February 23 2012
I went straight to the kitchen today, as I had meetings mid-morning, and started with fish preparation. Some beautiful turbot and sea bass were waiting for me, along with the sea bream that we cook slowly and serve warm with aubergine, dates and a herb and shallot vinaigrette. This dish is almost like a salad, as it is very light and warm rather than hot. It is one of the options on our three-course lunch menu, perfect for a light meal that will still allow work in the afternoon.
I think I have filleted more fish than a fishmonger – or as much – starting with the cold-fish section at The Savoy hotel kitchen when I was 18, where we handled vast quantities for the functions held there, and then in every kitchen where I have worked since. Chefs who do not look after their hands really suffer when handling raw fish. The bones, scales, cold and wet can make your hands really sore. In my youth I spent hours scrubbing my hands for fear of infection. Clean cook, clean kitchen.
Across the two restaurants we employ just over 100 people between the office, front of house and kitchen. With the unsociable hours it is a tough job, but it’s great to see when the hard work pays off. Chef Charlie left us in December to start a new job that we arranged for him at Per Se in New York with the respected Thomas Keller. Charlie had worked his way through the kitchen for four years, from the age of 17, and his next step had to be knowledge from other kitchens. He recently became Young National Chef of the Year, so he’s definitely one to watch. In the front of house, assistant manager Raymond is now ready to move on, having worked his way up through the ranks, and we have managed to place him in another respected London restaurant, where he will flourish.
I joined our management operations meeting at 10.30am. Held every two weeks, it is an opportunity for the heads of department to meet and discuss challenges, the future and ideas. It was a good meeting. One point discussed was the new bon-bon trolley that we have redesigned. It’s currently being built, and should be with us in March. I also mentioned forthcoming training plans for the restaurant team and the covers on the books, including Chef’s Table, for the forthcoming months.
The meeting wound up by 11.30am, in time for the restaurant briefing and then lunchtime service. It was slightly quieter today, as the patterns of demand have certainly turned on their head in the current economic climate, but I am grateful to still have a strong and loyal customer base, which keeps the restaurant busy.
I attended an afternoon management meeting at my other restaurant, The Gilbert Scott. It was a chance to catch up with the GM Chantelle and chef Olli before he left for vacation. I tasted some of the new dishes and sampled a new cocktail. Both were delicious. We now serve afternoon tea at TGS, and unusually it includes a tea-flavoured cocktail, which is perfect as the afternoon runs into evening and complements our delicious Eccles cakes.
My iPad jammed this morning. It’s a great device, as it allows me to check messages when I am in the kitchen, and we keep another in the kitchen to access our recipe database. Time is a great healer, and it was working again by afternoon.
Back to Marcus Wareing at The Berkeley in time for dinner service. Another booking in The Pomerol Room with a fairly strict deadline and a full dining room.
I didn’t see the kids all day, but I know Jake took part in an orchestra day at school with the Southbank Sinfonia orchestra. Jake plays the violin (as does Archie), and he had the opportunity to learn from some experts and then perform in a concert for parents that evening. By all accounts it was fabulous. Note to self, I must take the children to more concerts.
Home by 11.30pm and more football highlights to watch. I love the Champions League. In bed by 12.30am; I have a busy day tomorrow.