Do you know where your food comes from?

Now and again we get a letter, email, tweet or some sort of message asking us to take foie gras off the menu, how could we be serving such a cruel product?

I never reply, it’s not worth giving them the satisfaction telling them we only use the best suppliers for all our produce, buying from ethical farms that use hand rearing, free range and organic produce as much as possible. But I do often think do they know foie gras is the least of their problems when it comes to the welfare of animals.

I’d say a good majority of the population actually doesn’t know where or how the chicken, pork or beef they buy in their everyday supermarket comes from or how its even been treated.

Maybe they should ask themselves how can the same product vary in price so much just because it’s free range or organic compared to the value product that’s been massed produced and pumped with flavorings and water.

The video above doesn’t even need to say anything, 6 minutes without a word and it will leave you not only speechless but also thinking where to go shopping next.

Maybe you should think twice about buying that value product or even from that big chain supermarket and visit your local farmers market this weekend.

P.S stop sending us letters about foie gras.

Caramelized cauliflower soup with black pepper croutons

Ingredients:

Cauliflower
Onion
Garlic
Chicken or Vegetable stock 
Double cream
Bread

Method:

Heat a pan with a little vegetable oil

Cut the cauliflower into small pieces and add to the pan

Allow to catch a little on the bottom then stir with a wooden spoon scraping off any residue at the bottom (this is important flavor)

Keep doing this for about 10-15 mins until the cauliflower has broken down and is all caramelized

Add some sliced onion and garlic and cook out

Just cover with a little stock and bring to heat, add a little cream and allow to simmer

Blitz and taste for seasoning

Cut some bread into croutons and pan fry in a little butter and oil till golden, season heavenly with black pepper

Place the soup in a bowl and garnish with the croutons and a drizzle of olive oil

Tip: for some extra flavor and some cumin or coriander when caramelizing the cauliflower

Valentines, Shcmalentines.

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So Valentines is one of those made up holidays where we have to tell our partners that we love them, I hate this made up bullshit, I also feel sorry for all the people that try so hard each year to try and impress that some one special and go out and spend a fortune. You should be showing your love as often as possible to the one you love and not just on Valentines. 

For us in the hospitality trade it means a busy night, as the bookings of 2 tops come flying in, restaurants hire in more tables and put on a special set menu, hotels prices go up and the cost of flowers and chocolates doubles.

I’ve never minded working that night anyway as I’ve always been a bit of a valentines humbug, but for my recent Valentines working at Duck and waffle was something quite special, 

We had 281 covers booked (yes I know that’s an odd number, who knows what going on with a table of 3) Thats 140 tables of 2, a lot of tables.

We had such a mixed crowd in, every color, creed and race possible, Some young, some old, some rich, some not so well off, most had made an effort all suited, booted & what not and others well not quite so much, It was also nice to see lots of gay and lesbian couples in too, one of which were both deaf (would love to know where they met) and even a rapper from N-dubs. We literary had every couple possible.

And of course a proposal (she said yes). All this diversity and taking the time to savor the views from our 40 floors up really made me think how wonderfully diverse London is, It’s like a sweet shop, you can find whatever you want here.

I’m not quite a convert yet for valentines but who knows maybe love was in the air. whatever the occasion London is quite special. Unless your paying £200 per head for a set menu you didn’t want to pay for :)

looking after your regulars

All successful restaurant’s pay gratitude towards their customers but none so more than the regular.

This is the customer that you need to look after most, as once your time in the spotlight has come and gone and the new restaurant down the road opens up then it’s your repeat customers that keep you driving.

Now there are a few different types of regular’s

1. I’ll be back in a few months/year

2. I’ll be back next week/month

3. I’ll be back tomorrow

Number 1’s are great regulars and it”s great seeing them coming back, number 2’s are your more serious foodie’s, bloggers and fans and it’s always nice to send them a little something on the house but what you have to watch out for is your number 3’s on the list, this person has made your establishment their second home and they won’t take no for an answer, do not mess with this one.

I’ve served many different regulars throughout my time of cooking and have lot’s now that demand all sorts of things but one such guest I always remember - Mr Eaves.

I was working at Cliveden House hotel and apparently he was once a famous judge or something similar, very frail and this was quite a while ago but when I was cooking for him he seemed about 90 years old.

He would frequent all the big hotels and would always order the same meal no matter when he visited and if it was on the menu or not, It was always a choice of roast chicken or another game bird, with a side serving of turned potatoes and vegetables with bread sauce and gravy.

Now this doesn’t sound that hard to make but he was so old he would always fall asleep at the table, The waiters would have to bump into his chair to wake him up, from which he would then complain why his food was cold, so every time he visited you would have to make 2 or 3 portions of exactly the same meal and have the rest waiting to be served as soon as he woke.

He could dine up 3 times a week. that’s a lot of chickens

I heard a rumor from someone at Claridge’s Hotel that he would also dine there and eat exactly the same thing, one day a waiter tried to wake him and he had died. I’d like to think he’ still out there somewhere ordering his chicken and falling asleep.

