LETTER OF THE WEEK
Quest for 'perfect' vegetables is dictated by the supermarkets
What a world of contrasts we live in and now accept as the norm. Last week I read that a certain high-street store had invested a considerable sum of money in developing a "new vegetable".
It is in fact a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale, both of which are brassicas, but this isn't the point.
The same week I saw the BBC TV show Countryfile which reported that millions of pounds worth of vegetables are being ploughed back into the ground because the supermarkets won't accept them as they don't meet industry standards.
A spokesperson said, on behalf of the supermarkets, that the standard has been created by the public, but I beg to differ as I believe it is the supermarkets who have set these standards, and now we know at what cost.
Knobbly potatoes, bent carrots and irregular shaped cauliflowers are all perfectly good foods and would have been sold in markets throughout Britain a few years ago but now we plough them into the ground and complain about food shortages. This causes us to buy vegetables from abroad, and we pay high prices for our "perfect" plastic tray of cling-filmed vegetables.
If the supermarkets won't sell these irregular shaped, "normal" vegetables at a lower price then maybe local people should buy them from the farms and use them either at home or in schools, where budgets are always tight.
Nick Potts, Catering manager, Clifton College
Nick wins a bottle of Champagne, courtesy of Bakehouse
Haiti donations are having an immediate effect
Last week's General Managers' conference at the Jumeirah Carlton Tower in London was attended by a record 350 people. In fact it was fully booked before Christmas and there was a large waiting list from people who had not reserved their place in time. The conference was a huge success, judging from the many comments that are pouring in.
As we had just heard about the terrible tragedy of the earthquake in Haiti, the organising committee decided to switch the prize draw charity to help raise funds for the survivors. Delegates were very generous and we raised £4,200.
We have decided to give the money to Shelter Box, a charity that sends plastic boxes containing medical supplies and essentials such as tents. They told me that this collection will allow them to send another nine boxes to Haiti this week.
I am sure our delegates who read this and your other readers will be encouraged to learn that their contributions are having an immediate effect on people's lives in Haiti.
Jeremy Logie, Executive secretary, The Master Innholders
Peach Pub's view on training is an example to us all
Good for the Peach Pub Company (Caterer 22 January, page 36) in its view of staff training and the risk of losing them to other operators.
Sadly, some hospitality businesses still take the view that it is too costly to invest in training their staff. Some misguidedly believe it isn't needed, or it's a luxury when business is slow. The cost of not training is far higher - poor customer service, higher wastage, and the need to supervise staff constantly being just some of the consequences.
And others resent investing in training or think it's a waste of time as the people they train will probably then be tempted to leave and take their new skills elsewhere. Well, yes, maybe a few will leave, but if they do is this just because they now have better skills? I doubt it; if anything they are far more likely to stay if they are getting the right development and are well treated.
And when people do leave, businesses that demonstrate they are prepared to invest in their team will be one step nearer to being regarded as a good employer and one step nearer to attracting the calibre of people they want.
If every hospitality business took the same view as Peach Pubs we'd all benefit in the long run.
Rosa Di Mascio remembered
Rosa Di Mascio (59), who was highly respected in the industry, passed away peacefully on Boxing Day after a long but courageous fight with breast cancer.
Rosa had worked as HR manager at the Balmoral and Caledonian Hotels in Edinburgh, the Chester Grosvenor and Glasgow Hilton before setting up Solutions, her own management recruitment company, with two hotel colleagues.
She was a committed member of the Institute of Hospitality, serving as a branch member on several occasions.
Rosa subsequently took early retirement from the Chess Partnership in Edinburgh in 2007 due to her ill health.
She will be remembered as the consummate professional who, during the course of her career, helped many people to develop their own careers.
Lynn Abernethy, FIH