The Olympics is a distant memory, all that remains are the discussions of legacy and how the venues can be used and adapted to benefit sport and local communities. With Lord Seb Coe acting as Commander in Chief of the Legacy way forward committee I'm sure the future's bright. While Olympic hoarding and event paraphernalia has been dismantled and packed away, a constant stream of trucks loaded with catering equipment has been making its way to a warehouse location in Gloucestershire. The warehouse the size of two football pitches is now full to bursting with ex Olympic kitchen equipment, some of it still in its original wrapping. For example 150 litre Bratt Pans that normally sell for just under £6,000 can be yours for £1,600. It’s not just big equipment there’s stainless steel tables, food slicers, water boilers, basket fryers, ice makers and fridges. When confronted with this Aladdin’s cave of kitchen equipment it’s hard not to think of that word “legacy” and wonder why some provision for all this stock hasn't been made to charities that are directly or indirectly involved with food and education. Makes you think someone’s missed an opportunity here.
Anyway deals can be done and it’s not a state secret, the company handling the equipment sale are Mid West Catering Equipment of Cheltenham, www.mwcateringequipment.com. If you are looking for a combination oven why not have one that possibly prepared dinner for Usain or Mo and has only run round the block once or twice?
The reason we are so familiar with what equipment's on offer is because we have purchased numerous bits for our new factory location in Grimsby. The Grimsby operation will be where all our filleting, portioning and prepping will be done and frees up factory space back at Gloucester where we can concentrate on smoking and designing more bespoke products. More news on Grimsby in next month’s newsletter.
This week I acted as a judge at the British Oyster Tasting Championship awards, held at Boisdale Restaurant in Canary Wharf. The brief was to pick the best native and Pacific oyster produced in British waters. We had 3 native and 6 Pacific oysters to mark, all I can say is it wasn’t straightforward but it was pleasure. As you probably know, in times gone by and particularly in the Dickensian era, oysters were consumed by everyone. An indication of how popular oysters were is shown by old Billingsgate fish market records recording 500 million natives passing through the market in 1851, that’s nearly 1½ million natives a day. We were actually at that time consuming as many as the French. The native has had a hard time of it over the last 150 years, overfishing, pollution and disease, plus some very cold winters, have left us with a precious few natives. At the end of the 19th century we produced 30,000 tonnes a year compared to just 115 tonnes produced in 2011. The demand for natives in London is such that they are being rationed and the day may come when they disappear altogether from our menus.
There is better news for the more familiar Pacific or rock oyster and the UK produced 1,100 tonnes last year and production is growing at about 10% a year. This is insignificant when compared to the French who produce in excess of 130,000 tonnes a year.
The taste for oysters in the UK continues to grow, and one of our fellow judges Richard Corrigan serves 1,000 oysters a day at Bentley’s, his London fish restaurant, earning him the nickname ‘oysterboy’. I was also informed his favourite band is the Smiths, funny what you learn judging. Anyway back to the results of the tasting, not altogether unsurprisingly the Natives were marked higher than the rocks by all 14 of the judges with only 3 points separating 1st and 3rd, so hardly anything between them but the winner was Whitstable with Duchy of Cornwall and Loch Ryan in the runners up position. The title of the best Rock oyster went to Cumbrae with Dorset 2nd and Carlingford in 3rd.
So if you ever see ‘natives’ on the menu give them a try because they’re bound to taste fantastic and are becoming increasingly more difficult to buy.
More riverbank news next month.