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 year......so 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