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Festive tales from the hospitality world

17 December 2009 by
Festive tales from the hospitality world

With 2009 drawing to a close, Caterer asks some of the hospitality industry's greats to share their most memorable festive tales as well as their thoughts for the year ahead. Kerstin Kühn rounds up the best answers.

What do you love most about Christmas?

"Receiving expensive presents - where's my annual subscription to Caterer?"
Anthony Marshall, executive chef, London Hilton on Park Lane hotel

"Guilt-free gluttony."
Peter Hancock, chief executive, Pride of Britain Hotels

"When our dog, Merlot, was still alive she would attack the presents, as she loved unwrapping them. It was great fun to watch."
Gerard Basset, co-founder of Hotel du Vin and owner of Hotel Terra Vina

"Leaving the carnage of Christmas morning - children and in-laws - to go to work to serve the staff a glass of Champagne then return home to a cooked lunch having won the sympathy vote for working Christmas Day."
Andrew McKenzie, managing director, the Vineyard at Stockcross

"Decorating the house and tree and seeing my son's face when opening the presents that Santa has brought him. There's no better feeling than seeing the joy in your children's faces on Christmas Day."
Kenny Atkinson, executive chef, Rockliffe Hall


If you were a Christmas lunch ingredient, which would you be, and why?

"I'd be the lit brandy on the pudding: a minor ingredient but one that likes to be noticed."
Peter Hancock

"I would be the cracker - full of bad jokes."
Robert Cook, chief executive, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin

"I'd be the bread sauce: the life and soul of the party but useless the next day."
Marina O'Loughlin, food critic, Metro London

"I'd be the turkey: nicely bronzed, the centre of attention and I don't mind having my leg pulled!"
Jonathan Raggett, managing director, Red Carnation Hotels

"I'd be a mince pie - soft and velvety on the outside and warm and spicy on the inside."
Gerard Basset


What's the best way to serve Brussels sprout?

"Not at all. The life-cycle of the Brussels sprout is one of nature's mysteries. Like the mayfly it spends the vast majority of its life unseen, then emerges for one day a year and nobody knows why."
Jonathan Raggett

"Brussels sprouts are best served in a risotto with chestnuts."
Jason Atherton, chef-director, Maze Restaurants

"Quickly blanch them, then straight into foaming butter with unsmoked dry-cure bacon and chopped hazelnuts. Cook until al dente and serve immediately with a splash of sherry vinegar."
John Campbell, director of cuisine and food and beverage, Coworth Park

"They're best served with the windows open."
Peter Hancock

"Blanch them in boiling salted water for a few minutes then refresh in iced water to help retain their colour and texture. To finish, sauté a little diced smoked bacon until just cooked, add in the halved Brussels sprouts and toss with the bacon. Add chopped parsley and season with salt, pepper and a little lemon juice."
Kenny Atkinson


What was your worst culinary Christmas disaster?

"When I was an apprentice, I poured flaming brandy up a waitress's arm."
Robert Kirby, chef-director, Lexington Catering

"Cooking the top of the blender with the turkey. A neighbour (a chemical engineer, as it happened) correctly opined it would probably not kill us."
Richard Harden, co-editor, Harden's Restaurant Guide

"Asking a Belgian chef to quickly make some mince pies. He used beef."
Harry Murray, managing director, Lucknam Park hotel

"The first Christmas after I got married I was in charge of the cooking. I'd had far too much to drink during the morning and when I opened the oven I dropped the turkey, which then slid across the kitchen floor and straight out of the open back door, landing upside-down on the grass outside. I brushed it off, but during lunch my old Nan found a tuft of grass on her plate."
Simon Titchener, managing director, ISS Eaton

"After working a tough 16-hour shift for John Burton Race on Christmas Day I returned to my grim staff accommodation to find my fridge had broken down. All the food was off, so I had to settle for a warm Stella as an aperitif followed by a main course of chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle, with out-of-date After Eight mints for dessert."
Alan Murchison, chef-patron, L'Ortolan and La Bécasse


What's the best way to use up Christmas leftovers?

"Thick pieces of sourdough toast filled with roast turkey, cranberry sauce, cold stuffing and Branston pickle."
Tom Aikens, chef-patron, Restaurant Tom Aikens and Tom's Kitchen

"Deep-fry them (I'm Scottish)."
Marina O'Loughlin

"Get your portions right and there are no leftovers!"
Robert Kirby

"Invite the neighbours who you've spent all year upsetting around for a ‘special buffet'."
David Mulcahy, craft and food development director, Sodexo

"Put them in a bin bag outside - Christmas isn't just for children, it's for rats and foxes too!"
Peter Hancock

What's the worst Christmas present you've ever been given?

