Thursday, 12 March 2015

100 Chefs - Why I'm not bovvered...

Heard the one about the 100 'top chefs'?

Well, just in case you haven't heard, a letter purportedly from '100 top chefs' to the Daily Telegraph bemoaning the recent new law passed by the EU - which is meant to ensure that those who sell food products in the UK know what is in the food they're selling and can communicate it effectively to those who wish to know! 

In the UK, the required information doesn't actually have to be written down - it can be provided verbally, but actually, in a busy restaurant, it's probably much easier for waiting staff to give out an annotated menu or similar - to save them from repeating themselves, as much as anything else, but also to save mistakes being made!! In fact, this has been standard practice in most chain restaurants, for some time!

This menu is from Zizi - note it says: 'Ask us for an allergen menu.'

Apparently, according to these 'chefs', knowing what is in their food is an outrageous breach of their creative process and will cause their food businesses to fail. Hmm! I'd beg to differ! If this is the way they a section of their customers, I rather think their lack of customer care may be the issue they need to address! They are in the hospitality industry - hospitality involves making people feel welcome, doesn't it? Maybe it would help if they read this article (via Lucy's Friendly Foods) and take a leaf out of this chef's book, or take note of what Tom Kerridge has said about the subject (see here)!

When I first heard about the article, I must admit I was cross. Then I re-examined the list, to see whose restaurants I should be avoiding in the future (well they obviously don't want my custom). However, none of them own a business anywhere near me, and, call me a Philistine if you like, there were only TWO people on the list that I'd ever heard of! 

Where was Jamie Oliver, Marcus Wareing, Gordon Ramsay, Rick Stein, Raymond Blanc?? You know, people I've heard of??

This was confirmed for me by Chef Hermes. Most of the people on this list aren't even chefs - he says they're just business owners. Riiiigght... so we're stalling their culinary activity then, are we?? Bad reporting by the Daily Telegraph, methinks!!

Anyway, it's a bit too late for all the protestations really, isn't it? I fail to see what they're hoping to achieve - apart from getting everyone's backs up! It's already law, it was passed unanimously, and there's nothing they can do about it! And they will be fined if they don't comply! 

I was quite interested to hear from various quarters that it actually turns out that the letter is backed by a political organisation who is anti EU. It's funny 'cos in many ways I think I am and have been anti EU. However, I've now discovered one reason why I LOVE the EU. I am really glad of the law passed about food allergies. I wish in fact that the EU had gone further. I wish they had given food allergies the same level of consideration as disability - this was debated the other year and rejected. I don't understand why. No one chooses to be allergic! Do they? And yes, in many ways it is disabling! It definitely has restricted our movements and choices. SO I think knowing what is or isn't in our food, is quite the least they could do, in the circumstances.

Should you wish to know who one hundred signatories are, they are listed here

As they do not wish to care about listing allergens, you might not wish to visit their establishments - if you can actually find one of them, to avoid, that is!!


Had to laugh! This morning we had a newsletter via email from the Ebury (where it turns out we have once eaten, and whose proprietor is on the 'list'). It advertises gluten and dairy free dishes and states the following (under a large heading 'Food Allergies'): 

Changes to food labelling laws that were introduced in December 2014 will help provide allergen information to our customers in a clearer and more consistent way. Head chef at The Ebury, Bernard Dumonteil, is very concious of the new regulations and can provide a detailed list for all dishes on the menu. This list is readily available so anyone with an allergen problem can dine in safety at The Ebury. Please ask you waiter for further information.

Couldn't make it up, could you?

By the way, they were off my list of places to go anyway - my gut wasn't great the day after!

Update 2:

Laughing, 'cos Thomasina Miers clearly still doesn't realise written information/spreadsheets are not required to communicate information regarding allergies!! You can read her blog post, by following this link.

I have formulated a response, but am not sure whether it will be posted, so I've reproduced it here:

I was interested to read your comment but must admit to being slightly confused! Nowhere, as far as I’m aware, do the new EU regulations stipulate that spreadsheets be used, to communicate information regarding allergens – in fact it’s quite the opposite. It actually states that information can be provided verbally. SO I would have thought that there’s no reason why your staff cannot provide the same information in the same way as they did before!
Personally speaking, I love it when restaurants CAN provide information in spreadsheet form, as a multiple allergy sufferer, I just find it easier to cross-reference information. And also I am concerned that information spread by word of mouth, could lead to staff forgetting things and making mistakes. It also saves a lot of toing and froing from staff, when they’re not sure and have to consult a chef. Even better, I love it when restaurant websites can provide the information I’m after, as we often look online first, before deciding whether it’s worth contacting a restaurant in the first place.
Finally, I have to say, I know the comments made to the press by Thomasina Miers have upset a lot of people, who have welcomed the new EU legislation. It will take some while to rebuild trust. I for one, am less inclined to provide custom, where it appears an establishment regards me and my problems with food as an issue. I thought the hospitality industry was there to make people feel welcome. Thankfully, there are a lot more establishments who don’t seem to have a problem providing for people with allergies, and these are the ones we to whom we shall give our customer loyalty.

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