Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: listeria deaths revealed and Luke Johnson pens Patisserie Valerie account

The news, reviews and trends from June 8-9, including sustainability initiatives from Britain’s two largest airports.

10 June 2019
plasticpackagingsustainabilityrestaurant openingrestaurantsseafoodsupermarkets

Food news

Closed loop coffee cups

Gatwick Airport will today (June 10) begin trialling a reusable coffee cup scheme that will allow Starbucks patrons to “borrow” a container when they buy their coffee that can later be returned to one of five collection points. “If only 250 customers opted for a reusable cup each day... more than 7,000 paper cups could be saved in one month,” reports The Guardian.


Heathrow reels in overfishing

Meanwhile, over at Heathrow, wild Atlantic salmon, bluefin tuna and king prawns from non-certified farms are off the menu, as the airport becomes the first in the world to receive accreditation for serving sustainable seafood. The sourcing policies of the airport’s 37 restaurants and cafes have been audited by Sustain, according to The Guardian, and those outlets that still continue to feature fish that are rated red by the Marine Conservation Society have pledged to replace them by June 2020. “The full process to reach the accreditation has included revising the sourcing of family favourites including cod and salmon so that they meet the highest standards of sustainability, creating new dishes with delicious sustainable species such as coley and redesigning menus to make choosing sustainable options clear and easy,” said Ben Crowley, the head of food and beverage at Heathrow.

image credit: Getty Images

Luke Johnson calls auditor’s inability to spot fraudulent accounting ‘astonishing’

Patisserie Valerie’s former chairman Luke Johnson has penned his take on the company’s implosion for The Sunday Times. In it, he writes: “I know that I was not dishonest. I was unaware of fraud. I received solid weekly numbers, comprehensive monthly management accounts and, of course, annual accounts that were given a clean bill of health by our auditors.” Johnson describes auditor Grant Thornton’s failure to notice the £94m black hole in the company accounts as “astonishing,” adding that the firm seems to have “had the wool pulled very comprehensively over its eyes.” The entrepreneur also writes that the incident has taken a personal toll: “The stress made me physically ill – I suffered a series of debilitating infections and was on antibiotics for weeks. I had chronic insomnia and felt exhausted and despairing.”


Are supermarkets discouraging consumers from plastic-free purchases?

Shoppers are often charged more for loose fruit and vegetables than packaged produce, a Telegraph survey has found: at Sainsbury's, loose Braeburn apples were 28p compared to 17p when bought in a plastic-wrapped pack of six; at Tesco, Braeburn apples were 44p loose compared to 32p in a plastic-wrapped pack of five; at Waitrose, tomatoes were 19p each compared to 12p when bought in a plastic-wrapped pack of six. While the British Retail Consortium noted that “packaged fruit and vegetables can sometimes be cheaper because products are bought in bulk and there's less handling and waste involved,” leading environmental campaigners have criticised the short-sightedness of the major mults in discouraging cost-conscious consumers from avoiding plastic. Despite a number of initiatives to cut back on packaging announced last week, price “penalises people who want to do the right thing and avoid plastic,” said Friends of the Earth’s Julian Kirby.


Sandwiches infected with listeria may be in schools

Following Friday’s revelation that listeria-contaminated hospital sandwiches have killed three people, The Telegraph has a couple of follow-up stories on the incident, including one that reveals the NHS were aware of the danger two weeks ago but kept the information from the public until Friday because the organisation believed the incident was contained. Sandwiches supplied by The Good Food Chain are suspected to be behind the listeria outbreak – a concern for students, according to another article, as the company also supplies schools. It can take up to 70 days for an infection to develop after exposure to listeria bacteria.

image credit: Getty Images

Delivered straight to your door – and into your house

“Walmart is preparing to launch an in-home, straight-to-the-fridge delivery service to a million customers,” writes The Times, reporting on the unveiling of the Inhome initiative. The world’s largest bricks-and-mortar retailer, which owns Asda, plans to roll out the system this autumn in three test cities, where delivery specialists will enter customers’ homes to restock fridges, monitored via body cameras. “Once we learnt how to do pick-up well, we knew it would unlock the ability to deliver. Imagine keeping homes in stock like we do stores,” said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. Waitrose began trialling a similar initiative last year, dubbed While You’re Away.


Giggling Squid seeks fresh funds

Thai chain Giggling Squid is seeking new investment, reports The Sunday Times. The 30-strong estate saw a 29% rise in sales to £23.7m for the year to the end of March 2018, but sustained a pre-tax loss of £212,467, down from £388,211 a year earlier.


Food trends

What are today’s must-have ingredients?

Tonka beans, freeze-dried fruit powders, Christine Ferber jams, Perello olives and Acquerello rice are among the “ingredients chefs can't do without," according to The Telegraph. The list is part of an article on “cult” ingredients website Sous Chef, whose founder, Nicola Lando, taps barbecuing – in particular grilled veg and Brazilian asado – as one of the big cooking trends of today, adding: “The huge longer-term trends are for artisan skills, doing things at home that previously would have been done by a craftsman. Breadmaking, smoking a side of salmon, making your own cheese and, more recently, fermentation.”

image credit: Mecredis / Fred Benenson

Food interviews

Catherine Conway, packaging consultant

The Guardian speaks to the woman who helped Waitrose launch its packaging-free trial store in Oxford. Conway previously aided Planet Organic's roll out of refillable stations and “advised Waitrose on everything from supply chain logistics and customer refill processes to marketing and staff training.” She is currently in talks with several other major supermarkets who want to launch packaging-free trials.


Food reviews

Grazing by Mark Greenaway, Edinburgh EH1 2AB

Treacle and stout sourdough with duck skin butter is a prelude to the “gutsy” cooking at this Scottish restaurant, which features as a starter a fried duck egg “covered with fragments of warm confit duck, slices of duck ‘ham’ and unexpected dollops of a bright parsley mayo.” Jay Rayner goes on to tuck into pork belly with “crackling like glass” accompanied by toffee apple sauce and a “sensitively cooked hake fillet,” served with a “shellfish boudin, wrapped in a roll of striped and silky pasta” and brought together by a “ripe bisque that tastes of the best of shells that have been roasted down to their essence, then lifted from their sticking place by a glug of booze.”


AngloThai, London SW4 0HY

“Flavours are Thai, often arcane and regional, following travels the length of the country,” writes Marina O’Loughlin of half-British, half-Thai chef John Chantarasak’s globe-trotting pop-up, AngloThai. Though only in Clapham’s Counter Culture till the end of June, the critic decides to feature it anyway since it’s “some of the most interesting Thai food I’ve eaten.” Dishes range from radishes served with peanut nahm prik – “an incendiary satay made from charred prik ki nu (aka ‘mouse-shit chillies’) and tomatoes, smashed together with roasted peanuts, wild garlic, horseradish root and a whole nosegay of herbs” – to gaeng om, “described as a northern ox cheek curry but really more of a soup brimming with fat branches of lemongrass, lime leaves, masses of dill, fish sauce-salted ox cheeks, hen-of-the-wood mushrooms and a proper assault of aromatics fried in rendered beef fat.”

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