FOOD AND DRINK / Gastropod

FEAR and loathing in the restaurant business erupted briefly into the gossip columns last week when it was reported that the talented Stephen Terry, head chef at Marco Pierre White's restaurant, The Canteen, had abruptly quit. Mr Terry, 27, a former sous chef at Harvey's, was one of Marco's closest confreres - until he handed in his notice. When all attempts to make him change his mind had failed, Marco suggested that he leave at the end of the week rather than serve out his notice. Mr Terry's response was shock - 'Let's just say that to be given a week's notice after seven years is a bit of a choker' - followed by a decision not to bother with the week's notice. He has, as yet, no future plans beyond a holiday with his girlfriend. She also worked at The Canteen; and she left equally abruptly.

OVERHEARING that Matthew Fort, food editor of the Guardian, was to entertain a bunch of students at Claridges, the Gastropod cut along there. It turned out that he was addressing the University of Surrey Food & Wine Society on the subject of 'Cannibalism as a Career - Adversarial Relationships in the Restaurant Trade'. Mr Fort complained about back- biting in the restaurant business and bemoaned what he called our 'gastronomically illiterate' society. 'Football commentators have a far larger critical vocabulary than restaurant reviewers. If we were to start talking about food in the way they discuss football, we'd be in 'Pseud's Corner' before you could say knife,' declared Mr Fort, who was quoted in that Private Eye column a few years ago when writing for the Financial Times.

THE Gastropod received an invitation this week to an exhibition of art works by Angel Garcia Dalmer at his London restaurant, Albero & Grana. Of course, painting and cooking are pretty much the same thing, as Mr Garcia tells us on the invitation: 'It was not a matter of placing myself in the world of 'artistic' painting, but a matter of expressing my accumulated culinary wisdom perfectly combined with the food subtle's (sic) alchemy . . . It is an emotional eruption of my intuition, anguish and happiness that has seared on my panels like a volcano flames.'

The Gastropod approves of such sentiments, for as Matthew Fort was probably struggling to say, and as Angel Garcia so lucidly puts it: 'To cook or to paint, like all creative arts of the world, is not intended to create animosity, but to bring people together, to appreciate and question one man's emotional experience; to celebrate one individual's creative exploits . . .'

VINTAGE Sherry is almost unheard of and, since sherry is conventionally produced by the solera system, is something of a contradiction in terms. However, in celebration of the 160th anniversary of its best-selling brand, Tio Pepe, Gonzalez Byass has released a limited quantity of Vintage Oloroso, the most extraordinary wine housed in its bodegas. Every year, the firm keeps back a tiny proportion of its harvest and puts the wine straight into casks to mature. The 1963 and 1966 vintages were judged to have reached their optimum maturity and some 69 cases were sold at auction recently by Christie's. Bids came in from all over the world, with the wine being quickly sold for an average pounds 44 per bottle.

The Gastropod can't lay hands on any expensive vintage sherry, but does have two dozen bottles of Tio Pepe to give away to the first readers to write, on a postcard, briefly explaining the solera system to: The Gastropod, Weekend, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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