Speculation in the food world as to who might get the job became nearly as frenzied, in its own small way, as the speculation in other quarters over who will would manage the national football team. Unlike English football fans, however, the readers of The Good Food Guide are apparently not in favour of wholesale changes, and Mr Ainsworth, a former restaurateur with no interest in football, is seen as a safe pair of hands.
He ran The Vineyard restaurant in Northampton until the mid-Eighties, when he became the wine correspondent of Punch magazine. Latterly he has been restaurant reviewer for Wine magazine and a regular contributor to the Independent. His involvement with The Good Food Guide as an inspector of restaurants stretches back several years, and he contributed to the Which? Guide to Country Pubs last year. Although determined to broaden the appeal of the Guide, the new editor has no plans to alter its format or tamper with its points system for rating restaurants.
AS AN eminent wine writer, Jim Ainsworth is also a member of the sinister secret society known as the Octagon. Members, who are drawn from the oenological elite and number rather more than eight, meet regularly to taste blind, talk shop and backstab. At their annual awards dinner, held before Christmas at Ransome's Dock restaurant in Battersea, south London, fellow wine writers wereritually castigated for gaffes committed over the year.
This year's literature prize went to one Hubrecht Duiwker, author of Wine Wisdom, which was described as 'monstrously dull platitudes served up by a Dutchman', and was generally agreed to have been the worst book about wine published in 1993. The Green award for recycling went to Mitchell Beazley, the publisher which repackaged its pocket wine guides as paperbacks last year, barely bothering to revise them first.
Malcolm Gluck of the Guardian was admonished for his apparent confusion as to what grapes are permitted in Burgundy appellation controlees. He was also a strong contender for the 'Wayward Tendrils of the Vine' award for purple prose, but was narrowly beaten by the irrepressible Oz Clark, who began a piece in the Radio Times thus: 'Holiday intoxication? Where do I find flavours that ooze sultry perfume, inveigling me to dare and dally, to lose my head, my heart, my life in a fragrant mist of temptation and desire?'
To which rhetorical question, the Gastropod would reply, 'Try looking over the rainbow, sport.'
THE focus of the Gastropod's heart's desire, naturally, is to win a Glenfiddich award for irreverent commentary on the gastronomic scene. Sadly, it looks as if this column will again go unrecognised when the gongs for food writing are handed out next spring. Not only is the judging panel packed with heavyweights, but the organisers have neglected to create a category for gossips.
This is patently unfair and the Gastropod urges you, dear reader, to fax the organisers of the Glenfiddich award on 071- 405 6328 and tell them so. While you are at it, you might like to nominate the writers and broadcasters of your favourite books and programmes on the subjects of food and drink. The Glenfiddich folk will fax you a full list of the categories if you ask them, but please remember that your nominations should refer to work that first appeared last year.
There is one new category in this year's Glenfiddich awards: 'For inspirational work which most successfully utilises the accessibility of the magazine medium.' It could be that the judges will seize upon this opportunity to grant some posthumous recognition to the high-falutin ambitions of the BBC's Gourmet Good Food magazine. The Gastropod has a hunch, however, that Sainsbury's The Magazine, which is selling more than a quarter of a million copies each issue, will clean up.
THERE is no Glenfiddich award for 'the restaurant that has generated the most column inches', but if there were, Quaglino's would win hands down. Now Sir Terence Conran has acquired the cavernous former site of the Marquee Club in Soho for redevelopment as another large-scale, brasserie-style, glamorous metropolitan eating place. Do not hold your breath, however, as he has estimated it will take at least 18 months to transform it into Quag's Two.
In the meantime, we have Bruno Loubet's big new restaurant to look forward to. Despite reports elsewhere that the Michelin-starred chef and his partner, Pierre Condou, were set to start work on the place, which will be called Odeon, it transpires that this is not quite so. In fact, they are hoping to acquire premises in the West End imminently, so long as they are not gazumped by Nick Smallwood and his Kensington Place crew, who were frustrated in their attempt to acquire a site for Kensington Place Two but can be expected to open a big new restaurant sooner or later this year.