And so, with a final mind-blowing, palate-boggling, eye-watering 49-course fanfare, el Bulli is no more. To some, this is no less a culinary disaster than a high street peppered only with Harvesters and not a scrap to eat; to others, it sounds as a blessed return to the safe harbour of ‘un-mucked-about grub’.
There were – and numbers are vague – between one and two million panting, salivating diners on the waiting list in the six months before closure; that’s a lot of disappointment spread in a world already teetering on crisis. Apparently, you had a 0.08% chance of ever scoring a table – those aren’t odds, just humiliation in prospect. And yet, despite demand, Ferran Adrià made the decision to close his foodie Mecca because, finally, he might have run out of ideas. And energy – although he and his 70 staff only open the restaurant for six months of the year, the work behind the scenes goes on year-round, 15-hour days churning out experiment after experiment. No wonder he’s exhausted. Read full post
They’re funny things, these economic times. Restaurateurs – along with all businesses – suffer from the belt-tightening too, but it seems that they have markedly different ways of dealing with the problems – and your interests are not necessarily their priority.
In recent surveys, larger chains and smaller private businesses were interviewed on their views on rising food costs, measures they would take to ensure continued business, what their main challenges are and how they expect to surmount them. The results are interesting. Obviously rising food costs are a concern for all: in fact over half said it was their main concern. But, when asked about how they would react to lowered consumer confidence and other issues they might have to confront, there was an immediate apparent divide between big boys and small fry. Read full post
The ongoing fight for the use of sustainable fish is at its weakest when it comes to the British restaurant industry. From the finest of dining right down to the countless thousands of fish & chip shops, the British consumer hasn’t really gotten on board with the whole sustainable sourcing concept. We still expect cod or haddock with our chips, tuna and salmon in our sushi or as the fish option in a gastropub and we shy away from anything even slightly unfamiliar. As a sea-going race, we sure are squeamish when it comes to eating its bounty.
However, another giant leap has been made by… wait for it… McDonald’s who has recently changed all fish used in its British and European restaurants to those from sustainable MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) sources, including Alaskan Pollack, New Zealand hoki and Baltic cod. Now, you may be wondering why we’re even mentioning the evil fast food Goliath in this trés serieux blog on restaurant life, but actually once again, the Golden Arches have forged ahead where relatively few of those apparently higher up the dining chain refuse to follow. Read full post
Is there anything more ridiculous than the concept restaurant? It seems no-one, nowhere and no cuisine is immune. Cherry-picking from the headlining new openings in the next few months, we see that St Jamie of O is not content with dominion over Italian and whatever the heck Barbacoa is supposed to be; his next new thing is a chain called Union Jack’s, but – wait for it – the concept is ‘undecided.’ Well, we’d hazard a guess it’s not going to be Korean. Also down South, Mark Sargeant is expanding The Smokehouse, his newest venture with a ‘fish and chip concept.’ Erm, that’s just fish and chips to you and me. While we’re at it, look out for the latest in confusion dining – Orchid’s ‘Pizza Pub’ concept, which is, and you would never guess it, a pub serving pizza ‘in a casual environment.’ Clearly necessity is the Godfather of invention – who knew? Read full post
If you wanted to go and get a job in the hospitality industry tomorrow, there’d be very little stopping you. You can of course choose to do a degree or similar in hospitality, or management training or even food hygiene, but none of these are an absolute pre-requisite to being hired. Traditionally, as an industry, working in hospitality is seen as a more informal career, with on-the-job training providing the skillset required.
However, all of this is starting to change. Employers are starting to want more from their would-be employees – more bang for their buck, if you will – and qualifications of some description are becoming more sought after. In fact, interest in a job in the industry has apparently increased this year alone, with the average number of applicants per post being 21 compared to 16 in 2009. This can only mean that candidates will have to have a point of difference in order to get the role and employers are starting to specifically request technical and leadership qualifications as a priority. Read full post
When you go out to eat, you don’t expect to be taking your life in your hands when you step through the restaurant door. But if you suffer from a food allergy, that’s exactly what you are doing. Six deaths a year are caused by food allergies and it seems the restaurant world isn’t exactly manning the barricades when it comes to food safety.
Let’s just clearly define what a food allergy is, as opposed to a food intolerance: A food allergy is not a rash or an itch or a bloated stomach. It involves an immune system response and it causes histamine to be produced in the body, leading in many cases to anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal if not treated immediately. The eight commonest food allergens are peanuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, wheat, fish, soy and tree nuts. Think how common all of these ingredients are in a kitchen, how many, many recipes they are used in, the inevitability of cross-contamination – and it might cause you to wonder how anyone with a genuine food allergy can ever eat out safely. Read full post
So is the secret finally out? This week The Sunday Times reported on the hijacking by professional celebrity chefs of supper clubs and the underground restaurant trend — the one arena you might think remains chef-free. But no, the chefs are fighting back and hiring out their services or even hosting their own clubs in an attempt to gain back ground lost on the dining frontline. And they’re not cheap either: According to reports, they are charging close to £100 a head; your non-pro supper club comes in at around £30-£40.
The underground dining scene is a relatively recent invention and – somewhat surprisingly – we conformist Brits have taken to the rebellion like ducks to sauce à l’orange. Supper clubs are springing up across Britain, where food lovers and amateur cooks host dinner parties in their own homes for [usually] complete strangers and charge a small fee for doing so: the food is oftentimes as good as any restaurant without the high price tag. Read full post