Bunhill: A monument to hospitality

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The Independent Online
ARE YOU embarrassed by your ignorance of food mixer technology? Do you shuffle your feet and look at the floor when the subject of hotel reservation software comes up? Do you feel less than au courant with the latest advances in ice carving?

If so, I can heartily recommend World of Hospitality '94, the catering industry's trade fair at Earls Court. It's on for another three days.

There you can marvel at the Potato Marketing Board's stand, where the potato wedge is cunningly demonstrated. Or visit the Sketchley exhibit and talk to two video characters, a chef called Workwear Willy and a chambermaid, Linen Lil.

Admire the edible sculptures - in icing, in spun sugar, in marzipan, in chocolate and (not for the delicate of stomach, this one) in congealed fat.

One exhibitor, Plastico of Mitcham, Surrey, proudly displays its newly designed doughnut prong and slip-free pasta fork. Both were developed for use at Euro Disneyland in Paris - one of the few profitable by-products of that financial disaster.

It's a show where the seriously mundane sits alongside the puzzlingly surreal. This is where you get your after-dinner mints personalised, where you can choose from 20 different roasting ovens, where you can buy a made-to-measure brasserie.

Catering and hotel-keeping is one of Britain's biggest industries, with sales of pounds 37bn. It employs about one-tenth of the workforce, most of them the worst paid. About 70,000 restaurateurs, chefs, hoteliers, maitres d' and others are expected to attend the show.

It's an arcane world. For readers considering entering the British Open Cookery Championships (sponsored by British Gas) I can do no better than reproduce the guidelines in the official brochure.

'AVOID THE FOLLOWING: Birds in plumage touching food; use of socles; use of inedible materials; decorating with parsley, watercress; cloudy aspic; entering a previously judged piece; too heavy a superstructure of sculptures; use of paper sleeves, etc; presenting hot food on mirrors.

So have a great day out, but please, do remember, leave your socles at home.

(Photograph omitted)