Its some time since I passed the refectory sausage roll counter at Colinton Road. If my memory serves me right they were served piping hot. And with a certain flourish by the matronly ladies smartly dressed in their starched pink and white bibs – crisp freshly fried chips topped with baked bean jewels. Apologies if I paint a rosy picture but it was a happy time,in my formative years before any of Monsieur Pelleprat’s “fonds du cusine” had further educated my palate.
Any way as usual I digress. Let me tell you about my recent experience with a sausage roll and a bacon buttie.
The other day I received an email offering me a complimentary ticket to a management development conference to be held at one of the major universities in Edinburgh. Admittedly it started early on a Saturday morning but you can pick up some real “gems” from contributors at these events. Oh and breakfast and a buffet lunch was included, one would think a bonus Al.
But regrettably I must report a few shortcomings.
Having crossed the country on a beautiful autumn morning, I parked up close by and following the directions I had been given walked to the Conference Centre. The smell of grilled bacon led me past reception and on to the Registration area and finally the buffet table. Having made my choice of buttered roll the young lady lifted off the top of the chaffing dish ( ok I know its a technical term, but I haven’t used it for some time) to reveal the horror that we know as warm pink and white,flaccid, cooked bacon. No tasty, crispy brown, sizzling unctuous bacon fat. The combination oven had been at work here Al. Ok it had done its job. Followed the programme.But please, please Chef , give the bacon a few minutes dry heat at the end of the cycle. Attention to detail Al.
An inspirational, interesting and informative morning went like clockwork with the assembled company of around 130 delegates arriving back at the “social” area at 13.00hrs sharp for lunch.
You’ll remember Al back in the old days at the Lion when we catered for 300 conference delegates most weeks we learned that the best practice was to split up the delegates into smaller groups and cater for them using “guerrilla” buffets in odd places all offering the same foods, staffed by one member of the team helping customers with their choice, ensuring a smooth flow and good service. Sadly this didn’t happen, the assembled delegates having to struggle their way down both sides of fifteen foot buffet table trying to identify the offerings on the unlabelled table.
Customer care Al. If we worked it out then why haven’t they?
Hot foods hot, cold foods cold?
I know I didn’t pay for my ticket, but many had paid the full price for the days event and its in their interest that I am recounting the story of the sausage roll and other “fonds du buffet” today.
My keen caterer’s eye noted that the usual suspects were present.
Plain and Spinach wraps filled with ham or tuna filling
Chicken on a “bamboo skewer”
Some sort of sticky chilli sauce
Something not that memorable……
Samosas – with a so far unidentified filling
Small shortbread biscuits topped with a creamy substance
A fruit bowl of apples, pears, oranges and bananas.
Nothing garnished, no flowers, no foods labelled.
Now Al I pose you a question. What would normally be served hot, what would normally be served cold?
To my mind, and I guess the thoughts of my local takeaway owner at lease four of these items should be hot. Must check with Mohammed.
HOT Sausage rolls, they are oven baked are they not?
HOT Pakoras, I think deep fried?
HOT Chicken Skewers, poor things may have lost their Satay sauce on their journey from the freezer.
HOT Samosas, crispy deep fried?
None of these items were hot or even warm ( not even the recommended hot holding temperature of 63 degrees C ). I’ll happily be corrected but it was almost as if the “Chef” had simply taken the boxes from the freezer the night before, defrosted overnight in a fridge and then tipped the contents out onto an assortment of serving dishes for the poor catering assistant to plonk on the table.
I know what you are thinking Al. No it didn’t get any better. Even the additional food that was brought out to supplement the buffet was cold.
Now I understand that choice,quality, presentation and service may have been sacrificed on he alter of price in the temple of gross margin, but at least hot foods should be served hot and cold foods cold. Maybe heating food is a supplement on the delegate charge. I doubt it.
Come to think of it Al maybe they should have the UKip speaker to talk across the buffet, he was certainly full of hot air.
I’ll be in touch again soon.