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Chef Gordon Ramsay

 
THE potty-mouthed British chef Gordon Ramsay has so raised the ire of the Senate that it agreed yesterday to hold an inquiry into swearing on television and what more could be done about it.

The motion to hold the inquiry was moved by the South Australian Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi after a recent episode of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares in which the abrasive gastronome dropped the F-bomb 80 times.

That episode screened at 8.30pm on Channel Nine. Another that offended the senator, in which Ramsay used the C-word twice, screened at 9.30.

Labor and the minor parties voted with the Coalition yesterday to establish the inquiry, which would concentrate on free-to-air TV. Senator Bernardi promised it would be brief.

The move is understood to have angered the industry group Free TV Australia.

Sources told the Herald that Free TV Australia's chief executive officer, Julie Flynn, protested angrily to the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, his Opposition counterpart, Bruce Billson, and the Opposition Senate Leader, Nick Minchin, as well as the Opposition Leader, Brendan Nelson. It is understood she flew from Sydney to Canberra to make her point.

Ms Flynn did not return calls yesterday, saying she was not interested in talking to the media.

Senator Bernardi insisted he was no wowser but said the frequency and range of profanity on TV was increasing and it was time to establish boundaries.

He said the broadcasting code of practice needed to be reviewed so as to define coarse language. "What is bad language? What defines it?" he said.

The committee would also look at the method of dealing with complaints.

"If I stood up in Parliament and used the type of language that is now being broadcast over our television screens, there would be public outrage," he said.

Other shows that have attracted Senator Bernardi's disdain are Big Brother, The Sopranos and Sex And The City.

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ChefsWorld a World created by Chefs for Chefs.
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Super early on Easter morning -- about 3:30 a.m. -- the kitchen staff at the Ritz-Carlton will begin preparations for Easter brunch. Executive chef Erle Webber has big plans, as usual.


QUESTION: What's on the menu this year?

ANSWER: We'll have an omelet station and carving stations, of course. That's traditional for Easter brunch. There'll be a shrimp station, with three kinds of shrimp flambe -- margarita, diablo and scampi -- served right out of the saute pan. We'll have a bread station, with charcuterie and local artisan cheese from Zingerman's. It's a good way to introduce people to local cheese they may not know about. We're not using their bread, though. We'll bake baguettes right there. There's nothing like the smell of fresh baked breads. There'll be a Garden Delights station, with fresh Caesar salad and panzanella, and stuffed grape leaves.

Q: What kinds of numbers are we talking about, staff-wise and food-wise?

A: We'll have 13 culinarians in the room -- everyone loves seeing the chefs in their white coats -- and another 30 behind the scenes. We start cooking bacon at 4 a.m. and finish at 9. It takes a lot of time to cook 140 pounds of bacon. You can only fill so many pans at once. We'll go through probably 72 dozen eggs. And this brunch is smaller than Mother's Day, where we'll have well over 400 people.

Q: What's for dessert?

A: We're really going for a wow factor with the chocolate sommelier table. It's a work in progress. Instead of a typical dessert buffet, it's a big table with fresh chocolate chip cookies, molten chocolate cake, pots du creme, truffles, three kinds of chocolate fondue -- dark, milk and white -- with fresh strawberries, pineapple, pound cake, Rice Krispie treats. ... We'll also have a cheesecake sommelier with regular vanilla and chocolate cheesecake, all kinds of fruit toppings, hot fudge. Michigan is a big cheesecake market.

Q: What's the best plan of attack?

A: Have some scrambled eggs, sausage, whatever else you want. Then pound the pastries. Eat till you drop. We don't flip the tables, so stay as long as you want.

Q: And what's your plan for the day?

A: Come in early and get to work. My wife and kids will come by later on, when things are winding down. Then I'll go home and collapse.

The Ritz-Carlton Easter Sunday champagne brunch is from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday at 300 Town Center Drive, Dearborn. $65 for adults, $30 for children ages 3-12, not including tax and tip. Reservations: 313-441-2100 .

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ChefsWorld a World created by Chefs for Chefs.
We Provide the facility for Chef Employers and Chef Recruitment Agencies to advertise their jobs online to recruit a Chef or find a Chef online.

The Chef Jobs site has : Executive chef jobs, Head chef jobs, Sous Chef jobs, Chef de Partie Jobs, Commis Chef Jobs, Pastry Chef Jobs, Development Chef Jobs, Consultant Chef Jobs, Specialist Chef Jobs - all levels of chef and Catering Jobs.

The Chef Section has : Chef Forums, Chef Network, Chef Recipes, Rate Employers, Suppliers Offers and Chef Links.

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Gordon's global empire: the cook who ate the world

Tonight, Gordon Ramsay will welcome journalists to his latest venture in Versailles. He's already been pilloried by Paris's leading food critic – so is France set to become the new F-word in the superstar chef's colourful lexicon? Martin Hickman reports



RICK NEDERSTIGT/AFP/Getty Images

Ramsay: welcoming world to latest venture in Versailles

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Thursday, 20 March 2008


You could be forgiven for thinking that Gordon Ramsay is everywhere: on television, castigating chefs in Kitchen Nightmares, on the front cover of recipe books, staring out from adverts for BT, and Threshers, and Gordon's Gin. But he is actually in France at the moment.


French journalists are visiting his new restaurant and brasserie at the Trianon Palace Hotel in Versailles tonight, and Ramsay will be there to greet them in person. Over the next few days, Britain's cockiest chef will monster the kitchen ahead of the public opening next week.

