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If food is your business, then last week at Olympia in London, must have seemed like heaven. For three days, the great and good of the food world gathered for the Speciality & Fine Food Fair where more than 600 exhibitors showed their wares to over 10,000 chefs, restaurateurs, pub, bar, café and hotel owners from across the UK and around the world.
In spite of the tough economic climate, this was the best attended event ever in the show’s 14 year history and is a really encouraging sign that the food and catering industry is not just alive and well, but seems to be thriving. And this reflects what we are hearing from our customers whose Rational ovens we look after in professional kitchens across the south, southwest and south Wales. Bookings are up and customers seem happier to spend more.
But, going back to the show, its aim is to provide UK suppliers of speciality and fine foods with an international showcase for their products. This year there was a whole section of over 60 exhibitors in the so-called “Speciality Chocolate Fair” which included a live demonstration theatre where some of the UK’s top chocolatiers and pastry chefs showed off their talents with creations like a “blonde chocolate sea salt caramel ganache, encased in a moulded blonde chocolate shell” and “caramellized bananas deglazed with orange, lime juice and fresh passion fruit pulp, Jivara and ginger cream”.
Needless to say, I avoided that like the plague.
It wasn’t all about chocolate by a long way though. There was a Fine Food Forum where experts discussed ideas and practical tips to help drive more customers and increase profits; there were sessions to help small businesses become more profitable but, best of all, the winners of the 2013 Great Taste Awards were announced, with a chance to taste some of the most amazing food products this country produced.
Recognised as the “Oscars” of the food world and the “epicurean equivalent of the Booker prize”, the Great Taste Awards are run by the Guild of Fine Food. A panel of 405 judges tasted nearly 10,000 products to come up with 125 three gold star winners which ranged from Himalayan rock salt-aged beef from a butcher in Northern Ireland to a fig and sherry frozen yoghurt from a dairy in Salcombe.
It’s great to see this country well and truly back on the world gastronomic map and producing some sensational food. With standards being pushed higher and higher each year, and all these amazing ingredients available to pubs and restaurants, it bodes well for the next time you dine out.
If your dining-out days go back to the 80s, you’ll remember the sweet trolley; always full of promise but so often a bitter disappointment. Restaurateurs copped out of adding daily delights to the menu and instead delivered a gilded trolley to your table creaking with exotic names – most straight from the freezer. New York Cheesecake, Tiramisu, Black Forest Gateau, Mississippi Mud Pie, fruit salad and those awful stringy oranges swimming in a brandy-flavoured soup. I blame the sweet trolley for my dislike of all those puds, which I am sure taste wonderful in Manhattan or Milan.
What the sweet trolley had done was to run the traditional English pud out of town. And when Keith and Jean Turner, who ran the Three Ways House Hotel at Mickleton in the Cotswolds, realised what was happening they started something that was to become a world-wide phenomenon. In the winter of 1985, they held the inaugural meeting of the Pudding Club. Thirty passionate and pioneering pudding eaters enjoyed a light main course, no starter and no bread, and then feasted on no less than seven fine traditional puds such as Jam Roly Poly, Syrup Sponge, Spotted Dick and Bread and Butter Pudding.
Over the years that followed, the Pudding Club gained some local notoriety but it wasn’t until Jill and Simon Coombe took over the hotel nearly 17 years ago, that they began to spread the word (and the custard) with missionary zeal – taking the Pudding Club to the four corners of the world. They travelled to Japan and the Americas, published pudding recipes and even campaigned for Spotted Dick when Tesco tried to change the name to Richard. No surprise they attracted comments – “Like making love in a thunderstorm”, “It’s like a medieval banquet with custard”. It has even been described as “The eighth wonder of the world”.
Today the award-winning Three Ways House Hotel hosts a Pudding Club Meeting every Friday night (and sometimes on a Saturday too.) Self appointed Chief Pudding Taster, Simon describes these occasions as “fun, relaxed but indulgent evenings”. The format remains the same as in 1985. No starter, a light main course and seven glorious puddings washed down with lashings of syrup and custard. At the end of the evening the members vote for their “Pudding of the Night”.
