In an ideal world, chefs would make their own sauce bases from scratch, but spiralling energy costs, time pressures and a lack of skilled staff mean this is no longer a given. With hundreds of covers to prepare at any time, banqueting is a particularly arduous task and chefs often need to call on pre-prepared products they can trust. Essential Cuisine has just extended its Signature jus range to help relieve the pressure on head chefs such as Imthiaz Kader at London's new Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel…
City hotels which cater for everyone from wedding guests to those on business have to be inextricably more than just a place to bed down these days, and the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel, which opened in March last year, has more than risen to the challenge.
With 1,000 bedrooms including 54 suites and penthouses, the £350m hotel on London's South Bank, within walking distance of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and the London Aquarium, is an attraction in itself, boasting everything from the newly-opened Mandara Spa and Fitness Centre to a 1,200sqm, pillar-free ballroom.
The balance between entertainment and relaxation has also been struck when it comes to the hotel's diverse dining facilities. No stone has been left unturned in ensuring every guest is catered for in accordance with their mood, their circumstances and their own pressures.
The jewel in the crown is the 200-seat French restaurant run by Joel Antunes, who has run kitchens in top hotels all over the world and was former chef partner of the Michelin starred Les Saveurs in the capital. After a year, his mark on the Park Plaza is already evident, with Giles Coren from The Times awarding Brasserie Joel nine out of 10 for Food and Service.
There is also the 30-seat, Japanese Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar, the 1WB Lounge & Patisserie for afternoon teas and the espressamente illy coffee shop, as well as 24-hour room service. You can even tuck into tapas alongside cocktails at the hotel's Primo Bar.
All this aside, city hotels could not survive these days without a major emphasis on business and conferencing, and the Park Plaza is no exception, boasting 31 meeting rooms, 2,700sqm of meeting space and the Atrium executive lounge for informal business negotiations.
A major banqueting operation completes the package, with head chef Imthiaz ‘Imi' Kader and his team serving anything up to 4,000 covers during the working week, without considering wedding receptions booked in over the weekend.
Preparing such a high volume of covers, while meeting the highest of expectations, is no mean feat, especially if you are making every single ingredient completely from scratch.
Making stock, the backbone of a dish, from start to end in a stockpot, is a particularly thankless task, according to Imi, a process which can take anything up to eight hours.
Creating an exquisite jus with great depth and flavour goes even further. Once you have skimmed your stock, it needs to be repeatedly reduced to achieve the ultimate base for finished jus and sauces.
Finding a time-saving solution in top end operations is a challenge, a conundrum Essential Cuisine endeavoured to solve when the stocks and sauces expert launched its Signature Beef Jus two years ago. Proving a hit, the company has just launched a red wine version.
Both Signature Beef and new Signature Red Wine Jus come in 1ltr Tetra Paks and make life easier for hotels, restaurant chains and independents, five star banqueting and gastro pubs.
While ready to use, each product is deliberately basic so chefs can create their own signature sauces and, made from the finest ingredients, has the taste and performance of a finished, kitchen-made jus, with a clean flavour, mirror-like sheen and viscous mouth feel.
With excellent holding qualities, they can be re-heated, extended or finished to a chef's own recipe, from a red wine and rosemary jus to a Bourguignon sauce.
Saving time and money
Already a fan of Essential Cuisine, using its range of powdered stocks, Classic Demi-Glace and Lobster Bisque for many years, Imi was more than happy to put the Signature range to the test, keen to save time and improve consistency, but with no compromise on quality.
"I have used the Signature Beef Jus since its launch, as an adaptable base for everything from my pepper sauces for fillet steaks through to our whisky and morel sauce," said Imi, a sous chef at London's Hilton Heathrow for more than a decade before joining the Park Plaza.
"The new Signature Red Wine Jus is a welcome addition, and I use it as a glaze for my lamb shanks amongst other things. What is great about it is that I can add a little more wine and herbs to give me the colour and texture I personally like, but it is also perfectly good neat, warmed up straight from the pack, and I would have no problem using it this way.
"Every chef loves to say they make their own jus, but, especially in banqueting, it's a matter of time and a lack of quality staff. By finding the right products, we are saving a day's labour roasting off, perhaps, 50 kilos of veal bones, which cost around £250 a throw. Once you've added in your wine and other ingredients, you are looking at a total cost of around £700.
"Essential's Signature jus is not a cheap product, but the point is that it is extremely cost effective in operations such as ours, working out at around 25p per dish. Joel likes to do his own thing in the brasserie, but I would have no problem recommending the range to him."
The commitment to NPD at Essential Cuisine also appeals to Imi. "I started using them more than a decade ago and they have just got better and better, finding new ways to develop products to improve taste and quality," he said. "Their Lobster Bisque, for example, for my fish soup in banqueting is fool proof. I have converted and continue to convert many a chef."
This press release was provided by Essential Cuisine