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Tim Hayward

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Everything posted by Tim Hayward

  1. ...to the point of undermining the entire ridiculous farrago.
  2. This completely bears out the experiences of other allergy sufferers I've spoken to (some family, a few friends and several I've interviewed formally over the last few months). They get 100% of my sympathy, total support when I'm cooking for them or eating with them and, as far as I'm concerned, they deserve medals for working with people to deal with the situation. I'm checking through my contacts with allergies now and I'm not turning up a single one who doesn't find the FSA suggestions patronising and unnecessary. Interestingly, several have pointed out that this kind of thing also undermines the sympathetic support they get from food retailers and fellow diners that makes it possible to function. It's making them angry too.
  3. That seems absolutely right to me. But your experience seems to indicate a restaurant that simply didn't have the info or the wherewithal to back up the offer they felt they had to make. Obviously, as businesses offering food to the public, restaurants are the ones most likely to be sued if such a thing should actually occur, but it does seem that individuals with a potentially life threatening allergy are far more capable of managing themselves when going out than this sort of advice gives them credit for. Is it not patronising to assume that someone with a food allergy cannot be trusted to manage their own condition. "Label everything because the tiny number of people who can be killed by their food are really too dim to make that clear when eating in a public place". As a matter of interest, I'd love to see some stats for the number of people who die of food allergies in restaurants per year. I think allergy sufferers are more clever and grown up than they're getting credit for. Surely an allergy sufferer walking into a restaurant is going to be like a haemophiliac at a knife juggling convention... Somewhat attuned to his surroundings.
  4. Splendid new guidance offered by the FSA recommends that food retailers take more responsibility for informing customers of the possible presence of allergens. I'm interested how the maths on this adds up. We're already used to entire planeloads of people being denied nuts in case a single individual with an undiagnosed nut allergy should suddenly discover it in flight but how much more responsibility for separate allergies can retailers be expected to bear? The growing allergy lobby obviously considers this a matter of life and death. Why is it assumed that catering for allergies is like catering for real disability, ie legislation should ensure that the genuinely disadvantaged should not be discriminated against. Surely it should be more akin to coat theft where clients are gently reminded that looking after themselves is their own responsibility. At what point does it make more sense to put a sign in the window saying "The management apologise but they take no particular precautions concerning food allergies". It would clearly save many more lives
  5. Well we know for certain that C4s unprecedented food crusade has already achieved its objectives which were relaunching and reaffirming the channel's public service credentials after a shite year, using readily available assets. Now they matter has raised a degree of public debate, C4 can point to it and be smug. With the exception of Jamie's off-the-cuff comments about the ones that didn't turn up (for which he has fulsomely and publicly apologised) no supermarket was damaged in the making of these programmes. On the contrary, some have been able to appear on the programmes to look really concerned and then announce the launch of their new ranges or sourcing policies. Was there anybody out there who thought this was about chickens?
  6. This just in. HFW’s Chicken Run got 3.5 million viewers three nights running, Thursday’s Dispatches on food labelling got 3 million and Jamie’s Fowl Dinners got 4 Million. These are very good numbers. To put them in some sort of context, Big Brother’s Celebrity Highjack (anything BB is seen as ‘an earner’ for the channel) got around 800,000.
  7. Huzzah! We have to be arrogant, metropolitan elitists. It gives those poor bastards in the provinces something to unite them. If the Cornish couldn't agree with Geordies and the Scousers that Londoners were self-obsessed, effete ponces with overpriced flats, they'd realise that they all hate each other. We give them something to talk about. eG should pay us. Our bigotry gives the conversation direction.
  8. Sorry, but just to bring this back onto track. It's really important to be specific about the difference between FR and Organic birds. FR birds 'range freely'. They are usually slow growing breeds, fed well and generally treated more humanely. An FR bird is at worst a couple of quid more expensive than an intensively reared one. The Soil Association's rules for an Organic chicken are specific not only on the treatment of the bird but also the condition of the land over which they range and the provision of organically certified feed. This makes them much more expensive. I've seen them double the price of similar sized intensively fed birds. One of the irritations of the HFW show was the constant reference of the ranting, frothing, Little-Englander, NIMBY Nazis of Axminster to the £20 Organic chickens that the posh boy from up that London was trying to persuade them to buy. Although HFW himself seemed to be mentioning organic standards a lot concerning his own chooks, his aim, as I saw it, was purely to convert that pustular bumhole of a town to FR or indeed more humanely reared birds. I too, have seen no advantage whatsoever in any organic chicken I've ever bought over a similar bird that was simply FR. Part of what is making this argument so intractable is the confusion, intentional or otherwise, of organic and FR birds.
