Lee Clarke: Does cooking need its own vinyl revival?
The world is an ever-changing place, and it seems that each year we take a hundred steps forward when it comes to new technology, fads and trends; whether it's the latest iPhone, hashtag or fidget spinner - the latest object to have taken over the world.
However, we have seen the roots of a rejection of that start to grow in some areas, in search of something more authentic, something that takes more time, craft and effort to produce. There are no better examples of this than in the music and publishing industries where vinyl and books have made returns, after once being considered relics set to be replaced by eBooks and MP3s.
I think this trend is something that could be applied to cooking and the restaurant industry where we are seeing more and more, if not a complete rejection, some scepticism regarding ultra- experimental cooking methods.
Renowned critics like Jay Rayner have at times led this – rejecting the more flamboyant and experimental in favour of the earnest and excellent fundamentals.
In the era of MasterChef and Great British Bake Off there is a misconception that success can be won quickly and even more so with eye-catching or risky endeavours. While these self-made, self-taught stories should not be ignored or derided, the idea of years of strain, of hard-work and of learning classic techniques has been cast aside in recent years. This is despite the fact that now established chefs like Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay both began their careers as commis chefs prepping for a large kitchen.
Having more well-trained, well-drilled chefs isn’t just desirable at the moment, it’s actually necessary as the UK faces an ever-worsening chef shortage. Skills development agency, People’s 1 st reported in 2015 that by 2020 the UK will be 11,000 chefs short. Now, we could simply train our chefs quickly and plug the gap, but there’s no longevity in this, and it will do nothing for more particular crises like the shortage of pastry chefs – a field which requires great training.
There are a number of possible reasons for the shortage, including the above mentioned desire for quick success and schooling where secondary education is putting an emphasis on more trendy or desired subjects instead of cooking and food tech.
But, I feel the tide is slowly beginning to change. Last year the famous Le Cordon Bleu – home of classic culinary training - set up a scholarship programme for pastry chefs, and there are more initiatives like it being established. Pair this with an increased desire for more honest, skilled, authentic cooking and let’s hope we will see this shortage alleviated in the coming years, as well as some fantastic young chefs emerge.
Lee Clarke is owner and head chef at Prevost in Priestgate, Peterborough www.prevostpeterborough.co.uk @foodleeclarke