It is a little-known fact that next Saturday is Potato Day, a curious- sounding addition to the British calendar made by the Henry Doubleday Research Association. The purpose is to attract support for the conservation of 300 varieties of potato, many of which are threatened with extinction either by virtue of EC bureaucracy, or as a result of the whims of the buying public and supermarket stockists. Those particularly concerned about rare spuds may wish to enquire about the HDRA's "Adopt a Veg" appeal. Others may wish simply to buy seed: catalogues may be sought from Jo Burton, HDRA, Ryton Organic Gardens, Ryton-on-Dunsmore, Coventry CV8 3LG (01203- 303517). Alternatively, cook something from Lindsey Bareham's excellent In Praise of the Potato (Penguin, pounds 9.99).
The (swaggering) claims of Gerry Robinson and increased efficiency in the Forte Little Chef empire aside, the chefs who should be worried are not little, but large: Marco Pierre White and Nico Ladenis, no less. Mr Robinson's intention of selling off the Hyde Park and Grosvenor Hotel means that two of London's three Michelin three-stars, The Restaurant Marco Pierre White and Chez Nico, are also on the market. Sir Rocco Forte, who persuaded the two restaurateurs to relocate, is now keen to buy the hotels back - but it will be interesting to see what happens if his bid fails. Will these two gastronomic showboats again change their moorings?
Few photographers manage to capture quite such a nervous, sceptical grin as that on Ken Hom's face, as he is pictured wearing a bright red shirt and holding a pan of what appears to be cold food on the cover of his new book Ken Hom's Hot Wok (BBC Books, pounds 16.99). This tacky packaging appears to be the contribution of a publicity department hack; it bears no resemblance to the lavish and beautiful food pictures (by a different photographer) found between the covers, nor to the book's crystal clear instructions for appealing recipes.
The book accompanies a BBC2 six-part series which begins (another stroke of genius from the folks in White City) on St Valentine's Day at 8.30pm, just as the nation is settling into red velvet chairs in candlelit restaurants to eat heart-shaped mousses. It merits setting the video: Mr Hom is one of the more accessible promoters of Chinese food. For starters, some of his best friends are round-eyes. His sense of food is not hidebound by an insistence on authenticity. Better, he has the luscious sense of food of a great eater. Recipes, such as spicy orange lamb, are tailored for British produce. There are Thai dishes, and Cantonese classics such as ginger scallops with Chinese greens. In fact, best to skip the romantic dinner and buy your loved one a wok.
Agony on a plate
Readers of the London Evening Standard have "Cher Albert", Albert Roux's recipe doctor column. Residents of York have Michael Hjort, Roux-trained proprietor of Melton's, 7 Scarcroft Road (01904-634341). The restaurant has launched a series of morning cookery classes (pounds 40, with lunch), including an "open surgery" in which local cooks present the chef with their problems, and he attempts to solve them. Cooking problems, that isReuse content