There is a sign outside a certain restaurant
in Central London which reads:
'If you are not satisfied with anything we serve,
the chef will eat it himself.'
Well, there's a thought-provoking claim.
Leaving aside, with reluctance,
the obvious opportunities it affords
for hideous practical jokes
- if I was that chef I would be very careful
not give anyone any reason to
want to get their own back on me -
- I'm not quite sure what it is
he thinks he's proving by this boast.
If you don't like your steak, and the chef comes out
and devours it like a ravening tiger,
what precisely has he proved?
That the food is edible?
That seems to be like a fairly modest claim,
you know, for a restaurant.
'Everything we serve can be digested
by the human gastro-intestinal tract!
It may not look like food, it may not smell like food,
it may not have the texture of food but, give us the word,
and our chef will prove that it is
by gamely forcing it into his face.
There's nothing coming out of our kitchen
that couldn't, in extremis, be shoved into your mouth
in a sweaty panic, laboriously chewed
and agonisingly swallowed if, say,
you were in fear for your job.'
I mean, it's hardly a Michelin star.
Besides, people can eat all sorts of things.
For instance, there was that Frenchman
who used to eat shopping trolleys and broken glass.
What if he's gone into catering in his retirement?
'In his prime, Monsieur Mangetout
once ate an entire light aircraft.
And now to finish off,
he's going to try the house hummous.'
There is one sort of restaurant, though,
where I would welcome a version of this policy
- indeed, I would make it mandatory.
And it has nothing to do with the quality of the food,
it's all about the presentation.
I would very much like it if,
when presented with a 'sandwich' of scooby doo proportions
or a burger where the artful construction of ingredients
has resulted in a striking looking tower of foodstuffs
considerably taller than it is wide -
the structural integrity of which is maintained
only by a thick wooden stake,
I could say 'Well, that looks delicious.
However, on this occasion,
I am going to play my joker, and ask the chef
to come out here and demonstrate to me
exactly how he envisaged it being eaten."
Once he'd done that,
I'd quite happily eat the rest of it myself;
I just don't want to have to be the first person
to make the call on whether I'm supposed to
take a knife and fork to this creation,
or attempt to crush it down from two foot tall
to the approximate height of an open mouth.
And I feel bringing this rule in
would eliminate what I fear to be a regrettable
and growing tendency among chefs
- not to give a moment's thought to the logistical
problems of the poor sod who has to eat the food
but to concentrate entirely
on making the people at the table go 'woo'.
You know, like they do with a knickerbocker glory.
Woo. The wow factor, as estate agents say
- except you'll only get a woo, not a wow,
because, at the end of the day, it's only lunch.
Well, I'm sorry, but it's different with knickerbocker glories
(or is it knickerbockers glory, I'm never sure).
Once you've gone woo, you can remove the
sparklers and umbrellas and other detritus,
and eat the thing with a spoon.
A hamburger that looks like the Trump Tower
is a different matter.
A hamburger is already a glorified sandwich,
and whilst that was an inspired piece of glorification,
I don't want to see it glorified any further than that.
You should never go 'woo' at a sandwich.
It's not a woo food.