Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Plus the VAT, Guv

Wednesday and the return of the lectures. Today we would concentrate on business and the economics of running a catering concern in "Cooking for Pleasure and Profit", not withstanding 66% of start ups going into administration in their first 12 months!!

But first a Sourdough update. It has been a while since I blogged about Declan, a while in which he has grown and become beerier, fluffy and twice his original size.

Time to take more action. Yesterday he received a real feed 8oz flour, 8fl oz water not the pathetic 2 and 2 that he had been weaned on. This morning his second big feed was administered at 8:30 and he returned to the shelf for a final rest. Tomorrow the feed will start to incorporate Rye Flour and Wheat Germ before he is poured into the bowl of a Kenwood mixer and covered with a black bin bag to start his rise. On Friday he will be baked in a special basket having been slashed with a sharp knife to make a pretty pattern.

I shall check to see whether Rory "Freddie" O'Connell or Darina are available for swordsmanship displays. A dismembered part of Declan will return with me to loiter in the fridge ready for a further bread and the original pot in which he grew will be used to make a follow up, benefiting from a lack of washing up to retain the interesting wild yeast culture that has powered his irresistible rise.

Yeast related excitement over it was in for the big day of business. This was the follow up day to the original of about a month ago and would build on that experience as well as providing a number of questions for the final exams. To Commence a recap, and the group in which I found myself was asked to give "A Visual Representation of a Standard Recipe". Quite how you display all of the information, ingredients, weight, nutrition, cooking time and method, portion number etc in one visual I do not know. However we are resourceful here at Ballymaloe Cookery School, and just a little sad, so within seconds we had opted for the obvious pun and produced our Quiche recipe as a Pie Chart!! These are the jokes folks and that was about as funny as The Economics of Catering gets.

That having been said we did watch an episode of Kitchen Nightmares - the one where Gordon is fed the rancid Scallop with comedy results- but were asked to give our opinion of the reason that the restaurant was failing.

With perfectly straight faces we duly suggested Management inefficiency, lack of management systems and Standard Recipes, Poor Marketing and inappropriate placement in the market, although it was blindingly obvious that the "Head Chef" could not cook and the owner hadn't a clue about that or anything else.

After starting the kind of maths exercises which make you realise that sometimes even accountants can have a purpose in life we were sent off to lunch with a promise of even better calculations afterwards. My 87c calculator was approaching meltdown and I turned it off just before it spontaneously combusted- without it my brain would have been in a similar state though perhaps not worth quite as much.

The afternoon started with a shock as the schedule for the Practical exam was handed out. We have only until next Thursday at 9am to determine what our three course menu for the finals will be!!!! Panic is a very good word to use at this time, gobsmacked and DOH!!! are others.

But there's more maths to be done. Having calculated the  Suggested Selling Price of a dish by dividing by the percentage profit that you would wish to make and adding VAT to get the actual selling price we then had to calculate the margin afforded by the dish and also to remember that banks are interested in cash not percentage profits. Just to make it more interesting we then had to decide what actual price we would put on a dish that was really only costing 29c and should therefore have sold for around 97c(plus Vat), we felt that on a menu it would be priced at €4.50, and do the back calculation to deduct the VAT and recalculate the Margin.  If I have ever, I repeat ever, questioned the raison deter of accountants I take it all back. You are a wonderful profession, full of charm and sparkling repartee with a great taste in fashion.

A case study finished our academic input during which we found out that a Cafe run by a person with a degree in Electrical Engineering and work experience as a Fitness Consultant could work, but only if it is opposite one of Ireland's better rock festivals and on of only two eating places in town on a major road, oh yes and if you don't mind being regularly fined for fly posting.

Tomorrow its back to the range.


  1. I knew there was a reason I married an accountant pity its taken nearly 40 years to find it! Hope you divulge the menu you choose for your exam I suspect it might not involve pastry or gelatin!

  2. ~~LOL~~

    Looking forward to reading what you choose for your menu, Bill.