The ‘Babylon’ book series by Imogen Edwards-Jones, written on the basis of interviews with staff from the relevant industries, has become highly popular for its depth of behind the scenes insights told in a 24 hour operating day. Her latest book is ‘Restaurant Babylon’, which was published last year, sharing the ‘saucy secrets of the world’s finest kitchens’.
The fictional Le Restaurant, brasserie Le Table, and Le Bar are located within close proximity of each other in London, Le Restaurant being Michelin-starred. The narrator is the restaurant owner. For her book the writer interviewed sommeliers, chefs, maître d’s, owners, and ‘insiders’ working in the restaurant industry in the UK.
As Valentine’s Day is around the corner, it is apt to start with this event, being one of the most lucrative for the restaurant industry, with mark-ups and heavy drinking generating good profits for restaurants. Christmas Day lunches and New Year’s Eve events are equally profitable.
Some of the key insights into restaurants are the following:
* restaurant staff survive on extremely little sleep, as they enjoy a drink or more after they finish service, being hungover the next day. Alcoholism is rife.
* chefs burn out, due to the long hours, the stress, and lack of light in closed kitchens. This leads to absenteeism, temper tantrums, and inconsistent cooking.
* drug-taking is rife, to cope with the pressure and to stay awake, to cope with the hangover, or to be ‘sharp’ for service! ‘Cocaine is everywhere‘ said the author in an interview.
* claiming ‘organic’ ingredients ‘just makes the place look amateur‘. The origin of one’s fish, meat, and vegetables is far more important to patrons.
* some chefs over-order, and sell on their surplus, pocketing the income.
* theft by staff is common, especially in the bar, selling bottles out of the back door and pocketing the income, or pocketing cash income.
* mark-ups are better on pizzas than they are on 7-course tasting menus! Side dishes of chips, Continue reading →