He won't hang around, though. In 2008, Ramsay is not just the footballer-turned-chef whose TV appearances are riddled with expletives. He is a modern culinary and media phenomenon. A one-man, foul-mouthed whirligig with annual sales of tens of millions and an ambition of creating a global culinary empire: Attila the Restaurateur.

Paris – the fulfilment of a long-held and deeply personal ambition –is merely another box ticked towards his overarching international goals. He is probably half of the way there.

In less than 10 years, the catering college trainee with an itinerant father has powered his way from a single restaurant to a multimillion-pound business spanning three continents.

He is the owner of 10 Michelin stars, making him one of a handful of truly famous international chefs.

In London, his empire spans five fine-dining restaurants, including the capital's only one with three Michelin stars (Restaurant Gordon Ramsay at Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea), three gastro-pubs and a brasserie.

Worldwide, he has restaurants in Dublin, Prague, Tokyo, New York and Florida. Paris (Versailles), Amsterdam, and Los Angeles arrive this year. Further corners of the globe are being scouted and there are hopes for Melbourne.

Then there is Gordon the food presenter, one of the most bankable stars on TV with £8m contracts with Channel 4 and Fox in the US. He has four ongoing shows – two in the US (Hell's Kitchen and Kitchen Nightmares) and two in the UK (Kitchen Nightmares and The F Word).

He is a prolific author of cookbooks that fly into the best-selling charts like a well-aimed knife, and he has a range of Royal Doulton pans, crockery and glasses.

How did Ramsay become so successful? And can he make a go of Paris, in what must be the most demanding restaurant scene in the world? One wouldn't want to bet against him. He has made his fortune on a road paved as much with broken glass as with gold. He did not have the most auspicious start in life. His father was a womanising, alcoholic swimming pool manager who regularly uprooted the family whenever he switched jobs. ("He was competitive... and gobby, very gobby," Ramsay says in his autobiography).

Ramsay junior could have been a professional footballer but a knee injury devastated his career at Glasgow Rangers aged 16. It could have crushed him, but he fell back on his second love, cooking, and did an HND course in hotel management.

In the late 1980s, he ventured as a fresh-faced commis into the kitchens of Harveys, the restaurant in Wandsworth that made Marco Pierre White's reputation. Then, MPW ran the gastronomic equivalent of the SAS, once reducing Ramsay, who went on to become his lieutenant, to a quivering wreck.

After another bruising apprenticeship, at Albert Roux's Le Gavroche in Mayfair, Ramsay went to France for yet more punishment in the kitchens of Guy Savoy and Joel Rubuchon. His French co-workers, he said later, would deliberately talk fast so that he could not understand and engage in petty acts of unkindness, such as stealing his socks.

After a recuperative stint onboard the yacht of the Australian TV mogul Reg Grundy, Ramsay returned to London with the dream of opening his own restaurant and he became head chef at Aubergine. Business boomed, but Ramsay was not making the money; he only had 10 per cent.

So one day he walked out. His entire team followed him – to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay.

His staff, among them Angela Hartnett and Marcus Wareing, have followed him pretty much ever since during his takeover of the kitchens of London hotels.

First came Petrus at the Savoy in 1999 (run by Wareing), then Gordon Ramsay At Claridge's, then the Connaught (Hartnett), then The Savoy Grill (Ramsay and Wareing) and plenty since.

Observers say that Ramsay has been able to expand so rapidly because he has kept this coterie of innovative, industrious chefs. They are given a financial stake in the restaurants they run.

Another key link has been the Blackstone Group, the US financiers who installed Ramsay as the restaurateur at each big new hotel they revamp, such as The London in New York and the Pullitzer in Amsterdam.

Arguably most important to Ramsay's success, though, has been his father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson. Hutcheson is the financial brains, with a 29 per cent stake in the business. He does the numbers while Ramsay does the food.

They talk 15 times a day, often on the "Gordon Hotline", an old-fashioned cream phone at their headquarters in Victoria.

All the reservations, accounts, human resources, training, planning and meetings are done at the office of Gordon Ramsay Holdings.

Mr Hutcheson scouts potential restaurant locations across the world, meeting property-owning suitors. He wants to expand the pubs side of the business and start a £30-a-head casual dining chain called Foxtrot Oscar, named after the newly-opened Chelsea brasserie.

The next to open in London, though, will be Murano and the York & Albany Hotel, overseen by Hartnett, who recently left the Connaught. "She epitomises the role we are trying to establish for chefs who have proven themselves to us," explains Mr Hutcheson.

"What we do is that we basically say: 'Give us your career and we will make sure you get a percentage of everything you do'. We give equity to our chefs once they have proven themselves.

"So Angela went out to Dubai to open our restaurant there and spent two years doing that and she came back here and was given the Connaught. She was replaced by Jason Atherton, who went out there for two years. So that is our business plan: everything we do starts with the chef."

Ramsay's ambition is to have restaurants with three Michelin stars in London, Paris and New York. The Versailles restaurant is part of that – but also personal. He told Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine that, with his Versailles restaurant, he wanted to wreck France's 32-hour week and make the French staff do the preparation for the cooking by the English – the opposite of the pecking order he experienced in Paris. "So I'll turn the clock back 20 years," he vowed.

But the reception from the French may not be any warmer this time. In Le Figaro, the critic Francois Simon questioned why Parisians would eat Ramsay's "uncomplicated" meals, rather than visit a good French restaurant closer to the city.

Under the heading "Why has he come to Paris?", M. Simon answered: "Money."

