The next chapter 6 December 2019 Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the caterer and her people plans for the future
In this week's issue... The next chapter Lexington managing director Julia Edmonds on taking the helm at the caterer and her people plans for the future
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A little bit of recognition goes a long way

01 January 2000
A little bit of recognition goes a long way

You either love them or loathe them, but these days you just can't ignore them: "the guides", that is, those tomes of allegedly infinite wisdom that can have the hardest and most professional of chefs trembling at the knees in anticipation of the latest editions.

I know of friends and colleagues who have tossed and turned many a long night, writhing in the agony of not knowing whether today they will lose that magical star, or if their rating is going to be down or if, horror of horrors, they are to be dropped altogether, to suffer the indignity of people avoiding their beloved restaurant because "the guides" have seen fit to announce that they are no longer good enough or have slipped abysmally.

Let me state, up front, that my restaurant is not in any of the major guide books and I have never courted inclusion. Indeed, for many years, I have actively discouraged my clients from writing letters of glowing praise for my cuisine and my establishment.

You see, being a simple soul who loves to cook superbly fresh produce and with an absolute passion for fish and seafood, I have always preferred to see a room full of customers who arrived and wanted my food because they had been referred by reputation or by other satisfied diners.

To them, it would make no difference what the guides say, ‘cos I ain't there, you see. To them, I am as good as the last meal I served them, as the old cliché goes - but that, to me, is the reality.

Why then, oh why? are my thoughts turning away from this sound, tried-and-tested belief?

You see, I am about to embark on a mission which, I must admit, has always baffled me. I am about to seek inclusion in "the guides".

I personally use these books when I'm eating out, especially in a new area, and from the customer point of view I think they are very useful.

Unknown path

My journey, however, is to be from the other end, and I realise that my little old ego could take one helluva denting. What if my customers do read a none-too-flattering report? Am I to be consigned to the realms of an empty restaurant because of the unknown path I am about to tread?

Could it be that no longer will I hear those enchanting throw-away lines as my customer departs, "Thank you for a delightful meal, we've had a lovely evening," or "We thoroughly enjoyed our meal, see you again very soon"?

I need to hear those comments. For so long, they have been what has mattered, and regardless of any other opinion they will, in reality, always be the ones that matter.

Anyway, I sit wistfully enjoying the hour or so between lunch and dinner and my thoughts turn to the real reasons for embarking on this quest.

I employ a head chef and other young chefs in my kitchen, and over the past year I have become increasingly aware of the need for these people, and my wonderful front of house staff, to be properly recognised as the main players who make Bryce's what it is.

Apart from looking after them by way of salary and welfare, I believe that the only way I can do this is to gain national recognition for the establishment they helped create and run.

Perhaps, after 30 years, I crave the approval of my peers. The only time they have said to me "Yes, lad, you're doing OK" was three years ago, when I was invited to become a member of the Master Chefs of Great Britain by founder member Karl Lîderer, of Manleys in Sussex.

I had for many years admired his great skills. Little did I know he was also watching me. Many thanks.

But I'm still sitting here. Is this too easy an answer? Maybe, but it really is the only one I can think of. In other words, kudos for all! Well, we'll see.

Watch this space.

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