters air flown from Canada daily?!

Is it just UK or a global phenomenon?

I'm growing my own vegetables here in Croatia. And herbs if I succeed. My neighbour has 5 chickens for his supply of eggs. (Guess I'll need more than 5 hens!)

I recalled a typical purchase of fruits and vegetables at Lewisham street market cost me more than Sainsbury's!! It's absurd!

TheGrumpyChef said...

@ sher: I think it is becoming Global now. In no time at all we will be back to rationing, growing our own vegetables, keeping chickens and maybe even using our backyard sheds as slaughter houses! It is ridiculous. Keep up the good work sher, If things turn pear-shaped, I'm heading to Croatia. Nice comment and I hope you return soon.

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

It is global. We are having the same issues in the US. Things are a mess. I wish I could buy a little farm right now to get ready for what is likely to be coming down the pike!