And, to continue the pudding theme, if too much Roly Poly has made you a trifle lethargic, you could always book into one of their famous and exquisitely decorated pudding rooms – Sticky Toffee, Oriental Ginger, Syrup Sponge, Summer Pudding, Lord Randall’s, The Chocolate Suite or Spotted Dick and Custard.
Just in case you’re wondering if we have gone off our sweet trolley, the reason I mention Jill, Simon and the Pudding Club is that they, of course, use a Rational oven, which is serviced and maintained on contract with AC Services and has been since it was installed four years ago.
The oven is a ten grid Self Cooking Center and lies at the heart of their kitchen. The majority of the puddings are steamed in a traditional way, but most of the other dishes from the a la carte and brasserie menus are cooked in the Rational oven – breakfast, lunch and dinner. With 48 bedrooms, and up to 100 residents, the hotel may serve up to 150 covers on a busy night across its main restaurant, the Randalls Bar Brasserie and the Pudding Club itself.
“We need to use the latest technology to improve our service, drive down our costs and make working conditions as good as we can for our 60 staff,” said Simon.
“The oven is part of our investment behind the scenes of the hotel. It was an expensive piece of equipment that is used very heavily and we don’t want it standing idle because of some failure that could have been avoided. It made absolute sense to take out a Gold Maintenance Contract with AC Services. They have good engineers and we have had no major issues considering the use it gets.”
Gloucestershire pubs and restaurants will have to be on their mettle in a few days’ time – larders stocked, ovens serviced, ready to take on an influx of over 200,000 hungry visitors. It’s time for the Badminton Horse Trials, which take place from May 2nd to 6th just a few miles down the road from our offices here in Yate. Horse lovers from around the world will be making a bee-line for the world-famous cross country course and it’s a great opportunity for all our local eateries.
This year’s event is all the more eagerly anticipated since our dreadful weather forced the cancellation of the 2012 Trials. Advance ticket sales are already breaking all records and 2013 promises to be the most exciting Trials yet. The riders taking part include the Olympic bronze, silver and gold medal -winning teams from New Zealand, Britain and Germany – the latter headed by the reigning world, Olympic and European champion, Michael Jung. Out of the 150 entrants who have applied, only 85 will be chosen, based on their most recent form. The riders will complete the four mile course in about 11 minutes – tackling 30 obstacles at an average speed of over 22mph.
While the Cross Country Test on Sunday is the main event, attracting one of the biggest attendances of any outdoor event in Europe (you can watch it live on the BBC’s red button from 12.20pm to 5.45pm), there is something for everyone over the long weekend. Friday and Saturday are Dressage days when all riders have to demonstrate obedience, discipline, accuracy and elegance in a series of 26 movements. Then, after Sunday’s Cross Country Test, Monday is all about speed, accuracy and agility in the Show Jumping Test. Riders accumulate point for all three disciplines.
Fast and Furious
In complete contrast to the power and scale of the cross country, Badminton also hosts one of the qualifying legs of the annual Shetland Pony Grand National, held at the Olympia Horse Show every year. Only ten mini riders (aged between nine and thirteen and below 5’1”) will get through to compete, so the racing between these budding jockeys will be fast and furious. The Shetland Pony Grand National has so far raised over £400,000 for the Great Ormond Street Hospital.
So if your pub or restaurant is within striking distance of Badminton, don’t leave your good reputation to chance. We have to respond time and again to kitchen owners whose ovens have developed a fault right in the middle of a busy service. If you and your reputation rely on Rational ovens to deliver top quality results every time, give us a call and we’ll help you to make sure that, like the horses and riders at Badminton, they are kept in peak condition.
Martin Rickman was just four years old when his dad took over the Malthouse Inn in the pretty Hampshire village of Timsbury. 44 years later, that most traditional of English pubs has become one of the area’s favourite eateries and, under Martin’s practised eye, has been joined by another pub in nearby Romsey – the Sun Inn. Like so many successful restaurants, the kitchens in both inns are powered by Rational ovens.
Martin took over the running of the Malthouse Inn from his father 12 years ago, opening a new family dining experience, Carol’s Carvery, soon afterwards.
