Hold on to your ‘toque’ … the Chefs are on the run!

Over the years many chefs and restaurants have striven to emulate the standards set by the French in the field of cuisine. In the background there has been a cultural war going on as to which nation produces the best food, the best plating, the best techniques. And the perception has been that cost’ has reflected quality – if it costs less, “… then it can’t possibly be as good as Monsieur Chef down the road whose food is frightfully dearer.” Most people have heard of the Michelin Guide and some will glibly boast of having eaten at a 2-star restaurant without really knowing what that means.

modern-table-setting-1013tm-pic-1185Not many have heard of the Gault-Millau culinary ‘rankings’ (pronounced: “go meeyo”). Among the French some even regard this as the food Oscars but compare the Michelin Guide as being the mere Cannes, Palme d’Or of food – still glitzy but not as significant. But those in the know are suggesting that the halcyon days of charging a small fortune for a smear on a plate with a scallop or two and some flowers are over. Restaurateur Jean-Claude Vrinat indicates, among other things that restaurateurs “Re-examine your economic policies, and think of the consumer’s pocketbook.” Cheers from all the consumers out there! (This is what good stocktakers have been doing for their clients for years – constantly examining, re-evaluating and adjusting to keep the client and the consumers happy).

Some trivia here: apparently the Gault-Millau culinary ‘rankings’ work on a score up to 20 and then the restaurant/chef may display from one to five toques (five being the highest). A toque is the correct name for the headgear that a chef wears. Which possibly explains why the Aussies rate their chefs as “1, 2 or 3-hatted” – maybe they just don’t speak French that well.

Looks can be deceptive. This was borne out by the police in Nottingham who nabbed a beggar for something and discovered the chap was carrying £800.00 in notes and small change on him. The proceeds of his three days work. The police also don’t believe that he’s homeless, as he claimed. However they had to let him go, with the dosh. So if a pub or restaurant in that area happen to have what might look like a dodgy character pitch up and ask for a brew and a nice meal, don’t be so quick to move him on. He could be loaded and just wanting a bit of peace and quiet!

The security at Tesco had no difficulty in identifying a horse in their shop in Co Durham though. The recent craze that has been sweeping the world, “neknominations” was played out by the lass on the horse downing a Pepsi (instead of alcohol) as she accepted her nomination and then challenged some friends of hers to upload their own videos within 24 hours. (The “neknomination” challenge is to nominate someone to down a drink in one go while having it videoed, then to nominate two others to do the same within 24 hours). While some of these challenges have been accepted by the nominees with fun and good grace, there have been some tragic events in the aftermath of the craze as people seek to do more and more outrageous things to better those who have nominated them for the challenge. Others have turned their nominations into opportunities to engage in acts of kindness to others less fortunate, making the video and then challenging others to do similar things instead of consuming alcohol.

Organisations and clubs like Rutters Stocktakers, Brighton Rugby Club and others are always up for a bit of harmless fun in the same way some have used the “neknomination” opportunities given to them to help those in their communities – all it takes is planning and dedication – just like making any business a success.

(Eels) To eat or be eaten, that is the question!

If you were to wander along the High Street in Walthamstow you’d see the latest building to have been awarded Grade II status by Heritage England. It is the “L. Manze Eel, Pie & Mash Shop” and has been perfectly preserved. Stepping through the doors will transport the visitor back to the style of the 1920’s when the shop first opened, serving the same type of fare of the day too. A selection of pies, mash and gravy. Also eels.

Image: Michal Zacharzewski

Image: Michal Zacharzewski

Happily for current owner, Mrs Cooper, she’s not likely to have some bloke in a white coat carrying a clipboard arrive and tell her to repaint with fire-retardant paint in the interests of “health-and-safety,” because all the walls are tiled from floor to ceiling in keeping with the décor of the day. The shop looks like it is worth a visit and is proving to be popular with tourists. But any tourist who hopes to go there to get “the eel treatment” while they eat their pies, is going to be disappointed. And even though eels are on the menu, they are for consumption.

The “eel treatment” is the latest beauty trend imported from China. Interested folk sit around with their feet in buckets while the eels nibble away at their skin. This treatment is designed to exfoliate and leave the skin lovely and smooth. Apparently there are health concerns over this treatment as well as questions being raised about the qualifications of those who administer the treatments. It seems that one needs to have a “level-two pedicure” national occupational standard in order to put someone’s feet in a bucket. It would also be a stocktakers nightmare trying to distinguish the edible eels from the working ones on a spreadsheet.

The challenges of any stocktaker never cease to amaze – Jon Rutter and his team of professionals need to look at every angle in helping their customers operate efficiently and stay in profit but at the same time give the paying public the value for money they deserve and look out for. With this in mind, one wonders how supermarkets are going to follow the politician’s suggestion to give their staff a pay riseto help them deal with the cost of living” when their margins are so tight? This could develop into a vicious circle of increasing expenses (salaries) which leads to increasing the price of product the consumers have to pay which leads to the consumers able to afford less so they need an increase in order to “deal with the cost of living” etc etc. In the end, someone has to pay or something’s got to give – cutting the coat according to the size of the cloth. A concept professional stocktakers work with all the time.

This could be the reason there has been a recent boom on folk seeking and using allotments. People have been viewing their respective “cloths” and deciding that the principle followed by Tom and Barbara in The Goodlife might work for them. Many have also put some fun into their hard work by entering some of their produce into competitions and exhibitions. Whether one wins or loses, the main prize is being able to consume what was entered.

Perhaps there’s a modern day Goodlife-style reality show on the cards? – “I have an allotment, get me out of the supermarket!