Chef's bible, and a word from on high

01 January 2000
Chef's bible, and a word from on high

In a world of constant change, it was encouraging to read recently (Caterer, 10 September, page 71) that Practical Cookery, by Victor Ceserani and Ronald Kinton, has sold one million copies and is going strong after 35 years.

I was a student at college when Practical Cookery was first published and hailed as the bible for aspiring chefs.

But merely hearing again about that book, which is still on my shelf, brought back a flood of memories about my college days at what is now Waltham Forest College.

In those days, the City & Guilds course was a three-year, full-time programme and we would spend our summers working in any kitchen that would employ us.

My first summer job was in the staff cafeteria of a large local chemical plant. At college, we had been trained in the correct methods of preparing everything, especially the soups and sauces, as had the head chef at the chemical plant, but he also lived in the real world of tight costs and meeting budgets.

Once, he asked me if I knew how to make a gallon of béchamel sauce. I repeated, in my best Ceserani and Kinton fashion, the ingredients and method. "Excellent," he said, "but we're a bit short of milk today, so could you use half milk and half water?" Five minutes later he returned, saying: "On second thoughts, use all water."

As the introduction to my edition of Practical Cookery says: "The student must expect variations to the recipes from professional cooks."

Communication is the lifeblood of any business. But it can be a real challenge - especially in local government.

During the summer holidays we had a lot of building work going on in schools in Havering. As I live in the neighbouring borough, you can imagine how surprised I was when, sitting in church the Sunday before the schools were due to open, I heard the priest announce: "I have just received a fax. St Mary's School in Havering will not be opening next week due to the building work taking place."

Now I had not received any notification of this from the school, the education department, the contractors, or anyone in the council, but our priest had received a FAX.

I didn't like to ask him who this omniscient message was from, but I have a good idea.

Richard Ware is head of catering and house services at the London Borough of Havering

Next diary from Richard Ware: 19 November

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