Pop Ups or Downs – Taste

When you go to eat, in particular when you go to have a great eating experience, what do you put that greatness down to? Let’s take the Vineyard as an example. A fantastic venue, fine art in every corner, a chef you just want to take home and keep in your cupboard because the food is so delicious. A sommelier who is kind to us poor souls who know so little yet they don’t make us feel bad, they advise gently and wisely. The entire staff are on their toes to make sure that you have a fantastic dining experience without making you feel embarrassed, they are friendly and thoughtful and watchful. I could have the most wonderful food but if it was in a dreadful atmosphere made to feel inferior by the servers it would not be a pleasant experience.

This is where the Academy of Food and Wine Service comes in, and in particular their competition of UK Restaurant Manager of the Year. They make the difference between being ignored and looked down on as a customer or having a great experience that you can reminisce on for years to come. It is wonderful that there are organisations like AFWS to encourage such great service and set such high standards, this is just so inspiring and we should be so proud of it. This must be such an incredibly hard competition, SIX months of a pop up on the South Bank, please send the details so that I can blog and tweet them, is far more than I can even imagine.  It shows the high standards of the AFWS which I am glad of (on a selfish level).

I have just found out that Rebecca Galland from the Vineyard has got through the first part of this difficult competition to become Restaurant Manager of the Year and as a result has to set up a pop up restaurant in London for 6 months! Rebecca if you get a chance to comment on how you feel about this I would love to hear from you. This is a local lass, well talented and the whole thing is scarily amazing. I know that your pop up is going to be called Taste and I love the ethos. It appears to be similar to the Vineyard, we are talking seasonality, locality and a change of menu as the season progresses. How fab is that, it means that you can go back and experience a different but equally wonderful menu on a regular basis. A fair choice of food and wine, all high quality, and all made to entice you back again.

To be honest Rebecca, although we haven’t actually met you know I am very fond of the Vineyard and I think you have a great chance. Their service is second to none and I will be there asap once you have opened, again, can you send me more details (including menus as I am obsessed). I am so pleased that organisations like AFWS exist and have no doubt that you will do well. Let me know how it goes. I want addresses, prices, menus and anything else that I can blog, this is exciting stuff and must be hard for AFWS to judge!

Although pop ups have been around for quite a while, especially in America and Cuba (!) they are still gaining popularity in the UK. There are some very famous chefs who have used this concept, including Pierre Koffman and Jason Atherton. They are also a great way for someone to dip their toe in the water of running a restaurant to see if this is the path they want to take. Personally I could never become a chef, it is incredibly hard work, long hours sweating in a boiling kitchen is not the way I want to spend my life but I am more than happy to help at the end, the eating end. The other thing about pop ups is that they tend to be run by people who are passionate about what they do, be it Peruvian food, vegetable curries, you name it and there will probably be a pop up for it. They are not necessarily cheaper to organise although often tend to be cheaper to eat at, I guess this shows the passion of the chefs involved. As you know I love the passionate chefs, Daniel Galmiche who must have restarted his interview about five times as he thought about more and more things he wanted to say. Raymond Blanc who grows dozens of varieties of vegetables then tests them all in different ways to get the best result. Wow. I grew TWO green beans this year and if I had RB’s approach I wouldn’t have got very far. But, to be fair, his food is quite a lot better than mine!

I think I need to visit Taste when it opens, updates to follow.


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