How savvy are you with food seasonality? Do you know when game is game or Bass is banned, when asparagus is English or cauliflower is cool? Do you care? Is the provenance and seasonality a factor when you order food or would you rather just have what you want, whenever you want?
In truth I think that we have forgotten the seasons because for so many years now almost everything has been available all year round and we have enjoyed that freedom of choice. When was the last time you planned your weekend meals and factored the season into you menus?
In fact I would say that the opposite is now true and people feel aggrieved when a product becomes unavailable. Look at the recent “catastrophe” when supermarkets had no courgettes and how upset everyone became. Conspiracy theories were rife but the truth was that in Spain the shocking weather had wiped out most of the crops.
This blurring of the seasons sometimes has a knock on effect when it comes to writing bespoke menus. A couple of years ago I was asked in January to produce a menu using only seasonal products from no more than 50 miles away from the venue. After many phone calls and much head scratching we came up with a menu that met the criteria but was I admit, a little dull. We sent it back to the client who poo-pooed my work of art and instead chose Seabass with mango salsa, Greek salad and chocolate fudge cake!! When my chef returns from catching wild Seabass from Westminster pier he’s off to the cocoa and mango plantations in Hyde Park.
We are often asked for food within a certain distance of the venue and this can sometimes cause confusion. For instance, 100 miles from here takes you to the outskirts of Birmingham but well into northern France. Another tricky one is ‘local’. Depending on who’s asking that could be from within the M25, the Home Counties, England or the UK.
Farmed fish verses wild caught fish is also one that isn’t clear cut. Farmed would seem the obvious choice because it relieves the pressure on the ocean’s natural stock but farmed fish has its own well documented issues with disease and the effect this it might have on the local environment.
You might find it hard to believe but sourcing organic produce can also be very difficult. I’m sure when you visit your local supermarket you will see many organic products but for us they are much harder to get hold of than you might think. There is by its nature a limited amount of organic food of which the supermarkets take the lions share but as we have a limited demand it’s difficult to build relationships with organic suppliers. There are however many other quality controlled standards like Red Tractor, Fairtrade, MSC and Free range that are more cost effective and popular with our customers.
No matter how difficult the request we will always do our best to deliver to the customer exactly what they want or at least offer them a credible alternative. However there was one request a couple of years ago that had us all mystified.
A customer sent an allergy request through saying that they were allergic to Monopods. I felt a little embarrassed that I had no idea what a monopod was but said I’d look into it. I’d heard of bivalves and cephalopods but Monopods was a new one on me. It turned out that a monopod is a mythological human creature with a single, large foot extending from a leg centered in the middle of their bodies.
I’d like to take this opportunity to reassure our customers that One Great George Street does not knowingly use unicorns, monopods, dragons or any other kind of mythical creature in the production of its food.