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Are chefs in Hampshire getting too big for their boots asks Chris van Schaick

PUBLISHED: 15:14 24 February 2015 | UPDATED: 09:47 04 August 2015

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Are our county’s chefs getting too big for their boots, or are they entitled to the new found awe received from the public? Chris van Schaick ponders

Who do we hold in awe these days? Back in 1969, my Dad became headmaster of the village school in Brockenhurst. He found the staff there were so in awe of the county council’s education office in Winchester that they hardly dared utter the ‘W’ word. It had to be mouthed silently or spoken no more loudly than in a whisper.

In those days, many parts of the establishment were the subject of deference – vicars, bank managers, police sergeants. And in 2015 it’s fashionable to think that the age of deference is over. But I think it’s just been transferred to some new people. You see there’s a word I now hear uttered in the same hushed tones I first heard applied to ‘Winchester’…and that word is chef.

Twice recently, I’ve been told, in reverential tones, by the waiting staff: “I’ll have to ask Chef.” It was all to do with timing. Were we too late for (in one case) brunch and (in the other) high tea? In both cases, my question was merely polite and rhetorical. I knew fine well that we were in plenty of time on each occasion. But in an age when so much respect accrues to the person in the white hat, no poached egg or cucumber sandwich can leave the kitchen unless ‘Chef’ says the time is right.

There’s a chef who I know socially. When I asked him about this he was blunt. “It’s all to do with whether they’ve put the stuff away and can be arsed to get it out again.”

I can see how ‘Chef Awe’ has happened. More and more of our meals are now prepared and eaten outside the home. So ‘Chef’ has become much more important in our lives. At the same time, ‘Chef’s’ part has been bigged up by the celebrity ‘cheffery’ and ‘Mastercheffery’ that dominate our TV.

As objects of our deference, chefs have become the new vicars. I don’t mind, I think someone who sweats over my spuds till 10pm in a badly ventilated kitchen deserves some deference. But there’s at least one other band of brothers (and sisters) whose name is also spoken in hushed tones.

Anyone who has bought a financial services product in the last ten years may well have heard the phrase: “It’ll have to be approved by The Underwriters”.

The name conjures up pictures of men sitting at high desks, sporting mutton chops, with enormous wisdom who were probably around to see the Great Crash of 1929 and have reflected on it as they sucked their pipes across the subsequent 85 years. In fact, I’m pretty sure that ‘The Underwriters’ are more likely to be a couple of really nice blokes called Steve and Pete who enjoy a pint of IPA and haven’t missed a Saints game for fifteen years.

So stand aside, old guard. The people who we really have to suck up to now are the chefs and the underwriters. And thinking of those people we’re now 
scared of, we defer to and whose status allows them to speak imperiously to us, don’t even get me started on the dental hygienists.

***

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