  9. Agreed. But here's a question. If the diet of the population of the UK is to improve what is most likely to be responsible... 1) A sudden attack of altruism by supermarkets and the food business 2) Government legislation 3) A nationwide alertness to diet led by a bunch of whining middle-class busybodies in the national media?
  10. Hold on, you almost had me for a moment. What's badly? Sorry. Sloppy language. What I tried to establish above is that the exact definition of well/badly is not that important to the argument. If people who are educated about food and can afford it know that a certain kind of diet is preferable that's enough. As I said above, the animal cruelty argument is not important to me. As it happens, my politics are broadly left of centre so I have a simpler picture. What really burns me is that a business sector makes a profit by shafting both animals and customers (torturing the animals, selling shite food to the ignorant and poor) and is at the very least allowed to get away with it by government. That sucks. The chattering classes are they're own worst enemy. It's the chattering classes who get into a hand-wringing, Liberal funk about efforts to effect social change. vide this entire thread. If the members of the chattering classes who were members of the legislature weren't so bloody pusilanimous, this stuff would be a matter of public policy, not opinion.
  11. Just an addition to the above. An observation really. In all the recent chicken programmes, with one exception, the complaints about cost were, as far as I could see, second hand. The woman in Axminster who HFW saw buying BOGOF chickens actually said she, personally, couldn't afford FR for her family. Other than that, every objection was some indignant soul, divulging the priceless piece of wisdom 'Some people are on very tight budgets you know' - not me, you understand. 'Some people'. Granted, it's a function of the kind of people likely to participate in a TV show about chickens but I thought it was worth pointing out. It seems to me that everybody participating in this debate is a middle class busybody - even those supposedly representing the voice of the poor.
  12. Up to a point, Lord Copper. Disclaimer 1) For me, the cruelty argument is immaterial. If we are going to eat animals, we have to kill them. We're likely to breed and manage them for efficiency. Between gassing male chicks and shooting male calves, there's no difference but fluff. Killing things to eat them is never going to look nice - I'm glad to be reminded how it happens occasionally. I've killed a few myself. I chose to live with it. I can't form an argument against battery farming and continue to eat foie gras. I can't form an argument against selective breeding for breastier, faster growing chickens yet still eat Simmenthal or Kobe. So, with that in mind. Take the money out of the picture for a minute. As privileged, educated, middle-class foodies, we buy FR wherever we can because it tastes better, it's less likely to contain hormones but mainly because we cook from base ingredients and want to put good stuff in our bodies. Whether or not we can do this might be a matter of our financial circumstances, but desire to do so is based on knowledge. A middle class foodie would say - if I can't afford FR chicken, I'll eat less or I'll cook other things. Any other person with enough knowledge about food and its preparation would applaud. Yes. Good. That is the right thing to do. What gets me is this pusillanimous middle class terror or standing by that assumption. Genital mutilation, 'honour' killing etc are, in my book, wrong things to do. The excuse that we should allow people to carry on doing these things 'because it's their culture/religion' is, to me, the worst sort or moral relativism. Cooking and eating badly is an entirely different degree of problem but the relativism is still there. I don't think the poor are wrong because they don't know as much as middle class foodies. I think it's the job of anyone who knows to educate. But to simply say 'They're poor. We're we're being elitist if we say they should spend their money on decent food instead of widescreen TVs and steak for the pit-bull' is just ducking the point. Cooking and eating well is a life skill that everyone should have. If those who know are not going to teach it to those who don't it will continue to atrophy. Look back to the Victorian heyday of social reform. There's never been an improvement in British working class life that hasn't been brought about by interfering middle-class busybodies. If HFW is part of a longer British tradition it's the one that led feminism, prison reform, abolished slavery, stopped kids working up chimneys, gave a right to education, a national health service... you fill in the rest, I'm knackered. As far as I can see, If you know that eating badly is wrong and can be avoided, it's your job to try to change things.
