House of Commons
The House of Commons is in recess and will next sit on 7 June 2021.
Ratatouille and Goliath
Written by Maria Julia Pieraccioni, associate
Edited by Tom Gillingham, associate partner
28 May 2021
Four years ago, in a small town north of Paris, diners at the Bouche à Oreille had their polka dot tableclothed tables flipped over when the restaurant was awarded its first Michelin star. A week later, the Michelin guide apologised for erroneously awarding the star to the restaurant, which sits opposite of a gas station, mistaken for its more glamourous namesake in Paris.
The error, although quickly corrected, was never truly forgotten by critics of the Michelin guide, who had become increasingly vocal after French chef Bernard Louiseau shot himself in 2003 over fear of losing his third star. Louiseau was the inspiration for Gasteau, the fictional French chef in Disney’s Ratatouille, and committed suicide after confiding to friends that he “was so scared of Michelin”.
The Michelin guide is adored by foodies, feared by chefs, and often misunderstood by those who sit in between. The reopening of restaurants in London, after two long and devastating lockdowns for the entertainment sector, has reignited a debate about the validity of the Michelin guide and its relevance in the modern world. With picky Londoners flocking to the “best” restaurants in town to spend their savings on scarcely portioned food, Michelin-starred spots have become besieged.
An explosive article in the Financial Times (£) argues that the Michelin guide rubs people the wrong way because it essentially works as a mechanism to reinforce classism and embarrasses those who might disagree with the guide’s “taste hierarchy”.
Chef Elizabeth Haigh, who worked as head chef at Pidgin in east London, suggests that some of her colleagues at other venues “would never be considered [for a star] because [the Michelin guide] is too posh. Food quality and cooking ability has been defined too long by the class system”. A chef’s ability to cook extends beyond their produce and tools: it reflects years of hard work, countless shucked oysters and, often, very expensive culinary schools. Furthermore, restaurants that are awarded stars most often offer fine dining, which appeals to mostly refined palates and lined wallets. Chef Frederick Dhooge, in East Flanders in Belgium, returned his star for that same reason, claiming he wanted to be able to cook simpler food like fried chicken, not considered a “star-worthy dish”.
Enjoying food is as subjective as enjoying a painting or a movie. Of course, there are certain parameters which we use to identify masterpieces, but enjoyment is a truly individual, biological, and evolutionary experience.
After over a year of various restrictions on restaurants and huge changes to the way we view eating out, perhaps the Michelin guide can rediscover its purpose by crowning inspiring revelations instead of focusing on often inaccessible luxury.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has released a statement defending health secretary Matt Hancock against accusations that he lied over the care home crisis at the start of the pandemic. In Dominic Cummings’ testimony to MPs, the former senior advisor alleged that Hancock gave Johnson false assurances that all hospital patients were being tested for covid-19 before being discharged back into care homes. A spokesperson for Johnson replied, saying “the PM has full confidence in the health secretary and will continue working with him”. (£)
Home Office figures reveals the number of EU citizens being prevented from entering the UK has surged over the past three months despite travel restrictions and a reduction in travel. While visitors from the EU are still allowed to enter the UK without a visa for travel, Brexit has expanded the discretionary powers of border officials to reject EU travellers if they suspect they might settle in the UK without a visa.
Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon is today expected to reveal plans for whether Glasgow will remain in level three or have restrictions in the city eased. There continues to be concern about relatively high levels of new infection in the city, particularly driven by the Indian variant.
Business and economy
Chancellor Rishi Sunak defended on Thursday the Treasury’s dealings with Greensill Capital, to the House of Commons Treasure select committee, which is investigating the collapse of Greensill last March. Sunak argued that the person behind the lobbying, former prime minister David Cameron, did not help Greensill’s case in securing the Covid-19 relief scheme. (£)
Economic optimism across the UK has reached its highest level in five years, but London businesses are lagging behind the rest of the country. The Lloyds Bank Business Barometer, which measures economic optimism, has climbed to 37%, while in London it revealed a fall to 24%. Economists suggest that London’s restaurant and hospitality sectors are still struggling to return to pre-pandemic highs, and the future remains uncertain for many smaller businesses.
