THURSDAY 09 DECEMBER 2010 • WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS
Cooking in New York - With a little help from my friends...
and a new appointment for me
If you are in trouble, go to your friends. That is what I did. Carl Newberry, Head Chef at Le Manoir and Nicolas Bouhelier, Junior Sous Chef Patissier, arrived in New York last week.
We were cooking at the 21 Club, a New York institution owned by Orient Express Hotels. It is never easy to cook outside of your own kitchen, never mind thousands of miles away.
John Greeley, the head chef at the 21 Club, was truly brilliant, organising the ingredients, and giving us half of his kitchen and about the same amount of his staff.
Yet we were missing a few special ingredients. I wanted melting Williams or Comice pears, but the ones I got were pretty hard. So I ran to my friend Daniel Boulud (3 Michelin star chef), and his whole team was so ready to help... a few moments later, I had the perfect pears! Not only that, but he insisted that he should bake the bread for the whole event – and we are talking about the best bread in New York! That is as it should be: a true chefs’ brotherhood.
The whole team was fantastic – Carl & Nicolas, John, and all the team at the 21 Club were hugely supportive. It was a real pleasure to work with them all.
However, as well as cooking, I was also to be a guest speaker at the lunch, for the shareholders of Orient Express Hotels. And if you are eating your own food, cooked in a different kitchen, you may be slightly anxious.
And on that day, at that particular moment something very special was happening. I was being appointed a Vice President within the O-EH group which is of course a huge honour and I was extremely proud, but of course this made me all the more nervous.
Since 2002 O-EH have been my partners at Le Manoir. It has been a hugely enriching relationship, as they truly understand excellence, they run some of the most renowned hotels in the world. We are proud to have this association. Names which make you dream and make you want to travel, eg the Cipriani, Villa San Michele, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Copacabana, to name but a few.
So, at this lunch – which I prepared with my chefs – I had to address many of the shareholders of O-EH, as the newly appointed Vice President of the OE Hotel Group.
Interestingly enough, I was surrounded by men - businessmen - and that freaked me out: I could not see one single female face, – they were all very serious and all taking notes!
I like to be in charge, but I didn’t feel in charge at all. I also know that I have good business vision, but I am not a businessman. I went through my presentation, there were a few smiles, they dropped their pens and started to eat their food – that day was a true test for me.
My new role is a very creative role: it is for me to consider the culinary offer of all the restaurants in the O-EH group, to suggest ways that the offer can be developed and enhanced, as well as creating new and exciting ideas. I see this as a hugely exciting brief
I am pleased to say that the day went well. These super serious men seemed to enjoy both my food and my speech! What a relief! Then, no sooner than the service was finished, I had to pack up my whites and dash over to JFK to fly back to London. I was immensely fortunate: British Airways very kindly upgraded me from Business Class to First Class. I had a very decent meal and a glass of good claret in the lounge at JFK before getting on the plane and putting my head down for a few hours’ sleep. Thank you BA!
At Heathrow – a quick shower and straight into the car back to Le Manoir, where I was to spend two days teaching in the Raymond Blanc Cookery School!
I will tell you more about that, and about the exciting role I now have within O-EH in more blogs very soon.
PS The London Cocktail Club is opening on Friday 10th December.
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