They will in fact be attending a dinner at the Savoy Hotel, designed to celebrate "the new stars of gastronomy" - that is to say, the new Michelin star winners. The function has been set for a Monday, because that is the day on which many restaurants close. On any other day, it's virtually impossible to drag dedicated chefs out of their kitchens. It's not just the pressure of work, and keeping customers happy; it's also Sod's Law that, whenever the big cat chef is away, the Michelin mouse comes out to play. Oops, there goes your hard-earned rating.
This year the awards ceremony will celebrate a breathtaking achievement in British gastronomy. At one stroke, Michelin has doubled the number of restaurants it considers merit the ultimate accolade of three stars. So some go up from two (The Waterside Inn at Bray and La Tante Claire in Chelsea), to four. The newcomers are Nico Ladenis (Chez Nico at Ninety Park Lane) and Marco Pierre White (The Restaurant, Hyde Park Hotel).
The gala dinner is the third sponsored by Mumm champagne, which hopes to insinuate its product into the consciousness of Britain's top chefs. This is an unlikely departure from the received wisdom. When not being supped from actresses' slippers or smashed against the bows of vessels, any champagne being promoted is handed out to winning sportsmen so they can hose down less successful colleagues. Drink it with food? Are they out of their minds?
But Mumm's the word; Britain's two new three-star chefs don't wish to discourage the champagne initiative, but they are completely underwhelmed by the prospect of a dinner in their honour. At the time of writing, in fact, they don't plan to be there. The problem is, both their restaurants are open tomorrow night. Marco Pierre White has told the organisers he will at least send a representative, but as for Nico Ladenis, his wife Dinah-Jane says: "It's nothing personal, but he really hates these do's devoted to self-congratulation. They're totally alien to him."
Savoy chef Anton Edelmann says he will be disappointed if the two new kids on the Michelin block can't make it to his table. "I have nothing but admiration for them," he says. "Nico thoroughly deserves his third star at long last, and Marco is Number One as far as I am concerned. I think he is a true genius; he is excellent."
So, what kind of an extravaganza will they be missing? "It will of course be magnificent," says the immodest Mr Edelmann. "The chefs will say, `We can't prepare a meal of this quality for 20, so how can Edelmann do it for 200?'" So he's not fazed at the prospect of preparing a meal for such a critical audience? Not at all. Chef Edelmann grins. "Let them all come. I'll show the buggers."
At 42, Mr Edelmann carries a torch handed down from the great Auguste Escoffier who was hired as chef here in the 1890s by Cesar Ritz, the king of hoteliers. But while the deeply serious Escoffier made little effort to master English, at sea in this odd country, ballooning in size under his tight chefs' whites, Mr Edelmann is the opposite; a wit, an anglophile and a trim athlete. He takes a daily five-mile, 45-minute dawn run. Some days he plays squash at llpm.
Yet to those who know the reputation of The Savoy, with its famous Grill (power-dining reaching dizzying heights), it's odd to find that the Michelin guide seems somehow to have, hah, overlooked them. "I must be careful what I say about Michelin," says Mr Edelmann cheerily, "but obviously they have a system. They choose a style of cooking to be followed, which is the French way. Some chefs aspire to this, but it's not the be-all and end-all of everything."
French restaurants aren't necessarily in vogue now, Edelmann says. "In Britain, Michelin hasn't kept up with what customers want. Our clients haven't the same values now; restaurants have changed in the last five or six years. The style of cooking is changing fast, and modern dietary requirements count; people don't want to go away feeling stuffed."
Yet when Mumm approached The Savoy with a view to hosting the banquet (the first two were held at the Ritz and the Dorchester) they assumed he would prepare a French-style menu. "Why would I do that?" asks Mr Edelmann artfully (he hails from southern Germany). "The guests are English. Why on earth would they want to eat French food?"
His prospective sponsors were put out. "Well, it would be hard to match our champagne vith English food," ventured the anxious head man at Mumm, Monsieur Max Buguelle. "English food doesn't have a very good reputation in France."
Mr Edelmann admonished him lightly: "Then you are very ignorant, so you had better come and try it for yourselves." The French know nothing about English food, confides Mr Edelmann. "They think we eat nothing here but fish and chips."
Accordingly, Mr Edelmann drew up a fairly uncompromising menu which included shepherd's pie, black pudding, and scallops in smoked bacon. It majored on pigs' trotters and mushy peas, and finished with Lancashire cheese and pear tart. If Mr Edelmann was to honour Michelin stars, he wasn't apparently going to honour Michelin dogma.
So it was that the Frenchmen came, they tasted, and were conquered. The "English" menu was adopted. They must have been relieved, though, that at least the punctuation of the meal was in French - lardings of foie gras, truffles, caviare, homard (lobster). Even the black pudding was served in a brioche, that elegantly eggy French cake of a bread.
Of course, Mr Edelmann has nothing against France and indeed takes delivery of a lorry-load of produce from its markets twice a week. But he also seeks out the best of the British Isles: hams and bacon from Norfolk, black pudding from Lancashire, oysters from Ireland, shellfish from the west coast of Scotland. "I don't think the men from Mumm had ever tasted scallops the size of ours. None weighed less than 70g. They are so fresh, when you open them they are pulsing. They jump into your face."
Edelmann will wrap the scallops in fine slivers of smoked bacon, pan- fry them, and serve them with a pure of young broad beans and a coulis (sauce) of red peppers. "This is not haute cuisine," he says. "It's very simple.''
