ESSENTIAL STEALS THE SHOW IN BLIND TASTING

ESSENTIAL STEALS THE SHOW IN BLIND TASTING
Essential  Cuisine

Essential Cuisine

Premium Supplier 17th January 2011

ESSENTIAL STEALS THE SHOW IN BLIND TASTING

 
Savouring success at St Austell
Family-owned St Austell Brewery was founded in 1851 and is one of Cornwall’s largest private companies. It aims to be South West England’s most successful brewer, wholesaler and retailer by investing in its people, its tied estate, and all licensed retailing. 
Since Walter Hicks opened his first pub, the Seven Stars in St Austell town centre, the pub estate has been an important part of business, and today, it has 175 pubs, hotels and inns across Cornwall and Devon and the Isles of Scilly, plus one in Somerset. 
Within this expanding portfolio, 25 pubs are managed, with the food operation overseen by catering development manager Paul Drye, an ambassador for freshly cooked food, prepared with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients under the direction of well trained chefs. 
With Paul at the helm, St Austell Brewery has established itself as a leader in developing the West Country food and drink sector and is recognised nationally as a stalwart of locally sourced food, cask ales and quality of service, making the finals of Pub Company of the Year at the Publican Food and Drink Awards five years running and winning the award twice.
While Paul insists his managed pubs retain as much autonomy as possible, a re-evaluation of the food operation this Autumn flagged up some areas where business could be improved.
One area was the procurement of cupboard and freezer essentials, which Paul felt could be more cost-effective for the managed estate as a whole and on an individual pub basis.
At the top of the list were gravies and stocks or bouillons, with his band of chefs generally buying a mix of premium brands to use in everything from pies to hotpots to Sunday roasts.
“We spend £20,000 on stocks and gravy over the managed estate each year and buying through lots of companies as a ‘free for all’ isn’t cost-effective, with consistency also an issue,” said Paul. “If possible, I was keen to find one supplier offering quality at a good price.
 “The challenge was that chefs are quite pernickety about certain products and I didn’t want to dictate what they should use. A blind tasting session seemed to be the best solution.”
 Put to the test
With 13 chefs from across the managed estate lined up as tasters at St Austell Brewery’s Pescadou restaurant at the Old Custom House in Padstow, plus Stephen Brown from Cornish ambient and chilled foods supplier Chaffins, Paul invited three foodservice producers to put their stocks and gravy ranges to the test, including Essential Cuisine’s Beef, Chicken and Vegetable Stock and No1 Beef, Chicken and Savoury Gravy.
Six products from each company were put to the test, with each producer preparing their own samples as per instructions on the packaging in one kitchen, adding nothing but water. The same plain bowls were used across all products, numbered 1-3, with the three producers kept in another room to ensure no outside influence. Chefs were given a tasting sheet to mark products from best to worst with marks out of 10.
 Nigel said he was delighted to win five out of the six categories. “I created these stocks and gravies for my own use as well as for other chefs, so know they are good,” he said. “It is, however, always a proud moment to get feedback like this and we hope the results speak for themselves.”
 Paul said: “It was quite unique having the three companies in the same kitchen in a head to head situation, with the winner decided in a purely democratic way. Some of the chefs went into this exercise as loyal users of the more well-known brands, which shows it’s amazing what marketing can do.
 “Essential Cuisine might be considered a new kid on the block, but this was a completely blind taste test. Coming first in five out of six categories, we now have this company’s products listed as the preferred gravies and bouillons across the managed estate.”
 For more information on Essential Cuisine and samples, call 0870 050 1133 or visit www.essentialcuisine.com