Following backlash from the National Farmers Union over the United Kingdom’s trade deal with Australia, trade minister Greg Hands gave the House of Commons a “cast iron guarantee” that British standards and exports would not be negatively affected in the deal. The deal with Australia is being discussed over the next few weeks and fear over it creating disadvantageous consequences for British farmers has been a subject of much debate.
Columns of note
Kanstantsin Dzehtsiarou and Arman Savarian, professors of Law at the University of Liverpool and University of Surrey respectively, offer legal insight on the diverted aircraft carrying Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich on May 23. In The Conversation, the professors cut through the noise surrounding the incident by dissecting and analysing its legal implications. The two main legal questions they posit is whether Belarus had the power to divert the aircraft from its flight path and whether the method by which the Belarusian government ordered the pilot to make an emergency landing was legal. Besides the humanitarian question, it seems international governments’ propension to seek justice for the dissident journalist and his girlfriend might have legal standing.
A decade since the economic collapse in Greece, the country has become the EU’s unlikely star student. This piece in The Economist argues that Greece’s change in reputation is partly a “question of politics”: Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister is ideologically, diplomatically, and financially aligned with the EU. It separately praises the silent work Greece has conducted over the last ten years: Greek bond yields are near record lows and now its plan to spend the €31bn of EU recovery funds has been happily welcomed by the EU establishment.
What happened yesterday?
In the United States, investors’ attention shifted to companies that may benefit from economic reopening. Several companies caught in the retail investor trading frenzy earlier this year traded positively yesterday, with cinema chain giant AMC and GameStop shares surging. However, that limited rally fell short of making a difference to the S&P 500, which closed up just 0.1% or to the Nasdaq Composite, which ended the day flat.
The latest figures for jobless claims in the United States underscored the progress on reopening the economy, falling to a pandemic-era low of 406,000. Eyes remain peeled on the inflation data that will be released today, which is expected to show that personal consumption expenditure has increased 2.9% year-on-year in April.
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom the FTSE 100 was down 0.1% at closing. However, the sterling rose 0.6% against the dollar to $1.42, while the euro closed flat at $1.22.
What’s happening today?
HarbourVest Private Equity
Reckitt Ben. Gp
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HgCapital Trust plc
Sampo A Ord
Interim Dividend Payment Date
Aew Uk Reit
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Bankers Investment Trust
Bmo Comm Prop.
CQS Natural Resources
Cqs New C.h.y.f
Cvc Credit Eur
Cvc Credit Gbp
Edinburgh Investment Trust PLC
Greencoat UK Wind
M&g Credit Inc.
UK Commercial Property Trust
Quarterly Payment Date
City Of London Investment
Sme Credit Real
UK Economic Announcements
(09:30) Mortgage Approvals
(09:30) Consumer Credit
International Economic Announcements
(10:00) Industrial Confidence (EU)
(10:00) Economic Sentiment Indicator (EU)
(10:00) Services Sentiment (EU)
(10:00) Business Climate Indicator (EU)
(10:00) Consumer Confidence (EU)
(13:30) Personal Income (US)
(13:30) Personal Consumption Expenditures (US)
(13:30) Personal Spending (US)
(14:45) Chicago PMI (US)
(15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (US)
In his 1665 plague treatise, Zenexton Ante-Pestilentiale, physician William Simpson recommended regular glasses of wine to prevent the plague and “many enormous ideas of fear”. [Source: QI Twitter]
House of Commons
The House of Commons is in recess and will next sit on 7 June 2021.
House of Lords
The House of Lords is in recess and will next sit on 7 June 2021.
No business scheduled.
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