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Tsunami victims relied on tourism

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With the Christmas holiday behind us, January is traditionally a time to look forward and focus on the challenges the New Year holds. Normally, this first Caterer editorial of the year would contain a rousing call to arms, a reveille to hospitality workers still groggy from the festive season.

This year, it is impossible to focus beyond the terrible events of the past weeks and their deadly legacy. Compared with the scale of suffering the world is currently struggling to bear, Olympic bids, Chip-and-PIN and licensing laws pale into insignificance.

There’s nothing Caterer can tell you about South Asia’s Boxing Day disaster that you haven’t already seen or read, horrified, on television or in the newspapers. As this week’s issue went to press, the official number of lives lost to the tsunami stood at a mind-boggling 140,000, with as many as 200 Britons feared dead. But you will already know that. And you’ll already know, too, that hundreds of thousands more lives could be lost in the coming weeks and months, as famine and disease set in.

The waves that caused such devastation around the Indian Ocean killed mothers and children, fishermen and office workers, soldiers and holiday-makers. Yet the fact that so many of the communities affected were built upon tourism must carry a particular resonance for hospitality workers. Some of you will know friends or former colleagues stationed in the areas affected. All of you will be able to imagine the horror of witnessing a holiday resort transformed into a nightmare.

Talk of rebuilding must wait. Before then the world must address the task of safeguarding the lives of the survivors of the tsunami. And in this, we all have a part to play.

Already, hotel chains are acting to provide assistance to workers whose lives have been fractured by the disaster. Meanwhile, the UK’s hospitality community is exploring ways in which it can help the global aid effort. Associations are establishing charitable funds; restaurants are pledging takings.

Any such initiatives can expect Caterer’s full and active support.

Birmingham’s finest

For visitors to Hospitality at the NEC, eating and entertaining in Birmingham used to be a bit of a drag. But after watching Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool leave it for dead, Britain’s second city has risen to the challenge and is finally proving itself to be a sought-after cosmopolitan city. We highlight some of the places making that change, and in particular focus on Glynn Purnell, the 30-year-old Brum-born chef who is hotly tipped to win the city its first Michelin star.

Dan Bignold, Senior Features Writer

Masterclass from Wales

Laver seaweed is just the sort of produce every Welsh (and indeed British) chef should be thankful for: it’s delicious, it’s versatile and it’s an indigenous, traditional ingredient that will add character to your menu. One chef who has been handling laver for many years is Bryan Webb, whose restaurant, Tyddyn Llan, this year won the Good Food Guide‘s Welsh restaurant of the year. Michael Raffael met up with him to discover how to put this little-used crop to use.

Joanna Wood, Chef editor

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