Michael Flagg's From Punch and Judy to Haute Cuisine is an extremely interesting read. The life of Arthur Simms who was a pioneer in UK hospitality, also Michael's tutor at Portsmouth. Yes, it may be large but that definately did not put me off. In Michael's second year of a three year course he wondered if his life was on the right path and much to the dissapointment of his tutor and family he left college and went to London. This was in the 1950's and certainly frowned upon. After a year away he realised catering was to be his subject and went back to Portsmouth and spoke to Arthur.
Arthur not only took him back but created a position for him where he was able to complete his education and also work in a nearby hotel. He was so grateful he was given a second chance he promised Arthur he would write his biography.
As a young boy Arthur assisted his Father Quisto perform his Punch and Judy show. Even performed at Buckingham Palace. In fact it was going to the palace kitchens that gave him the idea of becoming a chef. Hence the title of the book.
Michael Flagg takes us through Arthur's journey where we visit Portsmouth, Brighton, London, Kent and even India. Of course I thoroughly enjoyed reading about The Grand Hotel in Broadstairs. Arthur did his first placement there in the 1930's while studying for his diploma in Professional Cookery. The description is of a prestigious hotel where during Christmas they would employ sous chefs from London. Arthur worked hard to prove his ability and wanted to experience as much as possible to enable him to become a leading chef in the catering industry. Sadly due to the decline of the "British" holiday The Grand Hotel was converted from hotel rooms to apartments.
This book could certainly be seen as an educational tool. It proved to me that service now is not what it was, or should be. Training is essential as is taking pride in your work and Arthur certainly proved that. It is an insight into social history and shows that working in the hospitality industry can be an excellent career.
I would also describe it as perhaps a coffee table book, to enjoy at your leisure. This was very well written with intricate detail and some delightful photograhs.
I am hoping Michael will write his own biography one day. Another excellent read.