Tuesday December 8, 2009
Helen Flint, Learning and Development Director takes a look into the BBC's 'The Restaurant'.
I'm now thoroughly hooked to the new series of 'The Restaurant' but sadly probably for all the wrong reasons. It should be a great showcase for raw drive, ambition, talent and oodles of potential - after all, most people would jump at the chance to work with Raymond Blanc. However, Raymond is really going to have to work his magic on the remaining contestants if any of them are going to make it through to the final, let alone make him any money. Let's say I think he may need a rather large magic wand for this one and I'm not sure Harry Potter could create this transformation.
What has struck me most about the past two episodes is the mis-match of partners which Raymond himself highlighted this week. The success of any restaurant depends on having a strong front and back of house and - even more importantly - clear communication and co-operation between the two. Teamwork is something that some of the partners within the partnerships have yet to demonstrate.
I think that we probably all know by now that candidates are often selected for these programmes on the basis of their lack of ability and instead on their entertainment value. At least I hope that's the case or it's a very sad case for the hospitality industry if this is the best that Britain can come up with.
The programme really demonstrates the challenge every restaurateur faces getting things right; and that if even the simplest things are overlooked the impact can be disastrous.
I'm gradually really beginning to warm to Jonathan and his front of house skills; he's always positive and able to keep his cool. I think I would have screamed if I'd been asked by JJ to change the room set up half an hour before the guests were about to arrive. Sadly JJ just doesn't seem to have grasped that his role as head chef entails cooking and he will go to great lengths to actually avoid cooking. Although he did seem to enjoy icing the cake even though he did spend all service doing it. He does seems to make killer cocktails though, shame they're not looking to run a cocktail bar. At least they're not wearing their sunglasses quite so much but they're still doing the annoying high fiving.
Raymond did give JJ credit for his ability to distinguish between different flavours etc. He suggested that if someone has potential you can teach them anything. I totally agree with this but for this approach to work the person has got to want to learn - and the question is whether JJ wants to learn to cook. I'd be intrigued to know what would happen if you put Jonathan in the kitchen as I think with a little guidance plus his enthusiastic nature he might do a slightly better job. However I'm not sure that would be playing to his greatest strengths, as he is very good front of house.
JJ seems incapable of listening to the advice that he's been given twice now i.e. cook! Let's see what they come up with next week.
Then we had 'The Cake' last week! That's got to be the funniest thing I've seen in a very long time - it even ended up getting a mention on Harry Hill's TV Burp! I'm glad that I wasn't the only one that thought it looked like a giant gingerbread man! and then it got worse when the icing was added. Their mistake was not managing their clients' expectations from the outset. I suspect that even the best pastry chef would have struggled to create a cake in the shape of an aeroplane taking off on the runway (especially with such limited time). Perhaps they could have diplomatically suggested another option to their client, for example, to recreate a delicious cake in the shape of a runway with the actual model of aeroplane she gave them taking off from that runway. At least this might have looked something like she had envisaged.
Again, I was really impressed with the couple this week as the chef was battling against a really bad back and I can't imagine anything worse than slaving away in a kitchen with a bad back. That said, even though they were late and missed the boat on their first challenge the 'romance bags' I'm not sure how charmed I'd be if my partner decided to bring home lasagne and shepherds pie for a romantic meal for two anyway, it's more what I'd describe as comfort food.
However in the evening he produced a more adventurous menu than in any of the previous episodes and he even managed to impress the guests. I wonder if previously he'd been cooking what he liked to eat as opposed to what his customer would like to eat.
Finally, there's Michael who will soon no doubt be asked to appear in a customer service training video of how not to do things. Again I felt really sorry for his partner whom he ignored most of the time to the detriment of both of them.
Although many viewers may have been surprised by Raymond's decision this week to keep all three in the competition I think a more revolutionary step would have been to offer the couples the opportunity to swap partners as then at least one partnership might have a fighting chance of winning.
I can't wait for next week's episode...