"Like his [celebrity chef] confreres, he is regularly approached by companies who set up ventures in lucrative places and want a quick return on investments."

Diners would be entering "Gordon Ramsayland," M. Simon protested. "If Gordon comes to Paris, it's precisely to see what us 'fucking Frenchies' make of his 'fucking cuisine'."

Frank Bruni, the New York Times critic, disparaged Ramsay's opening in a similar fashion last year. He complained: "Most ingredients are predictable, most flavours polite, most effects muted." The Michelin guide awarded the restaurant two stars. Bookings soared.

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AN EAST Lancashire celebrity chef is to appear on television tonight as he bids to prove that Lancashire food is best.

Nigel Howarth, who owns Northcote Manor, Langho, and the Three Fishes at Mitton with business partner Craig Bancroft, will be on The Great British Menu on BBC 2 at 6.30pm.

Fourteen of Britain's top chefs are competing to prove who can cook the best modern British cuisine with locally-sourced produce.

Nigel starts off tonight in a regional heat.

If he wins through to the final seven, viewers will then vote for their favourite.

The winner will take the prize of cooking a four-course dinner in June, at the restaurant on the top of the iconic Gherkin building in London.


Heston Blumenthal, the celebrity chef who specialises in experimental recipes, will host the event which top chefs from around the world and celebrities will attend that function.

Entrants are tasked with sourcing the best ingredients from their local area to create a starter, fish course, meat course and dessert that they believe epitomises the very best of contemporary, cutting-edge British cooking.

Nigel has revealed part of his menu. He is to cook seared salmon, shrimps and samphire toast, cucumber and penny royal mayonnaise, followed by loin of Bowland hare, potato wrapped black pudding, lythe valley damson prunes and celeriac puree.

A spokesman for Northcote Manor said: "The judges are looking for a chef who sources the best ingredients from their local area and in the national finals will be asked to create a starter, a fish course, a meat course and a dessert that they believe truly epitomises the very best of contemporary, cutting edge British cooking - in our opinion - that can only be "yours truly - Mr Haworth!

"If Nigel is successful, he will then be featured in May in the national final."

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It must have seemed like a good idea at the time. Invite the wealthiest and most loyal guests from around the world, feed them a 10-course dinner cooked by three French Michelin-starred chefs and give them a luxurious place to lay their heads for the night, all on the house.

Then whisk them off to the slums of Kolkata or Bangkok's backstreets, so the 50 high-rollers could witness life on the other side of the tracks and perhaps put their hand in their pocket.

But the luxury Bangkok hotel, lebua at State Tower, hit a snag with the event it coined "emotional tourism". It got more emotion than it bargained for when the French media saw it as a poverty tour for the rich, triggering a mighty furore.

Within days the trio of elite French chefs withdrew. Alain Soliveres of the Michelin two-star Taillevent in Paris, Jean-Michel Lorain of the three-star La Côte Saint Jacques in Burgundy, and Michel Trama from the three-star Les Loges de L'Aubergade in south-west France, all made their excuses.

Suddenly the menu of their signature dishes was in jeopardy. Soliveres was to make risotto with Brittany lobster and a Roquefort ice cream for dessert. "You can't see people living in misery and then go back to Bangkok to eat foie gras and truffles," said Soliveres. "It started an enormous, enormous scandal in France. I had no choice but to boycott the meal."

Lorain called the event "unhealthy and morally unjustifiable" in an email to lebua executives.

But worse was to come. The controversy gave other Michelin-starred chefs cold feet and two dozen around the world turned down the opportunity, the offer of free flights to Bangkok and £4,000 for a night's work not enough to entice them.

Fortunately the 50 diners will not go hungry. Last night lebua's chief executive officer, Deepak Ohri, said he had managed to sign up new Michelin pedigree chefs, two boasting two stars and two with one star. He declined to name them for fear of reigniting the controversy, only saying they were European.

Menus will now be rewritten for the event in April and the poverty tour has been scaled back to just a trip to the "elephant village" of Surin in Thailand's north-east, where rice farmers struggle to survive. The free dinner and tour for the most loyal lebua customers that will cost the hotel £150,000 is a far cry from its effort of last year when it charged for a "million baht meal" (£15,800) cooked by Michelin-starred chefs to raise money for charity.

None of the European, American and Asian guests - bankers, executives and casino owners - have backed out. A Dutch publisher of luxury travel guides, Nick Zirkzee, has already pledged 5% of the profits of a new book to people of Surin. "There are poor areas in the world that everybody is aware of," Ohri said. "We want to help a corner of the world where most people haven't been

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ChefsWorld a World created by Chefs for Chefs.
We Provide the facility for Chef Employers and Chef Recruitment Agencies to advertise their jobs online to recruit a Chef or find a Chef online.

The Chef Jobs site has : Executive chef jobs, Head chef jobs, Sous Chef jobs, Chef de Partie Jobs, Commis Chef Jobs, Pastry Chef Jobs, Development Chef Jobs, Consultant Chef Jobs, Specialist Chef Jobs - all levels of chef and Catering Jobs.

The Chef Section has : Chef Forums, Chef Network, Chef Recipes, Rate Employers, Suppliers Offers and Chef Links.

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Remember Max from Brookside? No me neither. However the man who played him in the much missed Channel Four soap, Stephen Pinder, is part of a team of judges at the Chester Food & Drink Festival young chef competition this weekend.

Stephen will be rolling into Chester Racecourse on Easter Monday with Jane Casson from Made in Cheshire and Shaun Turner of recruitment firm Halcyon to put the contestants through their paces.

