Thursday, 22 May 2008

Ink: A site to behold part 2

It’s official. After many weeks of nail biting negotiations and escalating legal fees today the contract was signed and we are now the proud tenants of the café site in Charlotte Place, Fitzrovia W1. My emotions swing between euphoria and terror on a minute by minute basis.

While economists and politicians may try to dampen our enthusiasm with reports of rising food prices, a credit crisis and a sharp decrease in consumer spending, we are standing firm in our belief that our café will succeed. Richard prophetically told his disappearing sister Karen in the movie Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story, “You gotta eat”. We too believe that the London population gotta eat somewhere so why not at 13 Charlotte Place.

So now onto the next item on the to do list: find a chef.

Here is the ad I’ve been running on Gumtree for the last couple of weeks with under-whelming results.
Head Chef/Sous Chef wanted

We are an independent startup in Fitzrovia looking for an experienced chef who is highly motivated, creative, feels passionate about seasonal cooking using best quality ingredients, and shares our dislike of chains and the bland coffee and food they serve.

You would be taking the creative lead in designing the menu which will focus on breakfast/lunch dishes with a gourmet twist, and be responsible for managing and training a small team. Good working knowledge of Australian café/restaurant culture would be an advantage. Salary 26-28k plus bonuses.
So if any one knows a good chef…

Friday, 9 May 2008

A chef for all seasons: interview with Oliver Rowe

In the spirit of furthering my knowledge about seasonal, locally grown produce I recently ate at a restaurant in Kings Cross called Konstam which tries to source all of its ingredients from within the London area.

The thing that strikes you when you first walk into Konstam is the visibility of the kitchen which is integrated into the dining space. Our table was so close to the prep counter I had to stop my hungry brother eating the mise en place.

It feels like you are eating in owner/head chef Oliver Rowe’s home kitchen, chatting to him while he cooks, asking him about ingredients and giving him our opinion (which he asked for) on who had ordered the best main- a difficult verdict arrived at through the time honoured practice of ‘a bite for a bite’. Perhaps we were a little conscious of the immediacy of our feedback but we each told him that our own meal was the winner - mine was slow roasted shoulder of lamb with apple and blackcurrant compote.

I often wonder if chefs and restaurants that make ambitious and worthy promises about their food sourcing policy manage to stay committed to their vision or whether they live to regret their absolute proclamations when the margins get skinny and the customers lose interest and move onto the next fad.

Oliver seemed like such an affable chap that I went back a couple of weeks later to record an interview with him about his food sourcing philosophy and whether consumers really care.

It’s about 8 minutes long and a large file so you may want to go and make yourself a cup of tea while it downloads.