Tuesday, 27 January 2009

chef's influence on menus

Why do chefs or restaurateurs feel they have to describe their food in a way that most people have to ask the waiter what they are trying to portray.
You expect if you go to France that the menus will be written in French and if you go to Italy that they would be written in Italian and so on but when we go for a meal in Britain, to a British restaurant, there is no telling what language the menu will be written in. The chefs over here seem to think that if they write their menus in a foreign language that we will be fooled into thinking we are getting a more exciting variation of food or a different style of cooking to the normal run of the mill.
Changing the menus to a more romantic interpretation or changing the name of the ingredients to sound more appetizing does not give me any more confidence in thinking I am going to get a great feed in there, as we know in the end it is all down to taste, service and value for money.
It all began with one chef who decided to fancy up his menu to make it different from the other eateries around him to see if it would attract more custom, which at the time DID (as we have the curiosity factor) but others soon followed so they had to try other methods to fool us into thinking their restaurant was THE in place. This led to certain items on the menu changing names, things like prawns became scampi until it became common pub grub, so they changed it to the french word langoustines to bring some poshness back to what they class as real eateries. That is just one example of how menus became so complicated to translate, and how we should never be afraid to ask the waiter what the items really are. Scampi is the most abused item I can think of and as an ex-fisherman I remember when prawns became commonly known as scampi. The proper and original interpretation of "scampi" is prawns dipped in batter and fried in deep fat or oil, it was only when the frozen food companies discovered that if they cut up monk fish (which was far cheaper than prawns at the time, and only became more expensive after its potential was realised) and covered it in breadcrumbs or batter and sold it as scampi, and thought they could fool folk into thinking it was the real thing,while making a killing profit wise that's when the prawn became permanently known as scampi. This also changed the way we referred to prawns and shrimps with shrimps (which are flatter than prawns and have no large claws) becoming prawns and prawns becoming, firstly scampi ,then langoustines,or in some cases, Norwegian lobsters, which IS another correct name for them. This is just one example of the influence certain situations can distort and alter our language and way of life so, the next time you go out for a meal, do not be afraid to question the menu or the waiter who might have more problems understanding it than you!

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