The former Max Farnham is pictured here at one of the qualifying rounds in West Cheshire College. Congratulations to Robert McDermot, 23, of the Red House in Boughton; Richard Lovell, 20, of Upstairs at The Grill in Watergate Street, Chester, and Artur Hebel, 25, of Pastarazzi, Grosvenor Street, Chester who are all competing in the final.

The young chef competition is part of the Chester Food & Drink Festival which runs from March 22 to March 24, Easter Weekend at The Racecourse.

Surely someone from Chester based soap Hollyoaks was available?


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ChefsWorld a World created by Chefs for Chefs.
We Provide the facility for Chef Employers and Chef Recruitment Agencies to advertise their jobs online to recruit a Chef or find a Chef online.

The Chef Jobs site has : Executive chef jobs, Head chef jobs, Sous Chef jobs, Chef de Partie Jobs, Commis Chef Jobs, Pastry Chef Jobs, Development Chef Jobs, Consultant Chef Jobs, Specialist Chef Jobs - all levels of chef and Catering Jobs.

The Chef Section has : Chef Forums, Chef Network, Chef Recipes, Rate Employers, Suppliers Offers and Chef Links.

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From luxurious hotels in the Middle East to jet-set restaurants in the United States, the world seems to be after Turkey's culinary experts. Chefs' salaries that were YTL 3,000 at five-star hotels, restaurants last year have exceeded YTL 10,000 this year

NAZLI TOPÇUOGLU
ISTANBUL – Referans


Turkish chefs are now more sought after than ever before; from luxurious hotels in the Middle East to jet-set restaurants in the United States, the entire world seems to be after Turkey's culinary experts.

Tevfik Alparslan, transferred from Istanbul's favorite nightlife spot Reina to New York's Savarona, Ugur Talayhan, who now shapes London cuisine, Yusuf Yaran, pastry chef at a celebrated restaurant in the Philippines, Tarkan Özdemir, the new cake maker of China and Tekin Günaydin, who has already become a well-known chef in Kazakhstan, are just some of the latest transfers in the sector.

But this move has gradually made it more difficult to find a sufficient number of senior chefs in Turkey. Restaurants and hotels, worried about losing their chefs, demand astronomical transfer amounts when met with any offers. This is also accompanied by local senior chefs' salaries getting bigger by the day. Chefs' salaries that were around YTL 3,000 at five-star hotels and restaurant chains last year have even exceeded YTL 10,000 this year.



Chef salaries reach $25,000 in luxurious hotels

Turkish chefs are currently mostly transferred to Middle Eastern countries and Turkic republics and are most popular in many Middle Eastern cities including Dubai.

Chefs' salaries that range from YTL 3-5,000 in Turkey may increase to $6,000 in the Middle East, $8,000 in Asia and $10,000 in the United States. On the other hand, in the Middle East's luxurious hotels, specifically in the one that belongs to the Sheik of Dubai, a chef can earn as much $10,000.

Transferred from Istanbul's Çiragan Kempinski Hotel to Philippines' Shangri-La Hotel, pastry chef Yaran said he accepted the offer simply because he wanted access to more career opportunities.

Yaran said transfer payments and other conditions vary from country to country, position to position, and above all, from chef to chef. “For example, Europe and the United States do not have special packages for foreign chefs. With those packages, companies meet accommodation, electricity, water, and transportation expenses of cooks or chefs they transfer,” he said.

For Yaran, the following factors create differences that may lead to salaries from $500 to $2,000.

“The name of the company, its global value, net annual income, number of restaurant chains, the country, the city and specifically the district where the business is located, age of the chef, his work experience, name, personal references, number of personnel working with him, his past successes, and number of foreign languages he can speak are all determinant factors behind increases in chefs' salaries.”

Turkish chefs are mostly transferred to Kazakhstan and the Middle East simply because those countries have similar languages and cultures, said Yaran. “Besides, transfer prices of cooks and chefs in Turkey are lower than those in France or Italy.”

Özdemir, who was transferred from Oman to China to work as pastry chef, said “chefs from Europe and other Western countries often do not want to go to Kazakhstan and the Middle East as the standard of living is lower and they do not meet their expectations." This increases the Turks' chances, he said. "When considering the cultural similarities, it is not something extreme to see Turkish cooks transferred to Kazakhstan and the Middle East. Rapid development of the hotel sector in Dubai especially gave birth to shortage of cooks and Turkish chefs have filled that gap.

While transfer of prominent Turkish chefs is increasing in number day by day, Turkish restaurants and hotels, suffering for sufficient number of caliber chefs, began to call back some senior chefs who left Turkey for countries abroad in past years.

An example of that trend is Mehmet Siris, who has been serving as executive chef at Mövenpick Hotel in Kuwait for the last two years. Siris was called back to Turkey immediately after the news that a branch of Holiday Inn Hotel will be opened in Ikitelli district of Istanbul. What makes Siris a person in request is his outstanding professional background, a fruit of his past experiences of serving in various remarkable hotels during their opening.

Siris said Turkish chefs have become more professional and gained characteristics demanded by world restaurants for the last ten years. “In past years, foreign cooks were respected greatly in Turkey. Now we see that Turkish cooks are respected in foreign countries. We now have professional cooks, who are university graduates and can speak few foreign languages,” said Siris. In addition to recent increase in the number of quality chefs, hotel business has taken a great leap in Turkey, he added. “And this paved the way for employment opportunities for in cooking sector.” But all these have also made senior chefs rarely found professionals and caused transfer prices for them to jump.



Which Turkish chef went where?

