Good Food Blog
Chain gangPosted at 12:02PM, 18 November 2008 by Claire Webb - Writer
Gordon Ramsay is the cream of the crop. Of course, he's long outshone (or should that be out-bellowed?) his fellow celebrity chefs. But Gordon's also been voted Master of Expansion: Ramsay Holdings is the most admired chain in the UK, according to a poll of industry executives and independent restaurant managers. That other centre of gastronomic excellence - McDonalds - comes in at number three.
Here are their much-prized Michelin stars crushed, sprinkled on conveyor belts and served to the masses
Foodies will no doubt throw up their napkins in disgust. Here are their much-prized Michelin stars crushed, sprinkled on conveyor belts and served to the masses. There couldn't be a better time to crawl out from behind my plastic menu.
Yes, in an ideal world, we would all dine at restaurants as unique and lovingly managed as our potbellies, where vegetables are grown out the back and the chef shoots the meat at dawn. Yet that doesn't always happen. And you know what? Chain restaurants can be finger-licking good (okay, not that one).
Pizza Express, for example, introduced us to such exotica as porcini mushrooms, rocket and grana padano. It's a world away from the all-you-can-eat buffets and Pepsi refills of Pizza Hut. And, for those in search of real, foot-tapping sophistication, some 'Express outlets moonlight as jazz cafés.
Nor are all high street restaurants neon-lit carbon copies of each other. Nando's designs each branch to fit in with its surroundings. When one opened recently in Stoke Newington, North-East London, there were protests from residents who, tellingly, hadn't stirred at the arrival of the more bourgeois Fresh & Wild (which is part of the US supermarket giant Whole Foods). Peer beyond the demure black facade of that Nando's today, and you'll see plenty of contented customers.
Ethical fare is also increasingly available from the franchised kitchen. Loch Fyne ticks the eco-boxes, with its sustainable fish-buying policy. And did you know Maccy D's has twice been awarded the Good Egg Award from Compassion in World Farming, for its use of free-range eggs in its UK restaurants?
If the future lies in seasonal, ethically-sourced "pukka tukka", then one bloke is sure to clean up. That's right: Ramsay better watch out, because Jamie Oliver is getting in on the act with Jamie's Italian. There's one in Bath, another in Oxford, with a third planned for Kingston and, queues aside, reports are positive. We may have to swallow Oliver's chummy menu descriptions of "humble green salad" alongside our organic Shetland salmon, but it's a small price to pay.
I can't be the only one salivating over plastic menus. Who would you vote for?