Traditional Pub Fare
As well as inheriting his father’s skills as a landlord – serving great beer in a warm and friendly environment – Martin has injected his passion for good food and a sense of fun. As well as serving traditional English pub fare, using locally sourced meat and vegetables, the Malthouse is an Aladdin’s cave of curiosities from multi-coloured Dr Martin boots, to tables made from iron bed frames, Disney memorabilia, dolls in prams and pictures of sinking ships where the pictures themselves are sinking into the wall. Three acres of gardens include large patio areas for alfresco dining, a playground and even a five-a-side football pitch.
The Sun Inn is an equally novel dining experience. The restaurant there is Ricky’s Steakhouse – specialising in grilled food inspired by the American West. Every Sunday at Ricky’s is Thanksgiving with roast turkey and gammon alongside a range of locally sourced steaks.
As you can imagine, running two busy family dining pubs can put a real strain on the kitchens. Four years ago Martin invested in two, 10-rack Rational ovens for the Malthouse’s carvery and added a third when he purchased the Sun Inn two years later. The ovens are running 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
“The restaurants are constantly busy,” said Martin. “On Sundays we may serve up to 800 covers at the Malthouse alone, so we are totally reliant on the ovens. When the restaurant is full of hungry diners, we just can’t afford any breakdowns.”
Martin has used AC Services (Southern) to service and repair his Rational ovens ever since he installed them. AC Services is the authorised Rational oven service partner for Hampshire and the South, the South West and South Wales.
“It has been a fantastic service,” he said. “When we have had problems, they have responded quickly and their engineers have always managed to get the ovens back up and running. They have not let us down once.”
In a couple of weeks’ time Rational ovens will be featured at one of the most exciting events in the specialist food retail calendar in the UK – the Farm Shop and Deli Show at the NEC, Birmingham, which opens for three days on April 14th.
Now in its third year, the show attracts trade buyers from across Europe and is one of the focal points for showcasing the very best of UK produce. Over 150 food and drink producers and suppliers will be taking part, representing an industry with over 4,000 farm shop outlets and worth over £1.5 billion.
The Rational ovens on show will be from the state-of-the-art Self Cooking Center® whitefficiency® range. These amazing ovens, which are revolutionising kitchens across the world, can produce large quantities of perfectly cooked food, whether it’s pan-fried, baked, steamed, braised or roasted, consistently, every single time; making them perfect for the production of pre-cooked food for the chilled or frozen food market. Rational will be holding free seminars at the show where visitors can “test-drive” one of the new Rational ovens and watch real meals being produced.
The Dragon’s Pantry
AC Services Southern been installing and maintaining Rational ovens for the last 20 years or so, and we know how good they are. But these latest whitefficiency® ovens are just stunning. They are going to grab a lot of attention at the show.
The Farm Shop and Deli Show this year is also featuring special areas dedicated to each of the main regions in the UK and also sees the return of a special feature, The Dragon’s Pantry, where entrepreneurial food producers and trade suppliers can pitch their business ideas to a panel of industry experts.
I sometimes wonder what the real Dragon’s Den would have made of the very first Rational oven invented by the founder, Siegfried Meister all those years ago.
Caesar’s Arms at Creigiau, set in the lush meadows at the foot of the Welsh Valleys, uses state-of-the-art Rational ovens to prepare award-winning meals for its busy restaurant and farm shop. So when one of the ovens broke down, the potential for a major disruption to their service seemed inevitable. But within 15 minutes of calling their specialist oven service provider, AC Services (Southern), were on their way and within the hour an engineer was on site and had the oven back up and working in next to no time.
“We have built up a great reputation here and can’t afford any breakdowns in our kitchens,” said owner Mark Sharples. “All our appliances are on service contracts and we knew that AC Services had a 24/7 emergency number. We are right in the middle of the countryside and really didn’t expect the engineers to turn up so quickly after we made the call.”
