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Behind the Scenes with Leiths Buyer Diggory Orr-Ewing

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Behind the Scenes with Leiths Buyer Diggory Orr-Ewing

The produce we use – the quality, the quantity! – is one of the first things students at Leiths remark upon. Keeping our kitchens stocked six days a week for Diploma students, daytime classes, evening courses and corporate bookings, is a gargantuan task. It falls to our trusty buyer Diggory Orr-Ewing who’s been at Leiths since 2013. Here he gives us a look behind the scenes.

Monday is always the busiest day. On a Monday morning, we are often receiving goods for 16 classes. If meat and fish orders arrive at the same time, you can imagine the volume of food we are trying to process at one time. It’s all hands on deck!

I plan up to a fortnight ahead. For a complex or specialist class, I will begin immediately to find ingredients that may not be readily available. Sous Chef is a great one-stop shop. The game demonstration put on each year for Diploma students always requires careful planning around shooting seasons. Woodcock is always a nightmare to source and for that reason my supplier will have frozen woodcocks on standby in case he’s unable to supply the fresh birds that we’d ideally like. No amount of planning can prepare you for the occasional unforeseen hitch.

I start work at 8am when orders start arriving. From 8am until 10am, I process orders and firefight last minute problems. I then begin planning ahead, putting tray lists and orders together for upcoming classes. It is a lot about thinking logically and getting ahead. Most important is that the storeroom weigh up ingredients for classes in advance where they can. Dry stores such as flour and caster sugar can be weighed ahead and stored; fresh produce and dairy must be left until the last minute. Between 3pm and 4pm, I place orders for the next day and check that we have everything required for classes that evening or the next morning. This means I can place orders for anything that is missing and I’m able to sleep at night as my mind is settled!

Suppliers have to be able to follow an order and supply the spec that has been requested. On the Diploma, it is essential that there is uniformity of ingredients so that all students receive a roughly equal amount of food. A supplier needs to be able to guarantee that they will supply 96 equally sized plaice for a class and that they will arrive on time. Timing is crucial so that a class is not left waiting on produce.

Checking the quality of the produce we receive is key. When a delivery comes in, it is essential that the exact products ordered have arrived (for example, chicken legs, bone in, skin off). The importance of finer details is dependent on how the product will be used. If carrots are for stock, then any shape and size will do; however, for julienning they must be straight.

Fruit and vegetables are usually the biggest order. Sometimes we have a very large number of a particular meat product arriving for the Diploma. One week we had 212 chickens coming into the building, along with other meat and we had to find space to store it all. Usually we have to repack any meat or fish in our own containers so they are stored hygienically.

We have a recycling system for food waste. A company takes it for converting into bio-organic fertiliser. Leftovers from classes can be used to prepare dishes for staff lunch and anything the students do not wish to take home will be sent to a charity supporting vulnerable people in the local community.

Author: Hilary Armstrong


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