I always try to stick to what I know: serving the food of the seasons and giving guests the ‘whole package’, with a seemingly lost word — hospitality. No matter how much experience you have behind you, this will always provide its challenges and we were certainly tested to the full a couple of weeks ago.
After yet another tropical — unfortunately without the nice temperature — downpour of rainforest proportions, the village of Harome was marooned at school-run time on a Friday morning, much to the joy of the kids. The village itself doesn’t flood but the main access route from Helmsley is at some points little more than a single-track road, often with a stray hen or escaped sheep providing traffic calming, and the river, which passes under a little humpback bridge just before the village, had burst its banks. Food deliveries were, however, still reaching us via the glorified farm track.
Over the course of the morning the water gradually seeped away and all seemed to be returning to normal, when, just before service on Friday evening, all went silent and dark — a power cut.
In our new, state-of-the-art kitchen, our sparkling electrical Athanor stove, Rational ovens and so on all ground to a halt. The helpful gas rings in the Chef’s Table kitchen, which would have helped save the day, are interlinked to the ventilation system for safety reasons, so they wouldn’t work.
The timing was immaculate: we were plunged into darkness halfway through serving a wedding breakfast and with a group for Harome Cricket Club’s annual dinner just about to arrive, as well as several other tables booked for the restaurant. Fortunately, all were in a good party spirit. The cold starters prepared by lantern-light were a hit, while the steaks, cooked on a one-burner camping stove, were on the rare side of medium rare. The only thing boiling in the kitchen at the time was my blood!
Soon the gas ran out on the camping stove and we were only able to finish cooking the lamb shanks for the cricket club dinner in the old kitchen in our hotel, which we normally use for breakfasts. With enough wax candles to light the entire village and well-stoked open fires, the show went on.
The bride loved her romantic wedding by candlelight and the cricketing natives, deciding that they may as well stay put, rather than return to their dark, cold homes, consoled themselves with even more drink. A generator was brought into the village and power was restored at about 11pm when all the chefs’ work was done. But with the electricity back on, the party started up again!
Here’s to the next 17 action-packed years. There’s never a dull moment in catering...
Andrew Pern is chef-owner at the Star at Harome, North Yorkshire.