Gastropod

FOR THE past few months, the Gastropod has been running into people eager to boast of their forthcoming appearances in a television series called The Restaurant Show, which starts in the summer. A televisual restaurant review hosted by a jovial cove called Bruce, whose most obvious qualification is his girth, the show features celebrated foodies eating, drinking and holding forth.

The producers claim to be making 'dangerous television', and the idea of stunts such as inviting the Nosh Brothers, culinary hardmen, to invade Marco Pierre White's kitchen while he is serving dinner does sound promising. Sadly, however, the result looks pretty tame. Having seen a compilation of highlights, the Gastropod is afraid his informants' finest moments may have ended up on the cutting-room floor.

In particular, let us hope that the bit where the celebrity chef Antony Worrall- Thompson describes with scurrilous relish, his fellow Sunday Times columnist, the film director Michael Winner, is not lost to posterity.

AN ITEM in this column last week, reporting allegations of favouritism at the Glenfiddich Awards, drew a swift response from the chairman of the judging panel, David Grant.

Avid readers will remember that the editor of Decanter is up in arms over the award of Magazine of the Year to a rival publication, Wine. One judge, Joanna Simon, was, he pointed out, both a contributor to, and a former editor of, Wine. 'I must confirm,' retorts Mr Grant, 'that Wine magazine did not appear among Joanna Simon's nominations, and that she made her connections with the publication clear from the start.'

Of course, the Gastropod never doubted the integrity of Ms Simon, the Sunday Times wine correspondent, whose new book, Discovering Wines, was published last week by Mitchell Beazley at pounds 14.99 and must surely be a contender for the title Drink Book of the Year in the 1995 Glenfiddich Awards. Plainly, the grumbling from Decanter was a case of sour grapes.

LESS well-known than the Glenfiddich Awards, but possibly even more worthy, the William Hepstinall Award is given annually to a young chef, aged between 19 and 26, in order that he or she may travel to further his or her culinary education. It is named after an obscure but influential gastronome who established one of the first country-house hotels, the Fortingall in Perthshire, and wrote a seminal book about buffets.

Hepstinall, described on the jacket of Hors d'Oeuvre and Cold Table (1959) as an 'unrivalled master of the art of the hors d'oeuvre', died in 1971, leaving his money to his assistant, Molly, who used it to fund the award. Top chefs are invited to nominate the brightest members of their kitchen brigades.

Among the judges this year was Joe Hyam, who declared himself highly impressed, not only by the candidates' knowledge and enthusiasm but also by their exemplary manner. They presented a difficult choice, but the prize was ultimately awarded to Michelle Maguire, 23, a junior patissiere at the Connaught who had, according to Mr Hyam, 'a very clear-cut idea of what she wanted to do'. When her contract expires in January, Ms Maguire plans to travel to Switzerland to attend what she describes as a 'finishing school' for pastry-makers in Lucerne.

THE Albert Memorial has stood swathed in scaffolding these past few years, and is likely to remain so for years to come. A Modernist might say that the scaffolding looks better than the Victorian-Gothic monstrosity it hides, but to most observers it is an eyesore. To some bright spark, however, it looks a bit like a bottle of Absolut vodka.

Absolut, the Swedish state- owned vodka company, is noted for clever advertising which emphasises the distinctive bell shape of its bottle. Wouldn't it be a good idea to mark the launch of its new flavour, Absolut Citron, by turning the scaffolding into a huge hoarding? The restoration fund would be greatly enriched - and people leaving the Albert Hall entertained - by the sight of a giant vodka bottle lurking in Kensington Gardens.

Sadly, the Department of Heritage does not see it that way - at least not so far. The memorial continues to rot (despite the Government's announcement last December of pounds 5m towards work that should have begun by now) and Absolut has erected an amusing hexagonal floral hoarding at the roundabout at Seven Dials, central London, instead.

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