Essential  Cuisine

Essential Cuisine

Standard Supplier 21st December 2010


During the recession, hotels have suffered from cutbacks in business travel and corporate conferences as well as spend per head by those guests who do visit. One obstacle is the failure of hotel restaurants to gain ground in the overall eating out market, with around a fifth of consumers, mostly pre/no family, not thinking about going to a hotel restaurant unless they are staying in a hotel2. At Worsley Park, a Marriott Hotel & Country Club is bucking this trend, appealing to non-residents with community events, local produce and family dining. Essential Cuisine is proud to be part of this success story… Community catering You’d expect it from foodies, regional producers and celebrity chefs, but holding a food festival devoted to local fayre is not the usual practice for an international hotel giant. Worsley Park, a Marriott Hotel & Country Club, however, is staging such an event, starting on Saturday, May 1 and running for a week. It’s a refreshingly local stance from an establishment owned by one of the biggest hotel companies in the world, Marriott International hotels, a global hospitality company boasting over 3,000 lodging properties and nearly 577,000 rooms. Led by executive chef Sean Kelly, the festival is one of many ventures taking place at the hotel to give the culinary side of the business a higher profile within the local community. These include hosting Ready Steady Cook contests at schools, cooking demonstrations at Salford Food Festival and supporting North West suppliers; not only reducing food miles but making things more personal for a generation of diners that like to know the origin of what they are eating. Everything from award-winning Bury black pudding, Goosnargh duck from Preston and Lancashire lamb are on the menu. Even the cheeseboard is extra special and wonderfully local, incorporating Mrs Kirkham’s buttery Lancashire cheese and Mrs Appleby’s handcrafted Cheshire cheese, instead of the usual stilton and brie. This kind of thinking is key, according to Mintel, which shows the need for hotel restaurants to appeal to non-guests is more important than ever as demand for rooms comes under pressure3. The Dining RoomsWorsley Park's culinary success was first projected into another stratosphere two years ago, when Brindleys – Worsley Park’s a la carte restaurant – was turned into The Dining Rooms, an impressive, yet welcoming, restaurant on two levels, appealing to residents and locals. On the back of this masterstroke, Worsley Park – North West Large Hotel of the Year 2008 – now boasts an AA rosette restaurant and a markedly different clientele from yesteryear. Sean, who has been with the company for 11 years, four at Worsley Park, said the huge refurbishment was accompanied by a whole new concept in dining at the hotel. “We change our menus every three months using only the finest seasonal, local produce. This creates great motivation and enthusiasm for my team of chefs to have constantly changing dishes and learning new skills, which is fantastic.” Although traditionally a pub’s forte, it is the hotel’s four-course Great British Sunday lunch with a carvery that really pulls in the locals. “We seat 140 and are full every week,” said Sean. “People stay for two or three hours, enjoying time with their family or friends.” ‘Wine and dine’ offers, which include a three-course dinner for two for £49, are also a hit. “We have a provenance to plate menu for this offer, which showcases great British produce cooked with flair and passion marrying up with our restaurant concept,” he said. If you know what you are doing, cost-savings such as buying lesser cuts, which in the right hands produce the finest flavours, are a lucrative way to guarantee value, whilst ensuring margins remain as high as possible. Scrimp on sauces? As a meal complement, however, sauces can find themselves taking the brunt, with chefs willing to hedge their bets, on the off chance customers won’t notice if a sauce poured over their meal smells artificial, is congealed, salty or the taste lingers longer than is warranted. As a staunch advocate of great North West dishes such as traditional Lancashire hotpot, great sauces are particularly important to Sean. However, he is only happy to use a bought-in stock if it is as good, if not better, than he could make himself. “We make all our own jus, which can take up to three days. Being so time-consuming, we rely on readymade stocks for our traditional hotpots, soups and stews.” Finding foodservice stocks, jus, glace and gravy that chefs can work into a useable sauce is no mean feat, a conundrum Dorchester-trained chef Nigel Crane endeavoured to solve when he set up Essential Cuisine in 1996, believing there was no reason why chefs should not have access to readymade products that are as close to kitchen made as possible and as profitable. Executive Chef Sean KellySean, who started out as a 13-year-old kitchen hand before training at John Whinnerah College in Barrow-in-Furness, was introduced to Essential Cuisine four years ago and uses their products on a daily basis, mainly the Vegetable and Chicken Stock and using the rest of the comprehensive range as and when a particular dish calls for it. “Three years ago, Nigel came to do a demo for the Pennines Cluster chef meeting and the quality was far better than I’d ever tasted; a really great product,” said Sean. “The reduced level of salt and fat combined with great flavour is superior to the competition. The stocks are versatile, meaning we can use them to enhance our own, and you don’t need so much, which has a direct impact on your margins in the long run.” “A successful operation also comes down to great support from suppliers across the board. The team at Essential Cuisine are very, very supportive. We can easily call them to ask questions, and they are always happy to oblige us with answers or give us recipe ideas. “Nigel has worked at the top and his experience counts for a lot.” This is music to the ears of Nigel Crane, who said the difference between a great sauce and a substandard one chiefly came down to the stock. “Stocks, often mistakenly called bouillons, are one of the cornerstones of a good kitchen. They are a key ingredient in your recipe, the heart and soul, if you like, delivering depth and balance of flavour in the final dish,” he said. “Using a good, bought-in stock really is the most cost effective way to deliver great taste in cooking, with the stock component cost of an average dish under five pence. You can buy in cheap stock, but is it worth risking the meal for a couple of pence? It is a false economy.”

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