Necip Ertürk, who was transferred to Switzerland in 1956, and to the United States in 1974, cooked up meals for a number of VIPs, from Queen Elizabeth to President George Bush.

Rasit Çetin, son and pupil of Kemal Çetin, the legendary chef of Çinar Hotel, has been managing one of Munich's most celebrated restaurants for the last 20 years.

Tekin Günaydin, member of the Turkish National Culinary Team, is currently serving as head chef at the Almata Intercontinental Hotel in Kazakhstan.

Baran Yücel, who spent three years in Cuba, is currently head chef at the Excelsior Hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Selected "Professional of the Year 2001" at London's Sheraton Skyline Hotel, where he was working, Ugur Talayhan is now food and drink manager at the Sheraton in Portugal.

Aycan Erkan Yesil, who became a popular head chef while serving in the kitchen of Four Seasons Hotel, is now a chef in Sydney, Australia.

Ercan Yetim is now heading hotel and restaurant chains owned by a sheikh in Abu Dhabi.

Ibrahim Kiliç, formerly served at major hotels like Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton, is now the patisserie chef of the Intercontinental Hotel in Cairo, Egypt.

Süleyman Kirbancioglu, who has remarkable past experience at many prominent hotels in Turkey, is now managing his own restaurant in Sydney, Australia.

Ismail Gerger's adventure in cooking took him from Ritz Carlton Turkey to Ritz Carlton Singapore.

Birol Dinçli began his career in Mengen district of Bolu province, known as Turkey's culinary school since a myriad professional chefs were raised there. After serving in the food sector in Antalya, Ankara, Miami, New York, Porto Rico, Bern, and Moscow, Dinçli is now a respected cook in Athens, Greece.


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ChefsWorld a World created by Chefs for Chefs.
We Provide the facility for Chef Employers and Chef Recruitment Agencies to advertise their jobs online to recruit a Chef or find a Chef online.

The Chef Jobs site has : Executive chef jobs, Head chef jobs, Sous Chef jobs, Chef de Partie Jobs, Commis Chef Jobs, Pastry Chef Jobs, Development Chef Jobs, Consultant Chef Jobs, Specialist Chef Jobs - all levels of chef and Catering Jobs.

The Chef Section has : Chef Forums, Chef Network, Chef Recipes, Rate Employers, Suppliers Offers and Chef Links.

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Marco Pierre White has thrown down the gauntlet to other celebrity chefs who endorse ready meals - by endorsing, rather confusingly, his own line of soups, which cost £1.99 a pot at Morrisons.


Brand magic: Jamie Oliver is one chef who is said to be involved in all stages of creating the supermarket dishes that carry his name
It is time, says White, for some truthfulness. "I'm not pretending I'm the creator of these soups. Anyone believing that is a fool," he says.

"I cook Michelin-starred food - that's my talent. The man sweating behind the soup vats in a factory somewhere is Simon Gamble: he's the real genius."

But surely the recipes (including chicken, courgette and orzo pasta broth, and vine-ripened tomato and balsamic soup) are his invention?

"No. The marketing people and Simon created the recipes." So what did he do? "I just approved them. I sat down and tasted them with my family. If they're good enough for me, they're good enough for the nation."


He could well have outed himself to fend off cries of "Hypocrite!". Marco has a bee in his bonnet about celebrity chefs putting their names to products they have had nothing to do with.

"Are these dishes on the menus in their restaurants? When Gordon Ramsay did the Threshers advertisements, did he serve the chain's wine in his restaurants? Honesty is really important. Otherwise it's just a slap-on label."

Some chefs might point an accusing finger at Marco Pierre White.

At least we got involved in the creative process, they might say, even if the finished product tastes nothing like the original. If you want to have a scrap about integrity, at least put something in the pot yourself.

Unlike White's, Jamie Oliver's new line of convenience food was dreamt up by the man himself, right down to the packaging.

Yes, it's a bit compromising to flog tomato and basil pasta sauce and green olive and fennel bruschetta topping in Tesco after showing us on the television how pathetically easy it is to knock such things up.

But Jamie, according to his public relations company, prefers to see it as "inspiring people to try to create new things from scratch - well, partly from scratch".

Last year came the announcement of a peculiar marriage between the brooding Jean-Christophe Novelli and the frozen food giant Findus.

"The crispy pancake was a treat when I was a kid," says Novelli. "For me, this was just an unfinished job." His 10 proffered dishes underwent "massive testing - they really went to the wall".

Has he witnessed mass production? "Of course! I visit the Newcastle factory all the time. I'm 200 per cent committed to anything I do, especially when I put my name to something."

So now you can buy exactly the same curried potato dauphinoise featured in his new cookbook, except that this one contains modified starch, flavourings and sugar.

Great, you might say: restaurant food at a fraction of the price. There's just one snag. It's almost impossible to mass-produce great food. Talk to anyone who has worked on recipe development with the supermarkets and the word "compromise" crops up.

Mridula Baljekar, the Asian food specialist, had a bruising experience when she was asked by one supermarket giant to come up with a new range of Indian dishes.

"The large vats they cook with in the factory wouldn't heat up enough for blending the spices, which really changed the final taste. And they like to bulk dishes up with a 'base thickener', which looked disgusting to me. They lower a dipstick into the vat and keep adding thickener until the food comes up to a certain level."

Baljekar didn't recognise the food that came back from the factory. "I said: 'I can't do this! It doesn't taste of Indian food.'" Her contract was terminated.

"I wanted to educate people's palates," she says, "but they were more interested in profits and margins."

