Tomorrow night is Cateys night, when we celebrate the best chefs, hoteliers and restaurateurs in the land; I’ll be off home to practice my opening speech in the mirror after I write this posting.
It’s a long, hard road to Cateys night. The judging process alone involves three full days of back to back judging sessions at the Grosvenor House Hotel, at which more than a hundred industry experts help us establish another roster of winners. Then there are meetings with the designers responsible for the look and feel of the night, trips up to the Grosvenor House to discuss table plans, seating and menus, discussions with sponsors about their role on the night, conference calls with guest presenters …
Anyway, I’m happy to report that all is now in place. I can’t reveal who our winners are at this stage – if I did I’d have to kill you – but I’m confident that they’ll be popular choices.
Conversations can get a little tricky around this time of the year. It’s amazing how many rumours do the rounds about who has won what, and we have to be at our diplomatic best to field searching questions from the industry.
Tonight, there’s the same buzz around the Caterer office as there always is on the eve of the awards. the women have all picked up their frocks, which are hanging up on any available ledge around the office; and the men have all collected their hired DJs, and are all secretly a little concerned that the trousers will come up too short, and the cuffs too long.
I set myself the task of learning how to tie a proper bow tie before last year’s Cateys – three hours before the event, I was sat in a tiny store in Burlington Arcade being taught the knot by a Vietnamese tailor and his wife – and I still get an inordinate thrill every time I achieve a passably tidy bow. As every bloke knows, the best bit about wearing a proper tie is that at the end of the evening you can undo it and leave it draped raffishly around your neck, in true 007 style. Vain? Maybe – but not as vain as the guy that used to work on the Caterer, who admitted he wore a pre-tied bow tie for the sake of ease, but kept a real tie in his pocket so that he could hang it round his neck at the end of the evening.
I always really enjoy Cateys night, but I have to admit that the first beer I have up in the bar after the formal part of the evening is over always tastes particulary sweet. By then I know that the guest presenter and winners have been warmly received, no one has plummeted from the stage, and all has generally gone well.
So, if you happen to be at the Grosvenor House late tomorrow night, and you see me chugging back a beer, bow tie around my shoulders, smile on my face, you’ll know you are looking at the face of a happy and relieved editor.