Thursday, 19 November 2009

Restaurant guides

I hate guide books. You slave in the kitchen and then someone pops in on your off-night and for the next year you have to live with thousands of people reading and accepting their opinion. You get marked out of ten. It's just like being back at school only you rarely get to see the markers.

Except it's worse than school. Those schoolmarks rarely defined you, but here we are as good as our last restaurant guide score. And it's as if we accept this. It's a sad thing to admit, but I only felt like a proper chef when I got my first decent write-up in a guide. It was like: “ooh, I can cook – here it is in black and white”.

It's not been bad this year. A reasonable Good Food Guide score: bless 'em – they always give us a professional assessment and we haven't a clue who they are. Hardens gave us a kicking for a couple of years but this year we got the highest mark in town (they list two other places). Not totally sure it's deserved. No sense with them of detailed research: when they were praising a competitors 'good local fish' and GFG was pointing out some came from Canada.

Michelin – OK, they have the chefs by the balls. Coming out in a few weeks time and we're bricking it. We're a long way from a star but my ambition (hopefully for 2010) is a bib gourmande. (their version of good cheap food). We're listed but I'm interested in what they will say about us this year. We had a visit last year: sense of a very professional and knowledgeable man.

The AA guide: a sense they're marking you on the flashiness of the toilets and the ironing of the tablecloths – we fail at both of those. I hear (other chef gossip) that they have good inspectors, but round here they give credit to places with poor food. Time Out – odd one this. In London I used to respect their guides, but here in the sticks, my feeling is that we get their non-food writers using expenses to pay for their dirty weekends. We get mixed reviews from them, but consistently the information is wrong.

If I was a better chef would I care less? I doubt it really. We're on the edges of the guides: among the top four hundred restaurants in the country (there are around 50,000). Top two hundred, now that would be different: the guides would be doubling our turnover. People would be making that special journey to see us.

Extra business would be nice but that's not necessarily a good thing. I watched a nearby restaurant making the transition to michelin-starred and what was interesting was how they were scared about the new type of customers: the restaurant as shrine to the temple of modern gastronomy, all serious sucking silence and people taking the menus home. You want a restaurant where people get pissed and have a great time (well we both did). I've sat in truly great restaurants and being too intimidated to laugh. Fuck that.

1 comment:

  1. Hello
    you know that in France the chefs have dropped by themselves their own stars because of pressure ! When you havee One star the most difficult is not to get it but to keep it because when you lose it client will not come back to the restaurant so it can be worse !
    nice debate !!
    I am pierre a french foodie with a food blog dedicated to french creative food ! come and visit me you are very welcome !!!!
    Cheers from Pierre in Paris