"A nasal hair remover from my mother-in-law when I was in my mid-20s. It would be useful now."
Andrew McKenzie

"That would be the ‘I'm too sexy' T-shirt."
Richard Ball, managing director, Calcot Manor

"Toss-up between a turquoise towelling tracksuit my father told me would ‘go beautifully with a pair of silver strappy sandals' and a set of Volvo crash dummies."
Marina O'Loughlin

"Something I gave to someone the year before."
John Campbell

"It was a present from my mother when I was 14, a purple shell suit with pink stripes down the side. What a twat I looked that Christmas!"
Kenny Atkinson

Who would you kiss under the mistletoe?

"James Bond."
Helena Puolakka, executive chef, Skylon

"My general manager [Michael Shepherd] - anything for a bonus!"
Anthony Marshall

"Anyone who is not repulsed by the idea of kissing me."
Peter Hancock

"My wife would be the best bet, unless Rachel Hunter was around."
Robert Cook

"Scarlett Johansson in the Moët & Chandon advert."
Andrew McKenzie

What has been your favourite part of 2009?

"Winning Caterer‘s Hotelier of the Year. I still can't believe it!"
Jonathan Raggett

"Getting back our second Michelin star."
Claude Bosi, chef-patron, Hibiscus

"Seeing the end of it. What a terrible year for our industry."
Claudio Pulze, restaurateur

"On a personal note, it would be the birth of my second son, Aidan. On a professional note, being invited to compete on the BBC's Great British Menu, and going all the way to the banquet. It was such an honour to cook for the troops."
Kenny Atkinson

"La Bécasse receiving its first Michelin star. I was so proud of Will Holland and the team, it brought a tear to my eye."
Alan Murchison

What are you looking forward to the most in 2010?

"Visiting our oldest son and family in Australia and accompanying my youngest son, who is running the famous Comrades Marathon in South Africa. It's a 56-mile race which I completed when I was his age."
Harry Murray

"My second baby in March, perhaps a book deal, and all the challenges work will bring."
Helena Puolakka

"A change of government."
Peter Hancock

"Getting out of the economic downturn and putting the Great back into Britain."
Nick Vadis, UK executive chef, Compass Group

"My mission to get people excited about our amazing industry and West Ham escaping relegation."
Jonathan Raggett

Which style of cuisine will be big in 2010?

"Evolved tapas; gourmet pizza and burgers; ‘family-style' dining - dishes for sharing."
Marina O'Loughlin

"I think modern British food will be big and there will be a hell of a lot more emphasis on local produce. I believe there will be a lot more gastropubs getting Michelin stars next year."
Kenny Atkinson

"There are a number of areas to hit the food scene in 2010 including more diverse South American cooking from Brazil, Argentina and Peru; street food and planet-conscious eating."
Simon Titchener

"Sous-vide will become part of mainstream techniques across the industry, not just in fine dining. I also believe we will all be looking to work more closely with farmers' markets and local suppliers. Britain has some amazing produce out there and we just need to work a bit harder to get it into our restaurants."
Alan Murchison

Which type of cuisine, or which ingredient, will be on its way out?

"Foams and froths, with any luck."
Robert Kirby

"Bluefin tuna."
Tom Aikens

"It'll hopefully be really bad copy-cats of modern chefs who put no real research or true energy into their food. It's all about being famous - I hate it."
Jason Atherton

"The celebrity chef."
Marina O'Loughlin

"Foie gras."
Kenny Atkinson

Who will win the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and why?

"What sport is that?"
Thomasina Miers, co-owner, Wahaca

"Is there a world cup next year? We Scots will be watching the movie Out of Africa instead."
Andrew McKenzie

"Don't have a preference. I just hope Thierry Henry has a really bad tournament (he isn't too popular with the Irish)."
David Mulcahy

"Well, to start with, who's taking part?"
Richard Harden

"Certainly not France. Without Zidane they look extremely ordinary."
Gerard Basset

"Got be England. It's our turn. (Are we in it?)"
Richard Ball

What will be your New Year ‘s resolution?

"Don't ever have one. If you need the New Year as an excuse to do something, then you might as well not bother. Departing of two stone would be good, though."
Robert Kirby

"Not to lose any weight."
Andrew McKenzie

"Try not to open too many restaurants, as ordered by my wife."
Claudio Pulze

"I want to be a qualified pilot by the time I'm 40 in June. So far I've logged 30 hours."
Chris Horrige, executive chef, Cliveden House

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