Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Food, The Social Medium

Food is food at the end of the day.

It is a means to keep our bodies in a condition in which to function.

But since the foodie revolution in the late 90's it has become much more here in the UK.

If you search on the internet you will find hundreds and thousands of people who are celebrating food in all manner of styles, types, locations and levels of sophistication. The rise of blogging from these people is staggering, as well as their presence on social sites such as Twitter.

It has had an impact in the UK catering trade, and in a good way on the whole. Chefs are now in need of finding new angles and styles, pushing boundaries and developing niches to suit and excite these outspoken diners.

There is also less room for error and definitely no room for bullsh** which gives way to a more clear and honest approach to what we do in a professional capacity. And I for one like this.

Foodies on the whole are everyday people from all walks of life who share a common interest in good food. Through the power of the internet they shout and rave about the great places they have dined, the amazing recipes they took a crack at, and the best markets, food festivals and local producers they have come across.

They are a multitude of critics, more powerful than the likes of the legendary Jay Rayner et al, primarily because these people are the every-man. Your neighbor, work colleague, friend.

In my current line of work within the trade, I constantly strive to bring fresh ideas to the business that suits the demands of our guests. The menus have changed frequently enough to reform into the type of foods that the paying clients want and highly enjoy. There is no self-centered ego contained within with cursed words claiming  Chef knows best. But there is passion in every dish created, cooked and served. Through listening  to the guests comments and conversations the food has become very traditional in style, resulting in quality Pub Fayre, but still done in a way that holds our audience in amazement and therefore ensures word of mouth and re-visits.

The most recent venture I tasked myself with was more of a challenge than previously expected, but is now coming into fruition.

Tapas is a well received style of food these days, associated with sunny days and warm evenings, bottles of wine shared between friends and the ultimate in social eating. I love the idea of a Tapa, and have been asked more times than I care to recall if I would consider doing one here. My response has always had to be in the negative as it does not reflect with the over-all style to the Public House. However, I am always up for a challenge so looked into alternative ideas. What eventually came to be took the best part of two months to construct, source, create and implement.

Due to the rise of amazing local specialty products I went on the hunt to find great food that would suit what I had in mind.

Through networking via social sites I began to find Artisan companies from around the West Country that oozed passion and the sense of small scale which was exactly what I was looking for. I found Handmade Scotch Eggs that were packed solid, full of flavour and most importantly, moist. Sausage Rolls hand made by a Butchers Wife that tasted out of this world. Melt in the mouth Hand raised Pork Pies (without gelatin). A cracking Artisan Meat company that makes (among other things) Beautiful Venison Salami, Air Dried Mutton and Cured Veal. An Old Farmers Wife who pickles Onions the way our Grandparents used to. A Fab tiny bakery with amazing old fashioned bread. And some of the most mind blowing cheeses you can imagine.

They all inspired me to go back to the roots of food, to remember simple snacks that I used to enjoy as a child. I ended up creating all sorts of recipes including Chicken wings, marinated in Orchard Apple Juice, Ground Almonds and Cinnamon, and Green Peppercorn Smoked Mussels finished in Burrow Hill Cider Brine.

We now have the functionality and social aspect of a Tapas coupled with the old fashioned British Bar snack in our newly released West Country Artisan Deli Board. Simple foods traditional in aspect yet the peak of quality and flavour. The time I become very proud is when a wide selection goes out to one table, knowing that the lucky guests are understanding the concept, enjoying the pairing with selected local Ales and Ciders, and telling all who follow their tweets, shouts, and status updates.

God bless you Foodies, without you, British Cuisine would be extinct.

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