  13. Any reason not to use cornflour or indeed potato flour?
  14. Wheres Mr Hayward gone.... Over here.... with my head in the gas oven
  15. Surely January has been the low point of the British produce year throughout history. Most of our ancestors would have been reduced to salt fish, smoked meat and dried pulses by this point in the year. I have little truck with supermarkets but empty shelves at this point might be interpreted as evidence that they are going laudably seasonal. If the root cellar is empty why not venture a little further into the store and see if you can't locate the bacon flitches, the badger hams, the stockfish cabinet and the pease pudding aisle.
  16. I suppose you could say the same about the Premiership, or whatever the football competition is called. If one is complicit, as a fan, in consuming it, it's fairly unlikely that one is going to declare that it's irrelevant as anything other than a scoresheet of who's spending the most on foreign players. The strange thing, though, is that, amongst restaurant fans there is an almost universal disagreement with the results.
  17. I'm almost loath to get into this one but here goes. Every single year Michelin provokes the same raging frenzy online - see also the Restaurant list. This and other boards froth about it and, every year, resolve that the list is crap, the judges were fools, they missed most of the best places and blessed others through a combination of conservative stupidity and industry nepotism. Now I don't like football either, so maybe I'm missing the fun of groups of (mainly) men getting together to debate in jesuitical detail, the fortunes of a series of 'teams' and endlessly revisiting the judgement calls of officials. Maybe that's what the annual online Michelin debate is... the middle class version of that radio station cab drivers listen to where people opine on their favourite teams, the last match and what the manager is doing in a harmless medium where no-one else listens except other obsessives. Two things are absolutely certain... 1) Michelin will be wrong 2) Nothing anyone says here will make any difference. Which leads me to an inevitable conclusion: Unless I'm missing something and the debate is the point, couldn't we do better ourselves? Isn't there some bit of software whereby we could vote for our own stars? Couldn't we invite those of our membership whose opinions we rate to give scores? Isn't there anything in the great engine of the interweb that we can't use to prove the Michelins to be the irrelevance they so obviously are? If not, can I at least suggest we get together for a series of podcasts of radio phone-ins where we all pontificate loudly in execrable Essex accents about how many stars L'Enclume deserves to be played in cabs and white vans all over the Capital. "That faaaakin Ducasse. Eees a faaakin numpty. Eee wansis faaakin 'ed lookin'at ee does.
  18. Giles Coren's review of Le Cafe Anglais. I was clearly quite wrong in my earlier post: are obviously Victorian.
  19. Ramsay's working very hard at the moment to reinforce the story that he's not going to be cooking at his pubs (PR's are also pedalling fast to make sure they're not referred to as 'Gastro' pubs). He could equally have told the same amusing anecdote about any of his international stable of first class restaurants - frankly, it's as likely that he'll turn up at any of them as the boozers but that doesn't fit the story so well.
  20. Excuse the odd question but wherefore 'unexpected'? The odd thing is that about half the people I know have been to the FD went 'unexpectedly' when someone else dropped out of a corporate entertaining gig and the vacancy was offered to a nearby foodie. I'm intrigued by this. Is it just the FD?