If you want to create a decent product, control is key. The Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens recently launched a line of ready meals for Selfridges in London.

Reheating the transparent pouches or little ceramic pots of cottage pie and coq au vin is as near as you'll get to dining at Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea because the food comes directly from the restaurant kitchen.

"I wouldn't want to compromise," says Aikens. "I won't be going down the Tesco route - and you can quote me on that."

The advice from chef Peter Gordon, owner of the Providores restaurant and a consultant for Air New Zealand, is to be realistic when dealing with mass production.

Don't try anything too subtle or perishable, as chef Aldo Zilli did when first asked to come up with an in-flight menu for Thomsonfly.

"Aldo's vision was to be tossing salads for 250 passengers," said a phlegmatic Thomson spokesman. "He wanted fish, but it stunk out the aircraft."

"A chef expecting to produce high-end food is a fool," says Gordon. "I know what I'd love to do and I know the practicalities. No factory can properly caramelise onions, for example. I try to introduce the character of my food to something that will be made on a production line, sit five days in a chiller cabinet then get reheated in a microwave. I use different textures and upfront flavours like chilli and ginger."

So how much of a fool is Marco Pierre White? "Soup is the only product that works on this scale," says White. "It ticks all the boxes. It's blindingly obvious. You can deliver it consistently, to a standard, to thousands upon thousands of people. Lasagne? Pies? Cod Mornay? I think not."

SO WHAT'S THEIR FOOD LIKE?

MARCO PIERRE WHITE

Ready meal: "Glorious" soups, including wild mushroom and cream (£1.99, 600g, Morrisons) - nicely chunky but bland, like overboiled vegetables livened up with spices.

Real deal: Velouté of Jerusalem artichoke, £8.50 at L'Escargot, London.

JAMIE OLIVER

Ready meal: The menu includes red onion and rosemary pasta sauce (£1.75, 350g, Tesco) - fresh and fruity, if heavy-handed on the chilli.

Real deal: Carbonara with guanciale, marjoram, garlic and pecorino Toscana, £9 at Fifteen, London

JEAN-CHRISTOPHE NOVELLI

Ready meal: Findus honey roast chicken with spring onion mash (£2.99, Tesco and Morrisons) - fine and flavoursome; mash a bit glutinous.

Real deal: Corn-fed chicken breast with pomme mousseline and morel cream, £14 at The White Horse, Harpenden.

TOM AIKENS

Ready meal: Tom's Kitchen coq au vin, £6.95, mashed potato £2.95 (Selfridges London) - heavenly restaurant-quality food.

Real deal: Duck confit with big chips, wine sauce and shallots, £16.50 at Tom's Kitchen, London.


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HE has been cooking since he was a schoolboy, has run kitchens all over the world and is now a regular fixture in the Good Food Guide.

But he never imagined what lay in store for him when he started looking for a winter job last year.

Steve Lawton, who runs the award-winning Lawton’s at No 16 in St David’s through the summer, has this week started work as the private chef of King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan.

For the next two years, Mr Lawton, 43, will cook at state banquets and prepare meals for the couple and their four children in Raghadan Palace, their home in the capital Amman, where the chef and his family will also have a home.

“There are huge, brand new kitchens and food is flown from all over the world – they expect the best of everything,” said Mr Lawton.

“There is pressure to make sure everything is the best quality and that they like everything, but they are very down to earth and pleasant and are used to international styles of food.”

After deciding to look for work over the winter, Mr Lawton signed up with a London-based culinary agency.

He was then told about the vacancy in the Middle East, after which Mr Lawton spent 10 days cooking for Queen Rania and the children last month and, before he left to return to St David’s, was given the job and asked to return in three weeks.

Among the dishes which impressed the Queen was chicken stuffed with mushrooms and lentils, while the children, Prince Hussein, 13, Princess Iman, 11, Princess Salma, seven, and Prince Hashem, three, were particularly fond of his roast beef, Yorkshire puddings and a potato tarte tatin.

Mr Lawton said he may seek to introduce some Pembrokeshire produce to the Middle East, giving local fishermen and farmers some high-profile customers.

“I cooked some fish dishes for them.

“We might well be flying in Pembrokeshire fish and hopefully local beef and lamb – they are very much into organic there,” said the chef.

King Abdullah – or to give him his full title, His Majesty King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein, King of the Hashermite Kingdom of Jordan – claims to be a 43rd generation direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed.

He is a regular guest of George W Bush at the White House, where he is considered a strong ally in the “War on Terror”.

Mr Lawton started in the catering business as a silver service waiter at St David’s in 1980 and as well as running restaurants there and in nearby Solva, has also run kitchens in one of Florida’s finest country clubs, managed restaurants in Queensland and the Virgin Islands, cooked at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and frequently provides private catering for Pembrokeshire-born singer David Gray, who he counts as a lifelong friend.

He describes his style as international, but based on a solid classical French cuisine heritage, with a dedication to the preparation of the freshest local and sustainable produce at the core of his dishes.

He has run Lawton’s at No 16 for the past five years but left St David’s this week for a house within King Abdullah’s palace grounds, featuring large rooms and a master suite balcony overlooking the palace’s fruit tree gardens.

His wife Kim and daughter Emily, eight, will join him in September in time for the new school year after a visit in around 10 weeks.

“The first 10 weeks are going to be hard and I’m going to miss the girls,” he said.

“I will be looking forward to getting back together in September and settling out there.”

The lease on their popular St David’s restaurant, which recently won the Remy Martin and Harden UK Restaurant Guide Welsh Restaurant of the Year 2007, runs out in May and they are now looking for someone to replace it.

