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