From Punch and Judy to Haute Cuisine by Michael Flagg
News and Events 8-The P.I.G.S 90th Banquet at South Down College Waterlooville Hants Friday November 16th 2012

The Promotion of the International Gastronomy Society-90th Banquet

It was a privilege and a pleasure to be an invited guest of the Chairman Joe Pearce to the 90th banquet of the Promotion of the International Gastronomy Society (P.I.G.S) on Friday 16th November 2012. An occasion which Arthur Simms would have been proud to have been a part of. To know that 'Non fumin ex fulgare sed ex fumo dare luceum cogitate' translated as 'His thought is not to give the flame first and then smoke, but from smoke to let the light break out', still continues. The torch was passed from Highbury College to South Downs College, who now have undertaken some forty banquets with much enthusiasm, professionalism and attention to detail. It is reassuring to know that the flame continues to burn brightly under the present officers of the P.I.G.S, the South Downs College Head Gerry Shurman, Chef Ian Baillie(kitchen) and Karen Hinks(Pastry) and chef students. Also Restaurant Managers Frans Kalhorn and Kerry Mansfield and their students.

Joe Pearce Chaiman of the P.I.G.S with Chef de Cuisine Ian Bailie

Of particular note was that the students were highly motivated about this function, regarding it as an exercise going beyond the fundamental training schedule, having to work until 10.30pm on a Friday evening, to receive a certificate of high achievement to add to their learning portfolio.

This society was created in 1968 by Arthur Simms as the 'Boar', William Land as vintner and Leonard Nice as Maitre Chef and Dr Kenneth Nixon as secretary, present on this occasion and now the only survivor of this founding team.

As the author of 'From Punch and Judy to Haute Cuisine-A Biography of the Life and Times of Arthur Edwin Simms 1915 to 2003', the requirement was to give a tribute to Arthur and his colleagues through a brief history of the society as outlined by the former Principal and later Polytechnic Director, Dr William Davey. This was timed for about fifteen minutes but as the nine course banquet had to be completed by 10.30pm there was insufficient time to talk about Arthur the man, who was being honoured on this occasion for instigating the formation of this society known as the' P.I.G.S'.

The occasion was not to promote his biography, although copies were on display to raise awareness and for any member to peruse during the evening when time permitted. The author was grateful for the title to be featured in the menu booklet and mentioned again by the chair Joe Pearce towards the end of the function.

However as a considerable number present would have never known Arthur Simms, had an appropriate moment occurred they might have been interested in the key aspects of his his remarkable life. From his childhood days assisting his father Edwin Simms (known as 'Quisto') as a boy, performing Punch and Judy shows to the royal children at Buckingham Palace including probably Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 around 1930.

That in this Diamond Jubilee Year 2012, a copy of the book has been donated to the Royal Collection as chapter 1, written by co-author Geoff Felix who is a disciple of Arthur's father and himself a performer and a maker of ventriloquial figures, gives an account of the enigmatic character and work of Quisto, including making figures for famous performers such as Coram and David Poole. It is also alleged that he created the first figure to be beamed across the Atlantic to Hartsdale New York during the pioneering days of Logie Baird with television,

They would have been interested to hear that Arthur's determination to become a chef rather than follow in his father's footsteps, was set when he was conducted to the Buckingham Palace kitchens for an ice cream and was overawed. Hence the title of Geoff's chapter 1 'The Ice Cream that Changed my life'. To learn that Arthur's confidence as a follower of Auguste Escoffier stemmed from his young days as a Punch and Judy performer on his own; knowing that the show depends entirely on you for its success or failure in captivating the attention and appreciation of your audience.

After Arthur's First Class Westminster Diploma in 1933 he was to work at the Ciros Club, the Trocadero and in Paris at the Caltons and George V hotels. Returning in 1934 to London at the Savoy Grill, then to the Grand Hotel Leicester,  returning to London and the Gargoyle Club of David Tennant and Lady Viola Tree, in Dean Street Soho. To Aldershot in 1939 where he was one of the eight founders of the Army Catering Corps,(1941) and Head Chef at the Potsdam Conference(1945).

He was a founder member of the Committee of the City and Guilds of London Institute for the setting up of the first professional Cookery courses and first head at the second centre after Westminster, in Brighton in 1946 and later  at Portmouth in 1952.  He was seconded to the Pusa Institute New Delhi India 1964-66 as first Principal on the initiative of the Government of India.

That the standards of food preparation and presentation in the UK which we expect, enjoy and even take for granted today are due in some part to the efforts of Arthur Simms and his contemporaries. Their priorities were for education, training and the achievement of professional status in the hospitality industry post 1946.

   In the left picture are the students preparing this function

    In the second picture is Dr Kenneth Nixon centre another guest and Joe Pearce Chairman on his right

     Lower picture left are the table decorations for the chairman's table

     In the final picture the centre-piece in spun sugar