I’m off to Germany on holiday next week. I’ve been surfing the web looking at all the delicacies I can expect to eat while I’m there – and I think the one I’m most intrigued by is hazelnut omelette. But what else should I try while I am out there? Let me know.
I’ll be back in a week.
Tuesday night’s Academy of Culinary Arts Annual Awards of excellence dinner at Claridge’s brought another hectic summer events season to a close. Well done to all of the winners. I was sat beside Newcastle chef-proprietor Terry Laybourne, who told me about some of the culinary books that have inspired him during his career. Top of his list was Quentin Crewe and Anthony Blake’s Great Chefs of France, which he says he still rereads from time to time. What food-related books do you most cherish?
Last week’s Springboard summer fundraising event was also a roaring success, with Pride of Britain’s Peter Hancock hosting proceedings with his usual steady hand and witty turn of phrase – his “prick with a fork” gag was a personal highlight. In her welcome speech, Springboard chief executive Anne Pierce introduced guests to the latest addition to the Springboard team – Catey - which provided a proud moment for all on the Caterer and Hotelkeeper table.
Also, last week, there was the climax of this year’s Nestle Toque D’Or competition, which saw a team from Carlisle College beat all comers in the battle to be proclaimed the best catering college team in the country. This year’s winners would have had to look no further for inspiration than their own city centre, where 2004 winner, James Hill, now runs his own restaurant, the Bijou. Earlier this year, James, who followed his Toque D’Or success with a stint in Angela Hartnett’s kitchen at the Connaught in London’s Mayfair, told the Caterer that the competition gave him a “really good insight into the whole concept of catering that has helped me in the running of my own business. I realised that running a restaurant is more than just cooking and serving up dishes – it’s about what your business represents, how to plan it successfully and the messaging you wish to place behind it.” Well done to Nestle Professional for facilitating such a valuable educational process, and congratulations to the team from Carlisle College for its tremendous success.
There’s a lot of talk about how the industry and academia need to work together better to produce the skilled chefs we need to drive the UK hospitality industry forward. In the past year, high profile industry figures of the likes of Marco Pierre White and Oliver Peyt on have grumbled about how colleges are failing to produce chefs with the requisite skills. Having just got home from the Dorchester Hotel where I attended this evening’s graduation ceremony for the 16 chefs of Bournemouth and Poole College’s Specialised Chefs’ course, 2008, I can testify to the fact that operators and educators are quite able to work in harmony to train up outstanding chefs.
The course began in 1989 as a partnership between the college and the Academy of Culinary Arts, whose members sponsor students and offer them prolonged placements at their restaurants and hotels. The stated aim of the course is to “inspire the rising generation to train with the elite of their chosen profession”.
So, well done to this year’s graduates and their sponsors:
- Adam Blanchard (Claridge’s)
- Adam Bowden (The Ritz)
- Christopher Castle (Royal Automobile Club)
- Peter Dickinson (Restaurant Associates)
- Jake Finn (The Ritz)
- David Gillott (1 Lombard and the Sloane Club)
- Matthew Hiscoe (Wilton’s)
- Daniel Jeffries (Claridge’s)
- Francesca Kay (Royal Automobile Club)
- David Leggett (Boodle’s)
- Lewis Linley (Restaurant Associates)
- Emma Mann (Grand Hotel, Eastbourne)
- Paul Matthews (Roux Fine Dining)
- Nicolo Rasile (The Wolseley and St Alban)
- Richard Spence (Tylney Hall Hotel)
- Sheree Stafford (Lucknam Park and Directors Table BAT).
By chance, I was turning through a book called Letters to a Young Chef by Daniel Boulud on the train up to London to attend the event. I’ve not finished it yet, but already it looks a real winner, packed with advice for young chefs looking to forge a career in the kitchen. Here are Boulud’s ten commandments of a chef:
- Keep your knives sharp
- Work with the best people
- Keep your station orderly
- Purchase wisely
- Season with precision
- Master the heat
- Learn the world of food
- Know the classics
- Accept criticism
- Keep a journal of your recipes.
All good advice to last night’s graduates. Are there any other pearls of wisdom you think are missing from Daniel’s list?
Do you offer turndowns for terriers, welcome packs for westies or massages for mastiffs? If so, you might be in line for an award from the Kennel Club for your efforts. The club has launched a competition to find the UK’s most dog-friendly businesses as part of its Open for Dogs campaign.
Dog lovers can nominate venues in five categories: Somewhere to Eat, Somewhere to Sleep, Somewhere to Drink, Somewhere to Visit, Self-catering holidays or in the ‘other’ category, which incorporates all other public places.
