Know quail eggs from ostrich eggs? Harrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff

 

Most butchers could spend hours telling you the difference between cuts of meat, but would struggle to tell you the best wine to go with them – or indeed what the after-dinner cheese should be. Then again most butchers don’t work at Harrods.

Paul Livesey does and he is one of 14 staff from the food hall at the Knightsbridge store half way through the Harrods Food Gourmet Academy, a nationally recognised qualification that is turning single product specialists into personal food shoppers.

“It was my dream to come and work in Harrods,” said Paul, 44, who has been a butcher since he was 13. “I have regular customers that come in to do their food shopping every day and are not just buying their meat off me.

The academy is helping me give extra knowledge to my customers. If someone wants to buy a nice piece of Aberdeen Angus steak I can go with them to the veg or the wine sections and discuss food pairings or have a chat with them about anything else they might like. I’m becoming a personal shopper for food.”

Staff in the academy will have sat through 10 modules by the end of the year-long course – including chocolate, tea and coffee, fish and other luxury items – with assessments following each.

On Monday the group will join Paul, who went to butchery college in Blackpool, behind the meat counter when each of them will spend two hours under the watchful eyes of assessors using their new found knowledge on the marbling qualities of wagyu beef. They will be marked on their specialist and technical knowledge.

“The job is about being able to tell how something gets its unique flavour. Stories on food provenance are also increasingly popular,” said Paul. “That’s the biggest part of the job for me: the storytelling.”

Fresh-faced Food Orders Desk employee George Burry – one of more than 5,000 Harrods staff – is also relishing his time in the Academy. “I have customers in store, emailing or calling up asking for a hamper to be put together so it’s great to be able to inter-link with Paul and the other guys to put the best products that work together,” said the 21-year-old, in his third year at Harrods since joining as a temp at Christmas.

Harrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff Harrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
“I’m a foodie myself and we already have good knowledge but the course really enhances that and shows you how much more knowledge you can gain from specialists in each area.”

A 4am start at Billingsgate fish market in east London awaits the team next month as the Academy continues. Four years after the famous store became the first retailer in Britain to offer its own degree course in “the art of selling” at Anglia Ruskin University, it has again stolen a march on its rivals.

Bruce Langlands, Harrods director of food and restaurant, said he wants to run the best food service in the world and believes the Gourmet Academy will help reach that goal. Everyone working in the Food Hall can apply for it. “I feel it is vitally important to equip my team with an in-depth, rather than superficial, knowledge about the products that they sell,” he said. “This qualification translates into an outstanding experience for our customers.”

Awarding organisation FDQ specialises in food and drink and spent months working with Harrods to develop the qualification to the standards required to meet both the store’s needs and the demands of accreditation. The end result is that Harrods has joined the list of FDQ-approved centres.

FDQ chief executive Amanda Clark said: “We are delighted to be working with Harrods whose very name exemplifies quality. The Harrods Gourmet Food Academy will be subject to ongoing External Quality Assurance. We look forward to working with the Academy as they develop this into an annual programme and build the in-depth knowledge of their Food Hall staff.”

The Independent takes the taste test

First up in my attempt to guess the luxury food is what appears to be a shrunken pineapple. Slicing it open for me is Jamie Smith, fruit and veg assessor for the Harrods Food Gourmet Academy. Is it from the Far East I ask? “Could be,” says Jamie, but isn’t. It tastes not too dissimilar to kiwi – from the same family? “Fraid not.” Jamie takes pity: “It’s a pitahaya from Columbia, part of the dragonfruit family. Really good for the digestive system.”

Price: £40/kg

Score: 0/1

My next test is a fruit in the shape of a tomato with a firm, almost blood red skin and a green stalk. “This is the best fruit you’ll ever taste. What colour do you think it will be inside,” asks Jamie. A lighter red? He slices the top to reveal what looks like garlic. It’s a mangosteen, common to Vietnam, Malaysia and Thailand. Its sharp and sweet taste with a firmer centre is absolutely delicious.

Price: £32.50

Score: 0/2

Ramon Chatzinikolaou greets me as we swing round to the cheese counter as I aim to get a point on the board. “This is my favourite cheddar,” he says with a smile. Hmmm, bit of a clue there Ramon. Perhaps word had already reached him about my efforts with the fruit. “It’s an organic cheese from Somerset.” It’s mild, creamy and (I’m told) aged for at least 12 months. A full-bodied wine would sit well with it. “It’s Godminister Cheddar!” Ramon tells me. It was on the tip of my tongue.

Price: “3.80 per 100g

Score: 0/3

Moving swiftly onto another lovely hard cheese, slightly fruitier I believe. “This is from Montgomery’s farm, also matured in cellars for around 9-12 months,” says Ramon. Is it… Montgomery’s Cheddar? It is indeed. Get in.

Price: £3.50 per 100g

Score: 1/4

Ramon’s thrown a curveball: my final taste is a truffle-infused thing of beauty. I’m feeling confident now. It’s French, has to be, right? “Er, it is Italian,” says Ramon. “Smell the truffles,” he says thrusting a wedge under my nose. It is delicious, but I’ve no idea that it’s called a Pecorino Moliterno with Truffle, from Sardinia. Back to food school for me.

Price: £6.00 per 100g

Final score: 1/5

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam