Conran critics are carping at success
I am dismayed that it should be possible for a recently published guidebook to publicise its condemnatory conclusions about Sir Terence Conran's restaurants and to belittle (or worse) Sir Terence's immense influence on London's catering scene.
A trail-blazer, Sir Terence had the courage in 1993 to sink millions into Quaglino's and revive the then half-dead Mayfair. The subsequent700-seater in the middle of Soho (madness, said everyone at the time) has been constantly full. And there have been other imaginative ventures. Londoners owe him a debt of gratitude for having injected so much excitement and for the tourist draw from which other caterers benefit, let alone the innovative organisational skills - a lesson to all. In my humble view, in a number of his establishments the food is unquestionably noteworthy, unexpectedly so, considering their size. And one or two of the dishes I have had in his largest places were memorable.
As for the guide, which achieved much publicity with its views of the Conran empire,it has acknowledged that it came to its conclusions by distilling the judgements of a great number of readers. I shall surely be accused of bias ("He would say that, wouldn't he?"), yet I have to ask: can the judging of a restaurant's cooking be a matter ofdemocratic vote by a large number of readers with highly diverse palates and questionable qualifications?
The assessment of a restaurant's cooking arrived at by a considerable number of people is naturally shaky. So the judgement of 10 timesas many amateur customers is at least 10 times as shaky.
In this country great success seems to be unpopular.
english produce needs our support
STEPHEN and Janice Gosson of Weymouth (Caterer, 15 October, page 24) go to great lengths to put up a staunch defence of their Mallams at the Quay restaurant, its policy of using the finest English produce, and the sterlingwork being done to promote local foodstuffs by those involved in Taste of the West and its fair in Bristol in November.
What the Gossons highlight is all very good, and I applaud it loudly.
But they were writing to attack me for my own Viewpoint (Caterer, 1 October, page 24), which complained that not enough was beingdone by English caterers en masse to promote Englishfare.
I was not pouring scorn on those people such as the Gossons (whose establishment I very much look forward to visiting when next in Weymouth) but those - mainly big nationwide chains - who prefer to ship in foreign produce, to the detriment of their customers and this country's hard-pressed producers.
My Viewpoint was focused on two recent incidents where I was personally shocked to find that England fell so far short of France in the number of people promoting local fare. I did not mean to imply that we English do nothing but thatwe do not do enough to promote our home-grown produce.
I happened to highlight seafood, but I could just as easily have picked any area of the fishing or agricultural industries in this country - they are all suffering terribly at the moment.
All I would ask the Gossons to consider is this: why arethis country's fishermen and farmers facing such crisesif enough is already beingdone to promote Englishfood?
Labour will tackle race issue
FURTHER to the recent article "Ethnic minorities still face racism in catering sector" (Caterer, 8 October, page 4), one of the main things discussed at this year's Labour Party Conference in Blackpool, at the Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities Policy Forum, was the issue of racial discrimination in this subsector.
One of the fundamental points highlighted was that there were not enough employment opportunities being created for the dynamic, experienced, professional, qualified black, Asian and ethnic minorities, especially those attempting to go into senior management posts.
The Government is now planning to change the present employment laws. Amendments will make way for new standards and assessment criteria, when staff from disadvantaged groups are recruited into the industry at all levels. The Government wants to work more closely with some of the relevant organisations, such as the Commission for Racial Equality.
A new backbench Parliamentary committee is also being formed, so that when legislation goes through the pending stage in Parliament, backbench MPs will be able to lobby appropriate ministers, at the final endorsement stage during recess at Parliamentary question time.
The prime minister stated at last year's Labour Party conference: "Some issues are still controversial in certain industries today, because there are not enough black or Asian MPs or a single black or Asian High Court judge."
Executive committee member,
Leicester South Constituency Labour Party.
Critical control is too much
HAS the food safety world gone mad? We have reputable training organisations telling us that we have to use the principles of HACCP orthat we must send our managers on HACCP certificate courses.
I defy anyone to tell me to use HACCP principles. Not even the Industry Guides to Good Hygiene Practice insist on HACCP.
Please, could the food safety educators, experts and enforcers start talking plain English and cut out the awful jargon?
It isn't in any decent caterer's mind to poison much-valued customers. But being bogged down by Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points could in itself prove a hazard to our food safety standards.
How about replacing itwith Hot And Cold Catering Practices?
courses do make time for leisure
I WOULD like to correct a comment made by John O'Flynn of the Carrigaline Court Hotel (Opportunities 98 Ireland, Caterer, 24 September, page 90), regarding thenon-inclusion of leisure management as a subject on, and I quote, "standard hotel training programmes".
The School of Hospitality Management and Tourism, at the Dublin Institute of Technology, has for morethan 50 years been involvedin providing courses inhotel management at both diploma and degreelevels.
In pursuit of excellence,we continuously review and revise our courses in consultation with industryand other interested parties.As a consequence of such a review three years ago, we recognised that hotel managers, while investing heavily in leisure facilities,had little or no knowledge of same.
As a result, our Diploma in Hotel & Catering Management (three years' duration) gives students the option, in their final year, to specialise in Conference and Leisure Management (subjects include Conference and Leisure Management, Entertainment and Event Management, Conferenceand Leisure Marketing andan additional foreign language).
Other majors offeredallow students to specialisein Food and Beverage Management, Front Office, and Accommodation Management.
We feel that this gives the graduates from this coursea distinct competitive advantage.
Lecturer in Hospitality Management,
Dublin Institute ofTechnology,
blackpool students reach 50
THE Blackpool Hotel and Catering Students Societyis celebrating its 50thanniversary next year, on25-26 June.
As you are probablyaware, Blackpool Hotel and Catering School was the first school outside London and many of its students have achieved success in the industry.
Ex-students interested in joining the celebrationshould contact Mike Coyle of 248 Hawes Side Lane, Blackpool FY4 5AH.Tel: 01253 761778.Fax: 01253 697401. E-mail: email@example.com. He will be pleased to give you further information of the event.
Extending the Swedish empire?
THE cartoons that illustrate your quiz are always entertaining. But I'm sure Anton Mosimann and many of his countrymen would be surprised to see a Swedish flag sticking out of one of Switzerland's national dishes (Caterer, 15 October, page 74).
Dudley, West Midlands.