ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Where were you when the Colonel died?

February the 19th, 2018 will forever go down in history as 'the day KFC ran out of chicken'.

Years from now, folks will idly ask 'do you remember that day when KFC ran out of chicken?' and their friend Martha will reply 'Yes, Gerald, it was February the 19th, 2018'. And then they'll reminisce about how the Double Down really wasn't all that, and argue about exactly which 11 herbs and spices made up the Colonel's original recipe.

The Kennedy assassination it may not be, but it's the kind of story that almost defies belief. Chicken isn't just their core product, it's pretty much their only product - and that's why more than half their 900-odd outlets are closed today. How can such a large chain - presumably with robust operations and logistics processes in place - allow something like to ever come close to happening?

Steak out

This comes just weeks after the entire Wetherspoon chain had to take steaks and other meat products off their menu for several days following a similarly massive failure of supply. That supplier, fittingly, is also in the news today and sadly on the verge of going bust. One can only imagine how slender their margins must've been, supplying to Tim Martin on such a large scale.

There are a similar number of JDW pubs as there are KFCs and again it seems impossibly negligant that something like this could be allowed to happen with no contingency plan - though Spoons were far less exposed given that their 'grill' meals only represented a relatively small part of their business, whereas the Colonel is pretty much fucked when a link in his one supply chain fails.

Double Down: It really wasn't all that...

After all, consistency and reliability is arguably the one thing in their favour. Few serious critics argue that the food in either place is really any good.

Globalisation and rationalistation looked to have signified an end to the kind of uncertainties you'd normally associate with 1970s Britian, hit hard by industrial action, or the trademark USSR shopping experience where people queued for hours and then found nothing on sale.

All of which makes me wonder if food shortages are now officially a thing - at least among the bigger boys. Is the era of big, bland, uniform chains dominating the market finally coming to an end?

What if Steak Night is cancelled again? And McDonalds runs out of Filet-o-Fishes at a quarter to midnight on a Thursday evening? No coffee left at Costa?

We might become an International laughing stock, granted, but hopefully we'd see less reliance on massive corporations and, ultimately, greater opportunities for small, local suppliers. Provenance and quality will become relevant.

After all, why must a KFC in Surrey have the same chicken as a branch in Glasgow? Aren't there any locally-reared chickens waiting to be coated in the secret blend? It's not like they're actually from Kentucky and have Protected designation of origin status is it?

Do people really require exactly the same Wethermenu options in Cornwall as in Hull (or indeed the same choice of Guest Ales, come to that)? A bit of diversity and a return to localisation would keep things interesting.

So, anybody want to commit some industrial sabotage to ensure these things continue? Maybe contaminate the global supply of Whoppers? Ground Starbucks entire delivery fleet for a month?

You'll be doing the country a culinary favour!

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