“We are really looking forward to this chance now,” said Mrs Lawton.

“Seasonal business is hard work with the constant opening and closing down, though it has been good for us.”

And it may be that they do not return. Mr Lawton’s prestigious appointment has pricked the attention of others wealthy enough to afford a private chef and job offers from multi-millionaires here and abroad have already begun to arrive.

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Jamie Oliver’s efforts to transform the lives of disadvantaged youngsters by training them as top chefs seemed inspiring. But an independent report concludes that the celebrity chef’s charitable venture, Fifteen, was distinctly undercooked.

It offered “hit-and-miss” training and patchy support and counselling for its often troubled recruits, and was distracted by the television cameras that were recording for a Channel 4 documentary.

Of the 106 young people who started apprenticeships with Fifteen since March 2002, only 54 completed the course and many of those who dropped out were never heard of again.

“It was assumed that everyone, inspired by Jamie’s example, would just get it and the training would work,” the report concludes. “The truth is that the start-up of Fifteen was messy and the boat left port without all its sails and supplies ready.”

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But perhaps the most surprising aspect of this warts-and-all assessment is that it was commissioned by Jamie Oliver and Fifteen itself, who wanted to know exactly where they had gone wrong and how to improve. Few charities assess their work in this systematic and critical way.

Fifteen will publish the report, Life in the Present Tense, next month in the hope that it emboldens other charities to do the same.

In the foreword, Oliver is characteristically blunt about its findings. “We haven’t always got it right. But without taking risks we won’t make progress,” he writes.

Liam Black, director of Fifteen, is blunter still. All charities are under a moral and business obligation to undergo this sort of rigorous, independent performance measurement and make it public, he told The Times.

“There are two reasons why all charities and social enterprises should do this. One, they get support from the taxpayer in terms of Gift Aid or/and other tax relief so there is an obligation to the taxpayer to be able to say here is some evidence about what works.

“Second, there is a a straight business case. If you don’t understand what you are doing, if you don’t get someone from outside the culture to verify it, how do you know how to improve things?” he said.

“What we are trying to do is very difficult – to turn young people from very difficult backgrounds into chefs and we have to be honest about how well we are doing and I think our funders will prefer that.”

The rest of the charitable sector has a long way to go to catch up with the Fifteen example.

GuideStar, the online national database with information on all charities in England and Wales, has invited them to upload performance data on their projects on to its pages.

Out of the 168,000 charities on the database only 77 have chosen to do so. The big charities with most cash are among the worst offenders. Of the 765 charities with annual income of more than £100,000 a year only eight have chosen to post performance data.

Tris Lumley, senior analyst at New Philanthropy Capital, which assesses the performance of charities for donors, said most charities were aware of what was working and what was not, but needed to bring together the information in a more methodical way. “Frontline staff and volunteers see what works and what doesn’t on a daily basis, but they are not very good at feeding it up the chain in a systematic way, and management are even less good at telling their major donors about it or putting it in their annual reports,” he said.

“At Fifteen they obviously felt things were not working out as well as they wanted. Following this report they are making changes. I hope this opens the door for more honesty in all charities.”

Fifteen is now overhauling its operation as a result of the review and wants 70 per cent of apprentices to graduate in the future. From now on, the recruitment of apprentices will focus far more on their potential rather than on how bad their background is.

“I think we spent too much time making sure the candidates were really disadvantaged and not just middle-class drop-outs. We are spending more time now establishing which of those eligible for the apprenticeships are the more likely chefs – how will they perform under pressure and work with people they don’t like, for example,” said Mr Black.

The time spent at catering college will be phased out and the training done on site. The school-like atmosphere of catering college was the last straw for many of the drop-outs, who were already struggling with the discipline of training.

Counselling and support will become part of the curriculum. Many of the recruits – the former prisoners and drug abusers in particular – often end up having to ditch their entire network of friends once they sign up and need more pastoral care.

Finally, apprentices will be better prepared for the often brutal atmosphere of a regular restaurant kitchen after Fifteen.

The report covered the work of the original Fifteen in London, but its findings will extend to the group, which has now extended to Cornwall, Amsterdam and Melbourne.

But with its high-profile founder and numerous wealthy backers, is Fifteen able to be daring and honest where other charities cannot, in case their reputation is damaged?

Mr Black says no, and points out that he still has to raise £500,000 a year to keep the Fifteen Foundation going.

“Donors, especially those from the business world, know ventures like ours are not without risk. But a conspiracy of silence has grown up where charities say, ‘Give me your money and I will do fantastic things’ and no one talks about the risks,” he said.

“I really believe that funders will trust you more for being honest, for saying on this one, we missed the mark.”

Charities often argue that they do not want to spend their scarce cash on external assessments when it could be going on the good cause itself.

Indeed, Fifteen’s report, paid for by Barclays, was not cheap at £50,000.

Mr Black said it took the decision to pay extra for good design and pictures. “We are in the public eye so we wanted a nice-looking report, and we are printing 5,000 copies. But for lots of organisations it doesn’t have to be so fancy.

“About £10,000 would probably cover an external assessment and I think charities would find this is something business donors in particular are keen to pay for.”

‘I was horrible . . . it was a huge adjustment’

Ben Chapman, 24, became an apprentice during Fifteen’s second year in 2003. He had been a car thief and drug dealer in his teens, but ended up going to prison twice. “I was a horrible git,” he says of that time.

