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Chef Praises Hospital Food Shock!21-02-2017
Craig Mather, head chef of The Empire Room restaurant at the Royal Harbour Hotel in Ramsgate, has announced reschedule dates for his Meet the Producer dinners, following life-saving surgery for a burst appendix.
The long-awaited events, which had to be postponed, will allow diners to learn about the food and drink on the tables – directly from the local growers.
Craig, noted for creating gourmet seasonal menus using the Kent’s abundant high quality produce, decided to run the events to highlight the premium food and drink products available locally.
The dinner with Little Stour Orchard will now take place on Tuesday 9th May, when Craig will prepare a special four-course menu featuring the orchard’s apple juice, cider and cider vinegar, costing around £30 a head.
“We have known Craig since 2012 when he was working at East Kent College – he is a massive supporter of local producers and uses as much local produce as possible,” said Little Stour Orchard owner Sarah Bowers, adding, “Interest in local food is growing - people want to know where their food comes from.”
A second Meet the Producer event will be held on Tuesday 23rd May with the Windmill Community Garden, when Craig will employ organic vegetables and honey produced on the project’s allotments.
The restaurant is a member of Produced in Kent [Pink], a not for profit organisation which promotes food and drink companies in the county, and is holding the events with a number of its fellow members.
Commenting on the programme of special dinners, PinK Manager Stephanie Durling said, “Produced in Kent are thrilled that The Empire Room is showcasing the fantastic array of local produce available.”
The Empire Room intends to hold further monthly Meet the Producer events with local fishermen, wine makers, cheese producers, game keepers and farmers.
“No other part of the country can compete with Kent when it comes to the rich variety of top quality ingredients – with our artisan cheese producers, rare breed farms, sustainable fishing, wild game, foraging, fruit and vegetables – it’s a chef’s paradise,” said Craig, adding, “Produced in Kent does sterling work promoting the offerings and supporting local businesses – given the sharp rise in wholesale prices of imported food due to the fall in the value of sterling, there’s now even more incentive to buy local produce.”
At the beginning of January, Craig was rushed to Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother [QEQM] hospital in Margate at the beginning of January with severe stomach pains and had an emergency appendectomy. Severe complications meant that doctors struggled to control the infection and Craig spent 11 days in hospital, followed by weeks of recuperation at home. He is not expected to be able to return to the kitchen full time-time until late March.
Unable to eat solid food for 9 days, Craig described the QEQM hospital food as, “Amazing, substantial, traditional and nutritional, rather than gastronomic, which definitely started to help me feel better and aided my recovery,” he said.
50% of Curry Houses to Close21-02-2017
The Chairman of the Asian Catering Federation (ACF) Yawar Khan, has made the gloomy prediction that half of the nation’s curry houses will disappear from the High Street inside a decade.
Issues facing curry restaurant owners – such as chef shortages and rising costs – have been widely reported, but it is the failure of some restaurateurs to respond to changing customer demands and ignoring modern technology, that will spell the collapse of this once thriving sector.
Despite two curry restaurants closing each week, the dining out sector as a whole, is actually thriving, with sales and new openings on the increase.
The Asian Catering Federation represents owners of over 35,000 ethnic restaurants and takeaways – including those in the Indian, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian community, but the largest single group are Bangladeshi. Over 90 per cent of Britain’s ‘Indian’ curry restaurants are Bangladeshi owned.
“We British Bangladeshis can be very insular and inward looking, we fail to regard other cuisines as competition and we are slow to adopt marketing opportunities, such as social media platforms,” said Khan.
Although the ACF lobbies Government about tackling skills shortages, high business rates and VAT, Khan says his message “won’t go down well with many of my members, who continue to fail to heed warnings and take responsibility for the survival of their businesses.”
Each year, the ACF organises the prestigious Asian Curry Awards to recognise the best in the industry, encouraging ever higher standards and inspiring the next generation of chefs. The Federation also runs a nationwide roadshow, educating members about changing eating trends and key industry issues like health, nutrition and hygiene.
“For years we have been telling restaurants they need to up their game with shorter menus, offering lighter healthier options with more fish and vegetable dishes, with genuinely authentic regional food.
“Many rarely see a customer at lunch time, whilst pubs and chains like Nandos are serving thousands of spicy dishes throughout the day.
“Restaurateurs feel that there’s no demand for spicy dishes when temperature rise – as if it never gets hot on the subcontinent.
“Looking at drinks menus, you would never know that they grow tea in India – where are the green, oolong and white teas. Where’s the Darjeeling, Assam, Dooar, and Travancore?” asked Khan.
Fellow ACF committee members are in agreement. Thomas Chan (who is also Chairman of the Chinese Takeaway Association) .and Teddy Chen (Chairman of the Malaysian Restaurant Association) report similar complacency among many of their own members.
“The best run restaurants will survive and thrive – the less well run will be replaced by a new wave of more innovative operators,” said Chan, whilst Chen added, “It will be sad to lose some old favourites, but there some exciting and dynamic restaurateurs waiting in the wings to take their place.”
The 7th Asian Curry Awards will take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair on Sunday 12th November 2017.
Castle Inn to reopen in Chiddingstone13-02-2017
Nick Naismith is to open his second Kent pub next month. Naismith, who runs the Wheatsheaf in Bough Beech, has acquired a lease for the Castle Inn in nearby Chiddingston from the National Trust. The pub will reopen in March – nearly a year after it shut. The grade II-listed Tudor building, is undergoing renovation. The pub will serve Larkins ale, brewed in Chiddingstone, and a traditional menu with local produce.
“Living locally, I understand the importance of The Castle Inn to Chiddingstone and I’m glad to have the opportunity to bring it back to life,” said Naismith.
Kent chef patron Richard Phillips has announced a new fine dining restaurant, The Salutation, at a Grade I listed country retreat, due to reopen in Sandwich this Spring.
Ahead of the launch Phillips, who also owns Thackeray’s in Tunbridge Wells, The Pearson’s Arms in Whitstable and The Windmill in Hollingbourne, is unveiling the first phase an extensive restoration.
Overnight accommodation features a selection of grand bedrooms in the main house, and several adjacent cottages
French Brasserie to Tunbridge Wells07-02-2017
Tunbridge Wells-based restaurateurs Maurizio and Ivan Di Santo are to open their second site in the town. The brothers, who opened the Soprano tapas bar and restaurant on the High Street 10 years ago, are launching a French brasserie concept in Vale Road. They have been granted planning permission by to convert the former Kent and Sussex Silver Jewellers.
The two-storey restaurant, which will feature a ground floor and a 26-seater restaurant upstairs, is expected to open in March, with a cellar for wine-related events opening by September. The 30-cover brasserie which will have a bar area for aperitifs. The menu will be seasonal, changing every two to three months, while the wine list will have more than 100 wines.
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