Welcome to August’s Observer Food Monthly
All I ever wanted was to feed people; to bring them something good to eat, to offer a drink; make them feel comfy and replete. I spent years waiting table, working front of house in hotels, country inns, cafes and a hotel restaurant. There wasn’t a day I didn’t collapse into bed, exhausted and happy. Don’t be surprised if I come to your table with a menu one day. A job I enjoyed so much I could return in a heartbeat.
Our restaurants are in something of a crisis. We have the talent in the kitchen and front of house but not enough to go around. There’s a shortage of chefs and waiting staff, baristas and kitchen porters. Professionals who have left the country because of Brexit; some who have simply decided not to go back to the industry after their furlough. Others have left because the places they owned or worked at couldn’t survive the months of pandemic-induced closure.
In this issue, we talk to those who are trying to recruit help; those who are training the restaurant staff of the future – and one chef who tells us why he won’t be going back.
For this, our restaurants issue, we chat to Florence Knight, much missed from her days at Polpetto – I loved her partridge with soft polenta – who is heading back to the kitchen after a long break. She brings us recipes including potato and chard croquettes and linguine with lovage and clams.
Another chef who couldn’t wait to get back into their whites is Clare Smyth. Reading Tim Adams’ interview you are struck by how frustrated the Michelin-starred chef must have been during lockdown, desperate to once again have a dining room buzzing with happy diners.
Jay Rayner wonders if you can predict whether a restaurant is for you by checking the price of its entry level wine: Fred Sirieix tells us what is on his table and we take lunch with Maggi Hambling.