And the pigs' trotters? "I can safely say nobody has ever done pigs' trotters for 200 people, least of all as a main course." He asks his secretary, Sophie, to bring out the orders of the day. This is how the itinerary goes: "Pigs' trotters will come in on Friday 21 April. Clean them well and burn off small hairs. Boil them until very soft, and cool them in the stock so the skin does not dry up. Cook the ham knuckles as well, and keep in stock. AE [Anton Edelmann] will get back from holiday [on holiday at a time like this?] and prepare them with Ellen on Saturday. AE will cut them Monday morning, and then we vacuum pack them in three portions to one bag. We will reheat in boilers. AE to decide the time. Every filo pastry golden brown, plenty of mushy peas in it. Tomato concass on top, and chervil. Sauce Madeira, not too sweet with plenty of butter. Make sure all the skin is wrapped round the trotters well."
Is this really such a good idea, Anton? There are, after all, other English dishes. He hurries me into the depths of the kitchen to meet Ellen, a chef-de-partie (head of department) and one of 25 women in his brigade of 80 chefs (his predecessor, Silvino Trompetto, never allowed the fair sex to cross his threshold).
Ellen demonstrates the dish with confidence. She allows five trotters to every 312 portions, and simmers them in stock with chopped carrots and onions for two hours, leaving them to cool in the liquid. Then she strips off the slimy, slippery skins, binning the rest. She arranges them in a rectangle on a square of aluminium foil. Along the centre she spreads a mixture of chicken mousse (breast of chicken, cream and white of egg, minced in a food processor and sieved) into which she has mixed 1in-square cubes of home-cooked, smoked ham.
She wraps the foil tightly around the trotter skins to enclose the forcemeat, and makes it into a sausage. She then steams it for half an hour, leaves it to cool, then slices it into 12in- thick rounds. Three rounds each are warmed through in Madeira sauce for every serving.
Anton, this is English cooking? Well, they are English produce - and he does serve the slices with mushy peas.Very well, then. Here are two courses from Mr Edelmann's English banquet, recipes that are more for ambitious armchair chefs than they are for home cooks. Pretend you are one of his sous-chefs. Enjoy yourself, and if the mood takes you, break a bottle of champagne over the oven, or shake it up and shower it over your guests. Or even drink it.
A BROAD BEAN PUREE
4 large scallops, wrapped in smoked bacon and sage
6 tablespoons broad bean pure (recipe below)
2 tablespoons red pepper coulis (recipe below)
4 sprigs chervil
Pan-fry the scallops to a golden brown colour. Transfer to a baking tray and cook in a hot oven until they are pink (up to five minutes).
Place the broad bean pure in the centre of a soup plate, and place the scallops on top. Anton Edelmann first shapes his pure in a ring mould. Sauce some red pepper coulis (recipe follows) around the outside. Brush the scallops with butter and garnish with a sprig of chervil.
BROAD BEAN PUREE
Makes 4 portions
1lb/450g broad beans
1oz/30g onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
7fl oz/200ml white wine
7fl oz/200ml cream
freshly ground black pepper
Pour boiling water over the broad beans, bring to the boil again and simmer for five minutes. Drain and remove the skins.
Sweat the onion for about two minutes, add the garlic and sweat for a further minute. Add the broad beans and wine, and reduce by half.
Finally, add the cream (double or single) and reduce until cream coats the broad beans.
Divide the mixture into two. Pass one half through a fine sieve, and chop the other half roughly. Mix the two quantities together and adjust seasoning to taste.
RED PEPPER COULIS
4 red peppers
12oz/15g hard butter, diced
salt and pepper
Pass the four red peppers through a juicing machine (this should make about 10fl oz/300ml of juice). In a saucepan, reduce to taste. To finish, add the diced butter, stir and season.
PIGS' TROTTERS WITH
5 pigs' trotters
2 pints/1 litre chicken stock
1 knuckle of ham, very well cooked
2oz/60g onion, finely chopped, cooked in chicken stock
2 tablespoons sage, finely chopped
4 small filo tuiles (shells)
7oz/200g mushy peas (recipe below)
8fl oz/14 litre Madeira sauce (see note below)
freshly ground black pepper
2 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped
For the chicken mousse: raw chicken breasts
4 tablespoons cream
whites of 2 eggs
If your butcher has not already done so, remove all the bristles from the pigs' trotters by shaving with a knife and singeing them over a flame.
Seal the trotters by frying them quickly on both sides in oil, then simmer for approximately three hours in a chicken stock made with carrot and onions. Allow to cool slightly in the stock.
Remove all the fat and bones from the knuckle of ham, and cut into 12in/1cm dice.
To make the chicken mousse: take the raw chicken breasts, egg whites and cream, and put in a food processor to mince finely. Press through a sieve to remove the fibres.
Mix the prepared chicken mousse with the diced ham, the chopped sage, and the onion (which has been softened for about 10 minutes in simmering chicken stock).
Bone the trotters, taking care not to pierce the skin. Lay them out, fat side down, and fill with the chicken and ham mixture. Roll to form a cylinder, wrap in tin foil and tie with a string. Steam for 30 minutes, and chill overnight.
To serve, cut 4 x 12in/1cm slices and heat in Madeira sauce with a little chicken stock. (Madeira sauce is a rich meat stock to which Anton Edelmann adds some of the glutinous liquid left over from cooking the pigs' trotters, enriched with a glass of Madeira wine.)
Fill the pre-cooked filo tuiles with mushy peas (see recipe below) and place a small amount of heated chopped tomatoes on top. Put on a plate and garnish with the chervil. Serve the pigs' trotters with the filo tuiles and the sauce.
1lb/450g marrowfat peas, soaked overnight
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
312 pints/2 litres chicken stock
Sweat the onions in a pan in butter, until they are translucent. Add the garlic and sweat for a further minute.
Finally, add the peas and the chicken stock, and reduce until the peas are soft. !