The Caterer

Egon Ronay changed the face of UK gastronomy

17 June 2010 by
Egon Ronay changed the face of UK gastronomy

He may have complained that he wasn't a household name, but to those in the hospitality industry Egon Ronay will forever be associated with food excellence and quality service.

The Hungarian gourmet and food guide editor was described as a critic, but to those he gave recognition he was anything but. His desire to improve the diner's experience and the standard of cuisine is credited with laying the foundations for the country's culinary landscape as it is today.

When he came to these shores in 1946 Ronay found what he described as a "dowdy" food culture. Six years later he had established his own temple to gastronomy - the Marquee - in a converted tearoom near Harrods, where he prepared classical French cuisine.

It may have been his inclusion in Raymond Postgate's Good Food Guide, as well as the rise of the Michelin Guide in France, that led him to write his own. In 1957 he researched, wrote and published The Ronay Hotel and Restaurant Guide, selling 30,000 copies.

As Ronay built up the business and his reputation as a supreme judge of food, the industry around him responded to the encouragement by raising standards and embracing innovation.

It was not so long ago that any hotel or restaurant worth its salt would proudly display blue roundels indicating their listing.

So it is of no surprise that the cream of the industry has been queuing up to pay tribute to a man who was both honest and exacting.

Raymond Blanc said he "almost single-handedly influenced British gastronomy and British chefs to reconnect with their own creativity and confidence", adding that "he changed my life and will be hugely missed".

Meanwhile, Prue Leith said he was "passionate and concerned, but so knowledgeable and earnest", and Anton Mosimann said we all owe Ronay "a debt of gratitude, as he did an enormous amount to improve the standards in our industry".

Though he may not have received the recognition he craved outside the industry, within it he will be remembered for making an enormous contribution to the standard of service and cuisine we enjoy today.

Tributes flood in for veteran food critic Egon Ronay >> James Stagg, Content Editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper

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