Helen Hagger, director of AC Services (Southern), was also impressed by her team’s rapid response. “We always respond as quickly as we can to emergencies,” she said. “and it was lucky that we had a service engineer in the area. But what makes a real difference is if the restaurant has an oven service contract with us. That way we know the history of the appliance and can identify problems much more quickly. We were able to complete this repair quickly because we knew exactly what we were dealing with.”
Food lover’s heaven
Caesar’s Arms, is a food lover’s heaven. The restaurant serves the freshest organic food supplied by its own farm and farm shop that in turn sells ready-meals that have been prepared in the restaurant’s kitchens. This symbiotic relationship between pub, restaurant and farm was created by Mark, who fell in love with the kitchen as a 13-year-old earning pocket money washing up for local hotels.
He opened the pub 20 years ago and then, five years ago converted the adjacent cricket pavilion, which along with the village cricket green had fallen into disrepair, into a farm shop. Where the village blacksmith once thundered down the wicket to hurl a snarling bouncer at the local bobby, organically grown vegetables are now found. And, since last year, the farm across the road has joined Mark’s gastronomic empire, adding home grown pork, Welsh lamb and chicken to complement the Carmarthenshire beef, venison and wonderful choice of fresh fish on his menu.
Today Mark and his team of chefs serve between 1,500 and 2,000 meals a week to meet demand from the farm shop and from the 150-cover restaurant (200 when the heated al fresco terrace is open). With that many mouths to feed and a reputation to maintain Mark doesn’t take any chances with the appliances he uses to prepare his award-winning meals (Caesar’s Arms won a coveted Gold star in the 2011 National True Taste Awards).
For the last eight years, Mark has used Rational ovens and insists on having them regularly serviced. The six monthly service plan carried out by AC Services’ Rational trained and accredited engineers, ensures that all critical components are checked and replaced if necessary, and that the ovens are maintained in top condition.
We at AC Services (Southern) pride ourselves in providing the very best levels of customer service. Whilst most other service providers set their sights on achieving customer satisfaction, we look further afield. We set our sights on generating customer enthusiasm. That is why we are so pleased when our clients take the time and effort to expound their feelings about what we do for them – take the Tortworth Court Four Pillars Hotel for example.
Tortworth Court – Beauty and Elegance in the Cotswolds
The Tortworth Court Four Pillars Hotel is a splendidly impressive, Victorian built Hotel, nestling amongst the stunning beauty of the Cotswolds. As well as providing luxury accommodation, set in its own private grounds overlooking a serene, peaceful lake, Tortworth Court also offers one of the best fine dining experiences in the West Country. Continue reading
AC Services (Southern) have been installing, servicing, maintaining and repairing commercial ovens for over 22 years. Based in the South of England, the South West, and in South Wales, their reputation for excellence in oven care is fast becoming almost legendary. It’s the main reason so many of the quality eating houses in the south-western hemisphere of the UK choose them, including Bradford on Avon’s superb new restaurant, The Three Gables.
Part owner Vito Scaduto made no bones about it when it came down to explaining why he insisted on appointing AC Services (Southern) as his oven’s service provider.” It’s because they’re simply the best” he said. He further remarked, “When you run a restaurant, your oven is the be all and end all. If it goes down before or during service, you’re dead in the water. Here at The Three Gables we’ve worked very hard over the past year since our launch. We’ve built up a great clientele, and our reputation is spreading fast. I won’t let anything jeopardise that. It’s exactly why I’ve appointed AC Services – they’re my ace in the hole”.
Vito first came across AC Services (Southern) at his previous venture, the ‘Red or White’ Restaurant in Trowbridge. “I knew of ACS through my wife” explained Vito, “so they seemed the logical choice when it came to choosing someone to install a second hand oven in the kitchen. Of course being second hand you do tend to worry a little more about reliability. But with ACS’s reputation for excellent service, we hoped we could cope. And cope we did. In fact the success we cooked our way to at the ‘Red or White’, was to provide the springboard for our current success story at The Three Gables here in Bradford on Avon”.
The Three Gables provides the perfect backdrop for Sicilian born Vito, and his business partner, Chef, Marc Salmon. Marc, a classically trained chef, presents his own unique twist on a wonderful assortment of English and Continental dishes with a Mediterranean style infusion. Using locally sourced produce, according to season, the fine dining experience to be enjoyed at the Three Gables will have you planning your next reservation as you’re digesting your pudding.