  21. Bibendum opened in 1987 and has 80 seats compared with 170-ish at Cafe Anglais. It was the first of Conran's modern restaurants (he opened the Soup Kitchen and the original Orrery in the early 50's) and its not until the opening of Quaglino's in 1993 with 300 seats that you get a "gastrobarn". Le Cafe Anglais is closer in size and shape to Bluebird which opened in 1997 but reminds me far more of the original Fifth Floor at Harvey Nichols. The stained glass is more Ivy I think. No doubt it will take more than a few weeks, or even months, for LCA to settle down, but from my two recent meals there, I think its a London institution in the making. ← Thanks
  22. It looks like everybody likes Rowley Leigh. He's obviously a great cook - Hell, he actually cooks. He stands behind a pass and gets sweaty over the plates most nights. How weird is that? Jan likes him, Fay likes him, last night Giles, who was sitting at the next table, got up and had a lovely chat with him. What's not to like? Lovely man, lovely food. And isn't it just great that, having been one of our solidly great chefs for a couple of decades, never selling out to telly or turning into a 'sleb' - he's finally got his own place? Sadly, if last nights experience is anything to go by, no. I realise things might come a little adrift in service when Giles Coren is sitting in the dining room* but there was no excuse for 25 minutes wait at the bar, 15 minute wait to order, and 20 and 30 minute waits for starter and main course respectively. There's no excuse for that ridiculous dance wherein, once you've finally managed to flag down a member of staff, they aren't actually allowed to take your order, get you wine or answer questions about the food and have to fetch someone else. There's no excuse for being out of two main courses and three by-the-glass reds by 9.30 on a Thursday. No excuse except, perhaps this... As I walked out of the lift into the dining room, I was whisked back in time - not to Paris between the wars or even the era of deco opulence suggested by the light fittings but to 1995. I'm not qualified to question the financial and business arrangements that got Leigh into bed with the owners of this space but suffice it to say he's been lumbered with a 1990's Conran Gastrobarn. Everything about the joint, from scale, through staff to clientele and bloody stained glass just screams 'Quag's'. Same vapid looking American tourists and suity admen in low-vamp loafers; same Notting Hill great and good in pinstripes and hairspray. This place was set en gellee before Gordon Gecko was a joke and now the only up-to-date thing in it is Giles Coren's ironic Edwardian sideburns. I thought we'd turned our backs on Conran. I thought the foodies of london had decided to give these palaces the miss-in-baulk and leave them for the sort of bridge-and-tunnellers that are only in town long enough to see 'Wicked'. What the fuck is he thinking? It's like St John, the Fat Duck and Club Gascon never happened. The food is great. The pheasant with choucroute was cracking. The pike boudin which should, by rights, taste like condom full of sticklebacks was every bit as good as everyone said. True, the pommes Anna lacked any quality of butteriness and came out a little like a boiled potato puck. True also that the chicken was a little dry. True, even, that you can't salt a radish from a naff little wooden grinder but, generally, he's doing a great job in the kitchen. I have a theory about this. Back in the day, Conran was inspired by the gigantic Parisian brasseries. Those places ran well with large staffs of elderly, lifelong professional French waiters. They could hold it together at that scale. In the nineties, when London restaurants were just starting to happen and Conran was the only game in town, he could also afford large staffs of keen young people. Today, I don't think it can be done any more. A shit-hot waitron is going to want decent money working a smaller room for a more internationally known name. What Leigh has got is a bunch of second-string time-servers. They looked bored, disheartened and above all totally disorganised. And I really felt for Rowley behind the lamps. He looked lonely back there. Struggling to turn out great stuff then watching it manhandled round a huge, unwieldy space by a team of oafs. I'll be intrigued to see what Giles has to say about the meal in his review. Certainly he won't have experienced any of the service faults affecting us or any of the tables around us and will, I hope, have had a brilliant meal cooked by a chef deserving of praise. For what it's worth, I reckon the Cafe Anglais is going to bomb. As long as Rowley Leigh has the personal stamina to keep turning it out, the food will stay good. But I don't reckon he can find or afford the people needed to service a room that big to the standard his food deserves. It'll end up like the Alameida in Islington - a competent Conran where the locals can bet on a decent steak and, because they can walk home, ignore the fact that the service would shame a school canteen. *Just a little aside here but has anyone ever sat in a restaurant when a famous critic was dining there? Any pretence that it's an ordinary night is just ridiculous. Everybody knows who's there. There must have been 200 people in the dining room and open kitchen just staring at every forkful passing his lips. Being a customer in the same restaurant as a critic is like having a family singsong to which someone's invited Aunt Billie Holliday - the focus shifts. (Not so much ETA as time-shifted by a decade) (FETA: This was all abit rushed so, to be strictly accurate, just in case anyone is taking this seriously... I loved the fact that tap water was offered straight off with bottled as an option; hurrah for real breadplates - what kind of fucking barbarian eats off the tablecloth; the creamed spinach was great; the chips were very good and the bill for two - three glasses of wine, no desserts - came to £155. On balance, too expensive already. If he can't afford good staff charging these prices he's got nowhere to go.)
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