“… we apologize for the inconvenience …” (it’s April Fools, and you’re it!)

Looking through the papers yesterday, or watching stories on the TV it was difficult to discern what was true or what were “April Fool” gags. Some of the real events should have fallen into the ‘you couldn’t make it up‘ category while others were just plainly bizarre to the extent that if you analyse any news story these days, they should all be of the “April Fool” variety.

Take the news that Tesco staff banned a customer from paying for his petrol using the £20 commemorative coins for instance. They then called the cops and banned him from the premises! Later they stuck up a sign saying,Please make sure you have significant funds to pay for your fuel. Sorry for any inconvenience. What’s really bizarre is the fake apology at the end … many folk will ask, when has a firm really been sorry for any inconvenience?

Another “you couldn’t make it up” event was Lady Gaga doing a “Big-Bird” impression in New York. That’s what happens when you let some celebrities go “free range” it seems.

Nike timeoutWhat is glaringly obvious is that Nike won’t be sorry for any of the inconvenience fans might face in wanting to purchase the Replica England Team World Cup shirt. At £90 each there’s an outcry at another rip-off to the extent that the Sports Minister is demanding Nike “rethink” – I wonder whether Nike will listen or ‘just do it’ anyway? Maybe that’s why their website was down. Possibly they were ‘rethinking’ as the Minister suggested, but they weren’t apologising.

And does the ECB’s gag on the news of Kevin Pietersen’s sacking actually help? The ECB might as well issue the following statement:

we apologise for the inconvenience of not letting you know the full story as to why we sacked Pietersen. We want you to speculate and spread rumours over the next number of months so that we can continue to say ‘no comment’ because we’ve been practising that line and it would be a pity to waste it.

There might have been some stocktaker’s eyes lighting up at the news that Heston Blumenthal was moving the Fat Duck down under for six months while the premises in Bray get a refurb. Heston intimated that he was shifting the eatery to Melbourne virtually lock, stock and even the sign to let the Aussies experience what his three-star dining is like. No ‘XXXX’ beer and beetroot with his burgers! He also said he was shifting the ‘whole team’ with him. And as Jon Rutter will tell you, a decent stocktaker is part of any team that makes a place profitable and function correctly. His role is just as vital as the sous chef or the front of house manager.

No one has yet confirmed whether this news of the move to the Antipodes is really an April Fool’s joke or whether it is serious. But if it is on the cards, then the £190.00 meal for two will see Sheila and Bruce shelling out AUD350.00.

But I’m sure the management will apologise to Bruce for this inconvenience, and of course they will mean it too.

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There’s always next year!

Sorry, folks! We missed it! There is absolutely no excuse except that of not paying attention. Sunday July 21st just slipped by and the opportunity to celebrate National Ice Cream Day has been missed. But, there’s always next year to look forward to – to study what your and your friend’s preferences are. Because it appears that the ice cream you like can reveal what type of person you are. Yes, ice cream can betray your personality. It’s a much more civilised method of revealing things than swilling some tea leaves around the bottom of a cup. Tastier too!

Image: Gabriel

Image: Gabriel

What wasn’t missed, though, was Tom Kerridge being crowned the winner of the best restaurant in the 2013 National Restaurant Awards race. The awards recognize the best 100 places to eat out at in the UK. They get 150 industry experts to go and judge and then cast votes. The full list of awards is a who’s who of the culinary world in the UK with some famous names featured and some special awards too. But spare a thought for the bloke who had to cater for that prizegiving event. Was he nominated?