The thinking behind the competition is that, as the credit crunch spurs more Brits to take summer holidays at home, dog owners will need to be able identify places in their area that are geared up to serving our four-legged friends. According to the club’s press release, this could amount to innovative hound-focussed services or “simply a bowl of clean water or the promise of a friendly smile”.
So, in your staff briefing this morning, make sure you tell your team to offer a broad grin to any mutts they encounter through the course of the day – who knows, it might just win you the Kennel Club’s Champion Dog Bowl.
My colleagues Dan and Emma have already given a flavour of this year’s Cateys night. As they rightly point out in their posts, the room looked superb, the Grosvenor House did us proud with their food and service, and the energy and excitement in the room was nearly palpable. Three things in particular made the night a success for me:
- The event was a celebration of where the industry is going, but also of where it has come from, and the make-up of the audience reflected this fact. I sometimes feel that young, contemporary hospitality hotshots lose sight of the heritage of the UK hospitality scene, and I was determined to make sure we paid our dues to the industry’s heavyweights as well as its newest stars. Guests like Roy Ackerman, Willy Bauer, Raymond Blanc, Ramon Pajares, Terry Holmes, Anton Mossimann, Richard Shepherd and Brian Turner have all worked tirelessly through the life of the Cateys to create the hunger for good hospitality we all benefit from in 2008, and it was great to have them all with us on the night. Talking of paying dues, I was thrilled that Joe Hyam, one of my predecessors as editor of the Caterer and a central player in the creation of the Cateys, was present on Tuesday night.
- The emotion on display truly tugged on the heart strings. Springboard’s Anne Pierce was visibly moved when she received the Special Award. There was a look of real shellshock on Vineyard chef John Campbell’s face when he realised that he had won not one but two Cateys on the night – in the Education training and Chef categories. And the awarding of the Silver Catey to Michel and Albert Roux and the Lifetime Achievement Catey to Harry Murray brought the house down.
- I had a microphone that worked, unlike last year!
A few bleary eyes in the Caterer office this morning, the day after the Cateys.
This year’s Cateys night marked a milestone for the industry¹s most prestigious awards, with the British hospitality industry gathering in London for the 25th time to recognise and celebrate its highest achievers.
In the generation that has gone by since the first Cateys in 1984, the UK hospitality, leisure and tourism industry has been transformed almost beyond recognition and now delivers an unprecedented range of products and services, to ever higher quality standards, and in all parts of our life airport, department store, office, garden centre, hospital, oilrig, university campus.
Last night’s dinner was a celebration of where the industry is going, but also of where it has come from. Today’s operators build their business success on the solid foundations established by those who came before them, and the make-up of our audience reflected this, with today’s hotshots rubbing shoulders with industry heavyweights such as Richard Shepherd, Ramón Pajares, Roy Ackerman, Bob Cotton, and Silver Catey winners Michel and Albert Roux.
The lifetime of the Cateys hasn¹t been without its problems. The recession of the early 1990s, foot-and-mouth, floods, 9/11 and the 2005 London bombings have all taken their toll. But it takes a lot to knock this industry to the canvas. Whenever it has faced a crisis, it has drawn on its reserves of strength and got back up to fight another day.
In the coming months, as food inflation drives up prices and squeezes margins, and the credit crunch forces consumers to reassess out-of-home spend, the industry will once again need to display courage, vision and a steady nerve. I have no doubt it will rise to this latest challenge because it is full of exactly the sorts of people the Cateys were created to recognise.
In difficult times, we need exemplars we can draw inspiration from, people who embody standards today others can aspire to tomorrow. And that¹s where the Cateys come in. Our awards recognise and applaud exceptional individuals, companies and organisations from every sector of the industry.
See Caterersearch for a full list of winners
The eight hundred or so hospitality professionals who attended last month’s British Hospitality Association annual lunch at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel were left in no doubt that a faltering economy and rising energy and food prices mean the industry is in for a rocky ride this year and next.
CBI Director General, Richard Lambert warned guests that there would be tough times ahead for hospitality. And BHA supremo, Bob Cotton said that food inflation was driving up prices and squeezing margins “more than ever before”.
And yet, when Lambert conducted a straw poll of the audience to find out how many of them had noticed a discernible decline in trade, there can have been no more than five hands up in the whole room.
“They’re feeling it but they’re all too scared to admit it”, said one of those hands after the event, adding that he had seen a noticeable trend in diners downgrading to house wine rather than splashing out on something pricier.
Last week, I blogged about the Isle of Eriska hotel’s experience of a guest cancelling a trip up to Scotland on the basis that the fuel bill would be too costly. Is trade flourishing in your hotel or restaurant? Or do you have any similar stories of lessening spend – and if so, are you prepared to admit to them?