His aunt applied to Fifteen on his behalf. “I couldn’t believe when I got through the first interview. I couldn’t believe that something so great had happened to me,” he recalls.

“For me, it was a huge adjustment. I discarded every one of my friends in the end. I found going to college really hard. I didn’t really go to school very much. And I was really angry. I had to learn to keep my mouth shut.”

He stuck out the apprenticeship as, one by one, others gave up. Out of his group, only eight lasted the distance. “I think they couldn’t take the change. They went back to their old life.”

But it was not all plain sailing. After a bad day at college, he stole a car to get home and was stopped by police and sent back to prison. However, Fifteen held his place open and he returned a month later.

Since graduating he took a job at a start-up gastro pub in Billericay, Essex, although it did not work out. He is now back at Fifteen working as a paid chef and living in the East End of London.

“I know they are making changes to the course, but I hope they don’t make it too soft. To make someone a great chef you have got to be strict, tell them if they have done something wrong and make sure they don’t get a big head,” he said.

Where are they now?

Fifteen disadvantaged youngsters with little or no culinary experience were taken on as apprentices by Jamie Oliver to run his original restaurant in 2002. Seven (marked below with an *) completed the course, graduated and some of them are now working in top restaurants from London to New York. Others are doing something completely different

Dwayne Working at Pizza Express
Kerryann Now has two children and is working at a supermarket cheque-out, but would like to get back into cooking
*Ralph Chef de partie at Spotted Pig, New York’s first gastropub
Johnny Has set up his own catering business in Australia
Michael Lost contact
Jules Lost contact
Nicola Lost contact
Lindsay Living in Cornwall
*Tim Chef de partie at Moro restaurant, London
*Ben Chef de partie at Theo Randall, InterContinental, Mayfair, London
*Elisa Journalist on the Daily Express
*Warren sous chef at Hope & Anchor, a gastropub in Waterloo, southeast London
Roberto working for the family business
Nicola lost contact
Jamie Grainger Smith Restaurant Manager at Fifteen

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school chef from Sunderland has tasted sweet success after her dessert scooped a regional award.

Joanne Keithley was one of five people who made it through to the North East and Scotland finals of the quest to find the nation's top school cook.

Joanne's Tropical Fruit Fool with Orange and Polenta Biscuit won the Highly Commended Dessert award.

The 32-year-old, who is assistant cook at Quarry View Primary School, was crowned Sunderland's top school chef in November.

She went through to the regional semi-finals of the Local Authority Caterers' Association's School Chef of the Year 2008.

The annual competition puts the preparation, cooking, creativity and presentation skills of school chefs to the test.

Each entrant is required to produce, in just 90 minutes, a healthy, balanced, two-course meal for a maximum of 90p per head. They must include ingredients that reflect seasonal availability and that have been sourced locally.

Mum-of-two Joanne, who lives in South Hylton, said the cook-off event in Newcastle was a brilliant experience.

She said: "It was a really good day and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was delighted to win the award for my dessert because it was nice to come away with something.
"
Joanne's winning dessert will now go on her school's lunch menu.

Another regional finalist was Shirley McIver, a chef at Whitburn CofE Primary School, who won the Highly Commended Main Course for her Oriental Marsden Chicken with Sandcastle Rice.

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chefs are mummy's boys and I'm no exception. I think that's because I spent so much time with her watching her cook. I am one of five children and we were all given jobs to do in the house and from an early age I was appointed as my mother's helper in the kitchen. My duties were pretty mundane: I topped and tailed vegetables, peeled potatoes and prepared rabbits and chickens in readiness for Maman to work her magic.

She is a great cook and the key to her success is simplicity and I hope I've learned that from her. We weren't wealthy, but we ate meat every day and she prepared great dishes. I saw how she used the cycles of the seasons in her cooking; she used the ingredients around her - vegetables from our garden or the nearby forest. She worked with what we had and did so with one eye to the next season - our larder was always filled with jars that she had worked hard at filling during the summer, to see us through the winter.

I learned from her how important the table is in a family; it is central to family life and very important. Of course she was a great influence on me outside the kitchen - she is tremendously kind and does a lot of work with disabled people and for the church. She would nurture the whole world if she could; when she reads the newspaper she turns to the obituaries first to see if there's a family she can comfort. At 87 years old she never stops and I know I get my energy from her and I hope her gentleness.

She was supportive of me when I decided I wanted to become a chef although I didn't make that decision until I was 18, which was old in those days. One day I happened to be walking past a restaurant and stopped to watch and was immediately drawn to the theatre of it all - the waiters bustling around, the beautiful crockery and cutlery, I just knew I had found what I wanted to do. However, it took me four years to work my way up. First, I had to wash dishes and then wait on tables. No chef ever showed me anything - thank goodness - just what I learned from Maman Blanc and books.

I was so passionate about wanting to become a chef that I devoured any book I could find on the subject. One book had a huge influence on me, it was called Cooking in Ten Minutes and was written by Edouard de Pomiane in 1930. His writing was innovative for that time, especially when you think that all day was spent preparing a meal then and he was saying that 10 minutes was ample. He writes with a twinkle in his eye and his recipes are simple and beautiful. His approach to food is heart-warming and gave me a whole new perspective.

· Raymond Blanc is an ambassador for Action Against Hunger.

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The Chef Jobs site has : Executive chef jobs, Head chef jobs, Sous Chef jobs, Chef de Partie Jobs, Commis Chef Jobs, Pastry Chef Jobs, Development Chef Jobs, Consultant Chef Jobs, Specialist Chef Jobs - all levels of chef and Catering Jobs.

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