“For our venture here at The Three Gables”, Marc went on to say, “We decided to invest in a brand new oven. Our research came up with Rational as being one of the finest ranges of commercial ovens on the market today – and guess what? AC Services (Southern) are one of Rational’s best service partners in the UK! That clinched it, and we ordered a SelfCookingCenter®. We’ve never looked back since. Our reputation and success continues to grow based on our exciting menus, the superb ambience of fine dining in the great environment that is Three Gables, and the back room boys – our ace in the hole – AC Services (Southern)”.
The whitefficiency® SelfCookingCenter® ovens that Rational now offer come complete with a 2 year warranty. They are also pre-programmed with CareControl, an automated hygienic cleaning program that keeps the oven spotlessly clean and germ free. AC Services (Southern) supply the proprietary cleaning agents that CareControl works with to maximise hygienic cleanliness. They also help to prolong the working life of the oven too. The cleaning agents are available at the most competitive prices. ACS hold a good stock and can deliver direct to your door.
To find out more about the range of services that AC Services (Southern) offer, why not drop in on their website, or call them on 01454 322 222.
AC Services (Southern) have a name to live up to. The fact that they deign to use the word “Service” in their company name could leave them wide open to attack if they don’t perform. But perform they do, as their existing clientele are only too pleased to confirm!
Take Tom Chrisostomou, Catering Manager, (Food and Beverages), of the Preview Buffet Bar in the famous Cribbs Causeway on the outskirts of Bristol. Tom explained that with 135 top store names, and 7,000 car parking spaces, Cribbs Causeway is a great place to shop, and the eating houses, (including of course the very popular Preview Buffet Bar), make it a great place to get a bite to eat as well. “With such a busy trade each and every day, we just can’t afford our ovens to go down”, he said; and that’s exactly where AC Services (Southern) come into the picture. “I’ve been using ACS for a little over 10 years now”, he continued, “It was at our Garden Centre in Brent Knoll, Highbridge, when I first started using them for maintaining and repairing our Rational Oven, and I haven’t looked back since. I’m still enjoying the same high quality customer service since day one”. Things have changed since those early days, and Tom is now heading up the catering operation at The Preview Buffet Bar.
The Preview Buffet Bar brings an exciting new meaning to the “eat all you can at a fixed price” restaurant arena, serving the nation’s favourite dishes; dishes such as quality Pizza, Kebabs, Grills, and Pasta, plus healthy stir fries and salads. “We use ovens made by Rational UK; they’re extremely versatile, allowing us to cook everything on our menu with the minimum of fuss. We can’t afford any down time. That’s why we use ACS. If anything should go wrong, we’ve only got to phone AC Services (Southern), and one of their service engineers is here in a flash. It’s customer service at its very best”.
Tom is also responsible for the operation on Grand Pier, Weston Super Mare, where at present their Rational Ovens are still under warranty. “The warranty is up in September this year“, said Tom, “Then I intend to take out an annual maintenance contract with AC Services (Southern)”. Tom went on to say that excellence has its own reward, and it’s the excellence of ACS’s client care that has put them in pole position to take on the maintenance of their Rational Ovens at Weston in September.
AC Services (Southern) offer a range of maintenance plans to suit all needs and pockets. The key to keeping Rational Ovens operating at optimum performance is having them regularly maintained, says Helen Hagger, Director at ACS. Rational ovens already have a great reputation for performance, reliability, and longevity, but when they are expertly serviced by skilled, knowledgeable industry trained engineers, you’ll get as close to perpetual operation as is possible, something that’s on every eating establishments’ wish list. It takes it to a new level.
AC Services (Southern) operate in the South of England, the Southwest, and South Wales. If you’re in one of these areas and you operate Rational Ovens in your business, why not give them a call? You can reach them on 01454-322-222, or why not drop in on their website at www.acservicessouthern.co.uk. Sign up for one of their great value for money annual maintenance contracts, and relegate oven down-time to the back burner!