As an aside, and not taking anything away from Tom’s award for his Hand & Flowers pub-restaurant, one wonders what makes a person the “industry expert” that they send out to test the culinary talents of each nominee. Is it a person who is a celebrity in the food world, like Matthew Fort, or is he too recognizable and would send the restaurant into a spin if he walked in? Or someone like Mike Berry, who reported on Tom’s win? Either way, it would be nice to get a phone call someday and be asked, “could you please visit this list of restaurants and have a main and a dessert, fill out a score sheet for us, and we’ll pick up the tab. But we want an honest opinion and we don’t want them to know you’re marking them.” It would be nice …

One of the quirkier trends that has developed is that of presenting a dish that’s not quite what it seems. Heston Blumenthal did this very successfully with his feasts where the guests ate money, tableware and meat disguised as fruit! And recently there have been more of these types of presentations from other chefs designed to fool the diner into thinking they are going to be getting one thing but the reality is totally different.

Baker Louise Caola seems to be following Heston’s lead, and pretty good her creations look too. Her stocktaker would need to be kept in the picture though. It wouldn’t do to have them counting and costing a couple of joints of beef when in fact they’re just decorated cakes. That could throw the whole profit margin out. Another challenge for Jon Rutter and his teams: make sure that what’s in the store is what it really is – it must be a nightmare round at Heston or Louise’s place.

And the character that ice cream reveals? Tom Kerridge might fancy the chocolate-chip-cookie-dough (competitive), while Heston and Louise the chocolate, to go with their dramatic presentations. Stocktakers? Probably the rainbow sherbet – analytic!

Pink? White? Magnolia? … drama on a wall

I can’t recall ever seeing a programme with Marco Pierre White pacing around a kitchen with a thermometer or a scale that measures in microns. He strikes me as the more flamboyant ‘chuck it in and taste’ type of chef as opposed to Heston Blumenthal who appears to be much more deliberate and calculating in his methods. Yet both hold Michelin Stars.

Marco hit the headlines with notoriety of a different kind recently when someone complained about the colour of his restaurant. One wonders whether it was the same people that complained about the Minerva Inn in Plymouth that have approached the local council in Lavenham about the Angel Hotel. Someone has even likened the colour to a “pink blancmange” – could this be the ultimate insult to Marco? He probably hasn’t even made one of those since the 70’s!

He possibly didn’t even think about consulting his stocktaker about the colour either. Things like that are normally not in their brief. Something Jon Rutter and his team of stocktakers could consider adding to their spreadsheets – “Item 263: Building: outside colour! (Check the shade with Dulux!)”

Suffolk pinkPoor Marco probably just bought the most handy thing he could find at the local merchant – it said “Suffolk Pink” on the label so he took it. Bad mistake, Marco. I can imagine his horror if I told him that I had bought a bottle of oil at the local grocer because it merely had the words “olive oil” on the label and therefore assumed it was the right oil and from the right region. Rutters will back me up on this, if the customer wants to maintain a certain standard then the provenance and quality of their produce must be assured.

Superior chefs like Heston and Marco will go to great pains to point out the main things to observe in great cooking – temperature, seasoning and things like the ageing of meat and so on. Heston will also wax lyrical on molecular gastronomy while Marco will go on about drama on the plate not in the kitchen.

And most chefs are the same in their passion for satisfying the customers. Not all have Michelin stars, but in the competitive business of trying to woo and then retain customers, attention to detail and quality products rule the day. The chef in the local pub will be at pains to turn out the best sausage, mash and gravy that he can. Or the most unctious Guinness pie.

The tearoom in the village will do their very best to make sure that their cream teas are the best for miles around. They won’t skimp on doing their homework on what’s popular or where better produce can be purchased. They will be at pains to ensure that their serviettes are properly laundered and folded. Because the business is in hospitality – the practice of being hospitable. And if you serve rubbish that relationship between the guest and the host breaks down. And no one in the business wants that.

What a shame some of the villagers in Lavenham weren’t as charitable with the same thoughts. But if Marco had been taken down to the paint shop that sold “Dulux Suffolk Pink” before he put paint to roller, he could have been excused for looking bewildered. The colour swatch looks, well … a bit like a shade of magnolia rather than pink. Maybe he DID see the colour and thought, no, THAT can’t be right. Who makes these colours up, anyway?