Read on to learn about vegans inheriting the earth, the rise of the Multi-tarians and the Chocolate fondant paradox…
While I wasn’t paying attention it suddenly became 2019! How on earth did that happen? Where are the years disappearing to? Don’t they just flash past quicker every year? Oh, woe-is-me, woe-is-me.
It equally feels like yesterday and another lifetime ago that a fresh-faced version of myself walked into The Savoy for my first day of big boy work in September of 1984.
So much has changed in the ensuing 35 years that it really is a different world. There were no mobile phones and social media was reading someone else’s Evening Standard over their shoulder on the tube. The Jubilee Line finished at Charing Cross and we were only just getting used to the idea of having 4 T.V. channels! You could take a tube from Southgate to Heathrow for 50p thanks to Red Ken and a pint of Ruddles County would set you back 72p. Having said that I was only taking home the Princely sum of £60 a week.
With hindsight, catering was so straight forward back then because everyone just ate what you gave them. For example, we would produce a meal for 500+ customers in the Savoy’s Lancaster room and there would be no variations to the set menu.
Then one day disaster struck. I remember it like it was yesterday that a head banqueting waiter came into the kitchen and apologetically said “sorry chefs, we’ve got a vegetarian.”
The word ‘vegetarian’ stuck in his throat like it was making him feel nauseous and the kitchen was shocked into a stunned silence. What to do??? Luckily, we had a chef amongst us with expertise in the field of vegetarianism. “It’s alright lads” he said sagely, “just give them a f***ing omelette.”
Disaster had been avoided but the die was now cast. Until then the only dietary we had come across was for a famous actor who was resident at the hotel and through a life of excess had to eat a diet of reduced salt and butter, or “sans sel, sans Beurre” as the pompous French sous chef would scream at us.
I had no idea. I thought that Allergens was a village in France, that Pescatarian came between Aquarius and Aries and that gluten free meant that it had been nailed together. I also had no idea how fast my world was about to change.
Roll forward 30 years and every function sheet will have has some kind of dietary instruction on it and there are so many reasons why.
Firstly, the sheer variety of ingredients we are exposed to now is vast. Back in the 80’s it was either British boiled or fat laden French cuisine, but now we regularly eat foods that our ancestors had never even heard of, let alone tried. For some people this lack of exposure has manifested itself as an intolerance because their bodies haven’t had time to adjust to such a rapid change of diet. These people are the genuine allergy sufferers.
Also, people are making life and ethical choices with their food. Vegetarian numbers have risen steadily over the years but the recent surge in the numbers of Vegan has been quite dramatic and shows no sign of slowing down. Consequently, this year we have an entirely Vegan fork buffet menu on offer as well as many individual vegan dishes on our menu.
Many people of course will choose to avoid certain ingredients because of their faith or beliefs, while others will try and manage their intake of certain ingredients for health and fitness reasons. Flexitarianism, where people choose to be predominantly vegetarian but allow themselves to occasionally consume meat or fish is also becoming very popular.
As an example of how things have changed, we recently had a function for 130 people with the following dietaries.
10 x vegetarians, 3 x vegan, 2 x Gluten free, 5 x halal, 2 x no cheese, 1 x Doesn’t eat lamb or pork, 1 x No seafood, mushrooms, bananas, 1 x Egg allergy, 1 x No red meat, 1 x No chocolate.
That’s a lot of omelettes!
Joking aside, far from being an unusual number of dietaries the above is reasonably standard and it has become a significant part of our jobs to make sure that everyone is catered for correctly. We of course treat every dietary with the utmost respect and make sure that their food is exciting and appetizing and not just acceptable and compliant. It’s something we take great pride in.
There is however one strange anomaly and it’s something we like to call it the chocolate fondant paradox.
Chocolate fondant is one of our ever-present desserts and one that we love serving. It’s without doubt the most popular wedding dessert and it’s not that unusual for it to count for more than 50% of the desserts we serve in a week.
It does however appear to be magically ‘allergen free.’
Despite being packed with flour, eggs, sugar and butter it does seem to be acceptable to most people.
The conversation usually goes something like:
“Here is your dessert sir/madam.”
“Why haven’t I got fondant?”
“Because of your allergy to dairy, eggs and flour sir/madam.”
“Oh, I’m sure the fondant will be fine if you just pop one here!”
Selective-arianism at its finest. But then again, there’s no fun in being good all the time, is there!