When I was asked whether I would be interested in being guest editor for an edition of Caterer, I jumped at the chance. Several months down the line and a few planning meetings later I have my chance to steer some of the content of the magazine in a direction I believe to be important. Several ideas came to mind but most were linked to the perception of the foodservice sector of the industry and why it is often seen as a second-class citizen to the restaurant and hotel sectors.
I sent Caterer's writers on their way in search of the great, the glamorous, the glitzy, the inventive, the exciting and the entertaining - to encourage the sector to boast about how good it is. The selection they uncovered (see page 30) shows off some amazing things, from catering at big sporting events to dressing waiters in pink tutus for an arty event. One thing is for sure: if you are thinking about joining the industry, don't think of foodservice as boring or unchallenging; it has much more to offer than you think.
On another note, I read with interest in the Speciality Food Supplement that only 35 foods in this country have protected food status, compared with a total of 267 in France and Italy. I think there's a lesson to be learnt here: we must recognise the importance of our own regional foods and protect them before it is too late. It was also great to see so many food festivals happening around the UK. This is good for speciality food, good for chefs and good for tourism - look what has happened at Ludlow in Shropshire.
I was also interested to learn of the opportunities that future deregulation of the gambling industry might bring. I am sure that if this market develops there will be scope for contract caterers to get involved and offer a wide range of services to the gambling sector, from food and drink to valet parking.
No doubt if the gambling sector gets off the ground competition for a labour force, already in short supply, will intensify. You never know, perhaps a Hell's Kitchen-style training programme for croupiers might solve the training dilemma that will face the big casinos if deregulation goes through. On that point, good on you Gordon, Angela and Mark; I think Hell's Kitchen showed how tough an environment working in a kitchen is. And it showed that with training and perseverance anything is possible. I hope you enjoy reading their responses to Caterer's and my questions.