Last week’s blog considered why madness was the only sane response to the recurring pressures of my wonderful job and this time I return to the theme via two very well-known elements of volatility: first, the Italian temperament and second, the pressures of a wedding event on the bride and her family.
Let me first say a word about all those wonderful weddings I am privileged to attend. To my great joy, I am fast becoming the world expert on weddings. Most summer weekends it is my genuine pleasure to cater for at least one, often two and on one memorable occasion three. So, I know how much you invest in them and how vital it is to get every single aspect right, all to make it a truly perfect, unforgettable event. But there is undoubtedly a lot of work for all concerned and no little pressure on the bride and her family. So I do my very best to ease that pressure, listen carefully to your wishes and expectations and go the extra mile for you. It is wonderful to see the difference that effort can make. And because I have the good luck to attend so many, I really do know what works.
There is, after all, only one chance to make it the perfect day and you have been looking forward to it for years, perhaps since you were just a child. The surprising thing, given that the elements of a wedding are surprisingly similar, a loving couple, a beautiful bride, a gorgeous dress and scores of well-wishers, is how simple it is (or perhaps not so simple) to make every one a unique event. Uniquely perfect, because our range of foods and services means we can interpret exactly what you want and present it in a spectacular way which we know will delight you. Covid-19 means my summer will now be so much emptier, as I know yours will be too, without all those splendid wedding breakfasts to deliver, and all those lovely brides to delight. Still, your day will come and I hope to have the pleasure of helping you out with it all.
But for now, let’s get the Italians out of the way. I can only imagine the trepidation with which the Italian government took the step of locking down millions of Italians in the hope (it could not have been expectation) they would see it as an appropriate response to Coronavirus. The fact that it worked, against all historical precedent in the case of Italy, can only be down to the fact that the traditional pressure cooker summer heat was still around the corner. Otherwise, I suspect the effects of the coronavirus would have been the least of the government’s problems. And if you think I am being racist, consider this story from the Guardian (www.reddit.com: ‘Anger as Italy slowly emerges from long Covid-19 lockdown’).
An Italian wedding dress designer, manufacturer and retailer was so incensed with his government’s failure to recognise his genius by not relaxing lockdown for shops like his and thus putting the lives of the entire nation at risk, that he publicly burned his entire wedding gown collection in protest, saying: ‘I set my creations alight, the fruits of my talent and creativity, to send a strong message to the government.’ The message it sent, of course, was ‘I am as batty as a Neapolitan campanile so please don’t pay me my small business support grant.’
Inspired by his revolutionary fervour, I burned the breakfast toast in solidarity.
But look at the Italian man’s language: ‘creations’, ‘talent’, ’creativity’. He clearly sees himself as an artist of some sort, not a mere craftsman. But Art is for Art’s sake, isn’t it? It is an end in itself, not utilitarian, but something that shows us deep truths through formally created beauty. It’s surely a bit over the top to put a wedding dress, however splendid it will look on the bride, in the same category as the Sistine Chapel, say.
And that Art/Craft distinction probably applies to what I do too, when I try my very best to add to the glamour of a wedding by supplying it with imaginatively produced and interestingly presented food and drink. It’s a craft, a skill and one of the oldest and best loved of all mankind. To be able to do it well, and to meet your justifiably high standards and expectations, is a great privilege.
So while I am not pretentious enough to think of it as Art and of me as an artist, I do often think that It is a craft and a skill of an especially high order. Great food brings something very important to the table. Cooking at its best takes simple things and turns them into something magical that raises the spirits, changes the atmosphere, celebrates and defines the importance of the occasion. Fish and chips become bream, scallops and dauphinoise potatoes. Different ends of the celebratory spectrum.
So, we may not be artists, we chefs, but we are important. We transform basic materials into something special and precious. We source and blend exotic sauces and spices in pursuit of transformative flavour. We work our magic on the mundane and make it glamourous and unforgettable. Of course, you want a great wedding day that you will never forget. Of course, you want it to be unique and surprising. So of course, you’ll need great food reliably served and presented. After all, the food may well be the only completely shared experience all your guests will have. Apart from the all-important wedding dress these days there is a wonderful panoply of special effects and services available to embellish the magical day. But, in my view, it’s always the food that defines the occasion for the vast majority of the guests. Get that wrong and the guests will remember forever. So come to us. We will turn base metal into spun gold. We are not Artists, but Alchemists and at your service.