let's bring the system up to date
FURTHER to the letter by Graham Aimson (Caterer, 11 June, page 26) I felt I must write and question his views regarding working conditions that kitchen staff have to suffer.
I am a college lecturer working under a system that we all know could be better. We are preparing students for the trade as well as that system allows us to do, but I cannot understand the attitude that chefs should be expected, as a norm, to work 16 hours a day for six days a week.
Why should our profession be any different from others? Why should we accept working hours and conditions that went out at the turn of the century? What justification can he, or anyone else for that matter, have for advocating such poor conditions?
Head chefs up and down the country complain that the students they get from college are not prepared for the trade but, instead of encouraging these college-leavers, they frighten them away by expecting them to work all hours and put up with verbal, mental and often physical abuse, and they pay them a menial salary.
It is very clear to myself and others why this profession is so very short of qualified staff, and it is about time it became a lot clearer to those who justify to themselves that the status quo on conditions must remain. If they do not wake up to these short-sighted attitudes, they will eventually find that their business will suffer as there will be no qualified staff left in the trade for them to employ.
hotting up for a curry charity day
WITH fewer than five months to go, the heat is on for this year's National Curry Day. It will take place on Tuesday 10 November, when various businesses across the UK, with the support of the public, will join forces to raise money for two charities, the Prince's Trust and the new Mother and Child charity, which aims to help women and children in developing countries.
This year it is hoped that even more money will be raised than the £25,000 of last year.
If any organisation would like to participate and register they should write directly to National Curry Day 98, Track Marketing, Suite 310, Riverbank House, 1 Putney Bridge Approach, London, SW6 3JD.
National Curry Day 98.
how do we know they were happy?
I REFER to your Menuwatch article, "Nice bit of crackling" (Caterer, 11 June, page 42).
I was appalled at the suggestion made that pork used by the Swan in Southwold came from "happy pigs". I wonder if this fact makes a difference to the flavour of the meat, and I question how such an assumption came to be made in the first place.
Was a survey done beforehand to establish if the pigs were happy knowing that the fate that awaited them was the slaughterhouse?
Would David Smith, chef de cuisine at the Swan, be happy if he was first fed sumptuous dishes of home-grown barley and a mixture of beer and yeast, only to be transported to a brutal death and finished off as "crackling like you've never tasted"?
it's the world cup - time for a holiday!
OVER the many years that we have been in the hotel business, it has become apparent that June is a very quiet month for us - so much so that we have often taken a short holiday at this time.
We have repeatedly asked ourselves why this should happen, as the rest of the year we have a very steady and increasing pattern of business.
I did a little research by trawling through past reservations books and realised that, of course, it is the main social sporting month of the year. We now know that, should we wish, we can go away for the whole of Wimbledon fortnight with no great loss.
This year has been great - until the beginning of the World Cup. From 12 July we will be rushed off our feet as usual, but I see no way to combat the extraordinary pull that these sporting fixtures have on the tourist industry. Have other hoteliers noticed this trend? What, if anything, can we do to entice our customers away from Henley, Ascot and Wimbledon, not to mention the football, on their televisions? Perhaps we should lobby the various organisations to get their act together and reorganise the sporting fixtures so that they are evenly spaced throughout the year. That way we would all benefit.
MARY ANN GILCHRIST
cutting off the cobra connection
IN HER otherwise excellent article on Indian restaurants (Caterer, 18 June, page 54), Rosalind Mullen repeats a factual inaccuracy which first appeared in your Table Talk column some weeks ago - that I am responsible for the marketing of Cobra Beer.
In fact, I have not held this brief and have not been connected with Cobra Beer for 12 months. It is an important point to make because I am led to believe the main reasons that the trade associations are undertaking a campaign to boycott Cobra Beer following the controversy surrounding my article in Tandoori Magazine is because they think I am still involved in it.
I am not, and have not been for some time. Trade associations, please note.
The Cinnamon Club,
COURTESY APPLIES TO BOTH SIDES
While I agree with Ian Browning and the comments he made in his letter (Caterer, 18 June, page 22), I must add that I have just experienced the boot on the other foot.
Yesterday I had an appointment to attend an interview for the position of general manager for a hotel with a large company that was advertised recently in Caterer. On my arrival at the hotel I was informed that the person I was to see had "popped out to get some lunch", and was asked to take a seat. As I was 25 minutes early for my interview, I could understand that I could be kept waiting, even though I had skipped lunch myself to make sure I had enough time to travel by car for two hours.
What I could not believe was the fact that I was left for 30 minutes after my appointment time without anyone from the hotel staff apologising for keeping me waiting.
As a general manager employed at present by another company, I needed to return to my place of work as soon as possible, this being our busy part of the season. Due to this unprofessional attitude of keeping prospective employees waiting, I decided this company was not for me and left to face a further two-hour drive. I ended up where I started five hours later and £20 in fuel costs worse off.
Today I tried to telephone the managing director of this company to explain how perturbed I was at receiving such treatment from one of his company's representatives, only to be told that he was away on holiday by his secretary - who thought my experience was funny, and laughed.
Name and address withheld
AWARENESS CAN SAVE LIVES
AS A fellow survivor of anaphylaxis, I was sorry to learn that a reader had suffered a dangerous reaction to nuts and been hospitalised (Caterer, 11 June, page 27).
As a national executive member of the Anaphylaxis Campaign, which supports those at risk, I have been involved in work with catering and food manufacturing businesses, and liaison with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of Health, hospitality professional associations and training bodies to promote awareness and prevent potentially fatal reactions in the future.
In the UK, at least one person in 200 is at risk, and the problem is growing at an alarming rate. Not only does it influence the eating-out decision-making of sufferers, but also of their friends, family and business associates. I now carry out awareness-training programmes and help catering businesses to minimise the risks to allergic customers in the context of their normal working practices.
At best, this will prevent tragic deaths and needless emergency treatment. At least, an effective allergy-handling protocol may contribute to a "due diligence" defence in case of disaster.
please check your restaurant guides
IT HAS come to our attention that an organisation trading as Saga Publishing, of St George's House, St George's Road, London, is purporting to publish the "1998 Good Restaurant Guide" in August of this year. We would like to make it clear to you and your readers that this publication has absolutely nothing to do with The Good Food Guide 1998, which was published in October 1997 by Which? Ltd, part of the Consumers' Association.
We are currently investigating the basis upon which the "1998 Good Restaurant Guide" is compiled.
Head of publishing,