Good times, Bad times

Joined Feb 4, 2001
I really just wanted to know if things were at all the same with you.

I started cooking professionally in 1970 after 3 years full time study. The British had suddenly woken up to the fact that there was more to eat than cabbages, potatoes and fish and chips. The Roux brothers opened their first restaurant. It was an exciting time. I did my fair share of chasing up Welsh mountains after wild sheep grazing on thyme. Well, you know what I mean.
For the last 14 years I’ve had my own restaurant in the countryside close to Cambridge. In that time Britain has had several food related ‘events’ that have impacted on my menu.

Calves in crates. I am now unable to put veal on the menu. The name just reminds everyone of sweet little cows confined cruelly in stalls in appalling conditions. Just finding any to buy is a major event.

Eggs and salmonella. Can no longer make real mayonnaise, uncooked meringue or anything with raw egg in it. Caesar dressing, chocolate mousse and so on.

B.S.E. or Mad Cow Disease. For a long time we had no beef with bones in. No more Roasted Rib on the Bone, no T bone Steak and no Oxtails. Also no bones for stock.

Fish Quotas. Can’t argue with this can I? Fish around the U.K. have been harvested almost to the point of extinction. The shortage of supplies makes it the most expensive item on the menu.

Foot and Mouth Disease. This is the latest. It’s a bit like being at war here right now. New outbreaks drop on us every day like bombs. Movement of animals is virtually at a standstill and my butcher tells me that next week it is likely he’ll have no beef, lamb or pork to sell me. Of course our friends in Europe will be only too pleased to fill the gap. Personally I’ve not been too impressed with anything that came from a food mountain. It’s a great opportunity to unload all that old stuff that they thought they’d never sell. It will be months before we see the end of this.

Observing the various forums I see that most of the members are from the U.S. Understandably so. I just wondered if Britain was unique in her troubles.

Please do not send food parcels.
Joined Aug 29, 2000
Perhaps we'll all learn from the creativity you will all have to muster under very difficult circumstances. You're in need of the culinary equivalent of Sir Winston Churchill to rally everyone to make it through this unsettling episode. Best wishes for a quick return to normalcy.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
Yes, it must be hard on your menu, and quite frightening for the general public. I do hope all evidence of these scares disappears as quickly as possible.
Joined Aug 11, 2000
20/20 a national TV show talked of BSE and hoof in mouth in the US...basically when it's detected it's too late, it will have spread far and wide by then. I get calls weekly from people looking for "clean meat" basically organically fed animals. So the ripple is being felt.

I took a PR course from of all people the head of Monsanto's PR divison yesterday(she's in a culinary group I'm part of)> A food writer just got back from Switzerland and said Europe is really in an uproar about meat. The monsanto rep said that their research says 99% are secure with the American food supply.....they don't elaborate on how many people they surveyed or what the questions were.....

So I think Americans as a whole are concerned but until it reaches our shores we won't scream loud enough for the powers that be to make strong insuring herbivore animals don't eat other animals...
like having organic standards that mean something for the family farmer...that state and federal agencies really work for all concerned and not just the big business chemical/aka life science companies....the mind set of most is fix it when it's broke instead of preventative actions...

I'm considering a trip to France and will probably not eat meat...what a way to experience the culinary mecca.
Joined Jan 5, 2001
This thread is really breaking my heart. My sympathies to Europe. These are tough times.

One of the reasons I like Cheftalk is because there are so many of you who are more than cooks, chefs, restauranteurs. You are teachers. This is probably your most important role, and this is exactly the kind of challenge that will put your skills to the test.

For the situation to change, we need to impact the economics of the industry (I'll try not to bore you with theory). Supply responds to shifts in demand. If food industry professionals such as yourselves continue to be successful at educating the public about flavour and nutrition, consumers will demand less 'cheap and plentiful', and more quality, even at higher prices (especially if their diets change to include smaller meat portions). I think we are already seeing a very impressive shift in these trends but it is not yet strong enough to instigate the changes required at the producer level.

To all of you who educate, keep it up. Keep feeding people good food and tell them what they're eating. Before I entered the culinary world, I always made it a point to make a few converts in my circle of friends. ("..that was so good! I will never eat packaged 'whatever' again!")

Rome was not built in one day. Keep up the great work!
Joined Nov 26, 2000
This is really tragic! I can't imagine how you are coping with these developements

here in the US:

Veal: in the past there were outcries of cruelty but they seem to have died down. Veal still sells pretty well..but I think it is still taboo to a select few.

Beef: We watch you guys with concern....but we still want our beef. :D long as it is cooked well we generally aren't concerned. It is now said that pork is safe (from trichanosis) But most people still want the pork well done.

Here is the BIG prob...esp. for us pastry chefs...EGGS

There is NO substitute (that I know of) for raw eggs. Whites: You can make meringues Italian style and they are safe. But yolks: for most things there is no substitute...we just cant do the same things that we once did.

Does anyone know...Is there ANY hope of salmanilla free eggs someday?

BTW.. I do my chocolate mousse with yolks whipped over a double boiler and just make sure they get up to temp. As well as after the chocolate is added you can still warm them.


any other suggestions?
Joined Oct 5, 2001
Dear Davewarne:

I am glad to see that you have not lost your sense of humor! (Don't send any food parcels!!!)

I have been watching very closely the latest developments in the food industry in Europe. I just wrote a report in my newsletter about the foot and mouth disease and its origin. It was traced actually back to India ten years ago from where it was transfered to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world. I am afraid that it is only a matter of time before problems like the BSE and the foot and mouth disease reach North America. They have already reached the Southern part of our hemisphere.

I strongly believe that organic farming practices will become more popular around the world as consumer willingness to pay the premium associated with such practices grows. Last year alone, organic foods sales in the UK were up by 40% and in Brazil by 50%. In a few years the question will not be organic farming or not, but organic farming or ecofarming.

Changing your menu to include products that come from organic farms (there are a lot in the UK) could reinforce consumer-client confidence. A three Michelin star chef in Paris announced last month that he will only offer vegetarian dishes at his restaurant and that all his produce will be organically grown. When the French daily Le Monde polled his clients, they found a strong support for his decision. Not only that, but his customers were excited to discover his new vegetarian creations. When asked about how they felt about paying high prices for dishes that were created with cheaper ingredients (such as vegetables are), they all responded that they were paying for his art and they felt very comfortable with this reality.

I have been a strong advocate of organic farming practices since 1979. I feel sorry that the adaptation of organic products by the majority of consumers is the result of such tragic events that have affected the lives of so many people. I hope that I was able to assist you with some ideas about how to deal with this crisis.
Top Bottom