Sometimes bending the rules can go a long way in the hospitality industry but no matter the customer regular or new they should all be treated the best way you can.

Who cook’s when your not there?

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As a chef you get asked a lot of the same questions “What’s your signature dish?”, “What’s your favorite thing to cook?”, “What type of cuisine do you cook?”, One that I love to answer though is “Who’s cook’s when your not there?

The answer is simple, The same people that cook when I am there!

The kitchen is full of hierarchy very similar to the military in ways, there are many different rolls throughout the brigade but the more senior you become the less actual cooking you do and the actual running of the kitchen becomes a priority.

Don’t get me wrong, as a senior chef you still cook but your not confined to a section or certain dishes, it’s your job to train and oversee all the other chefs to make sure there cooking your food the way you want it.

During service time the senior chefs will be pretty much conducting the other chefs, calling out checks, plating or finishing food, It’s all about a team effort from every chef, no one chef can do it alone.

It shouldn’t matter whenever you eat at a restaurant it should always be consistent and up to the standards expected no matter who is cooking.

Ooh La La

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When I was younger I got bored of working in London and wanted to gain experience further afield so I decided to move to Paris, I spoke with a mentor of mine and managed to get a job in a 2 Michelin star restaurant on the Champs élysées (hook up central right)

I knew a friend from my home town who was living in Paris called Dan and moved in with him, he lived in a school, in one of the roughest parts of Paris called Corbeil Essonne. Lets just say it wasn’t the nicest of areas, google it and see. He was a teacher (well by teaching he would hand out copy’s of the Sun newspaper and get the students to translate) he let me sleep on his floor, after just a week of living in an old class room and flooding adjacent rooms by leaving the shower on it was time to move more central. We found a place above a warehouse that was being used as an art studio, we weren’t actually supposed to be living there so the rent was pretty cheap. But it was a real strange place. Once the police has to be called because the landlord tried to strangle an art student who he was having an affair with because she tried to ruin some of his paintings. Do not mess with a woman scorned.

On my first day of work I entered the kitchen to a brigade of about 30 chefs and muttered the words “Parlez vous Anglais?” And got a swift answer of “Non”.  Brilliant. I barely speak English let alone French. I knew some basic kitchen French as being a chef it’s in the fundamentals so managed to just get by just but they gave me a tour completely spoken in French and I didn’t have a clue what they were saying really, they showed me where to get changed and I started pretty much straight away. The hierarchy in the kitchen was just like the army. There was no messing around here. My chef de Partie told me that he would speak to me in English on the first day but as of the next he wouldn’t. He was true to his word. We never spoke English again.

I learnt pretty quickly. I think in a situation where you are dependent on the language you soon pick it up, I would watch what others were doing and just copy, the head chef would come round and proper shout at me but I’d didn’t care because half the time I couldn’t understand what he was saying.  He was a proper dick. One thing I did learn from him was how not to treat people.

I worked like a donkey there. Almost 16 hour days everyday. It was mental but I learned a lot. The food was very classical but the techniques were second to none and the discipline was amazing. When a kitchen gets busy (what we call being in the shit) the chefs start to push. There you had to push from the moment you walked in the door. I mean the staff food was better than lots of restaurants I’ve been to, there was a staff canteen that would serve a three course meal twice a day cooked by the chefs not just using left overs like normal but actually cooking classic dishes. They would also serve any cheese that had been cut into from the cheese board using only whole ones for the customers. It was pretty special.

After about 6 months of having my arse run into the ground I decided I wanted to leave. My flatmate Dan had already left his job and the constant drinking was turning us into border line alcoholics. I didn’t want to let my mentor down though by only leaving after six months so we came up with an idea which was probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done.

We decided to fake the death of a sister that I didn’t even have. Dan was petty good at French at the time so he called up and explained that I won’t be coming back to  work as my (imaginary) sister had died. As you can imagine they were quite shocked and asked if they could have my address so they could send some flowers. Dan obliged and gave them my mums address back home.

Starting to panic I called my mum and explained not to worry if she received some flowers for someone she didn’t know and explained what we had done. As you can imagine she went mental and made Dan call the restaurant back, he then spoke again with the head chef and tried to explain that my imaginary sister wasn’t actually dead but just in a comma. That also didn’t go down to well.

To try and settle our nerves from the ordeal we had put ourselves through we began to drink quite a lot of wine. We hit the town to try and cheer ourselves up and what happens , yep I bump into some fellow or what I should now say as former employees from work. It doesn’t get better than trying to explain that situation. 

I’m not sure why I just didn’t tell the truth. I think for some reason at the time lying seemed easier. A lesson learned for a young Tom I tell you. 

I loved my time in Paris. It kind of made me change from a boy into a man. Those that know me will probably say I still haven’t changed. But I definitely learnt a lot there. Not just cooking but about life too. I have done a lot of stupid things there but most were a massive learning curve. Well as the French say “Cest la Vie”