This initiative has been brewing for several years, finally getting to us restaurateurs last August and becoming official just at the end of january. We are in the (take a deep breath) ‘Parc Naturel régional des Pyrenées Catalanes‘ quite a broad area as you can see. Starting some years ago, the region started an initiative which plays in perfectly with current trends, of locally grown and reared products. They started with farmers to encourage them to produce all sorts of foodstuffs, from veg to cheese and livestock and they have obtained origin labels to give these products a territorial value. That having been established, they are now trying to develop a label for restaurants. So we would have to adher to a range of requirements, such as a minimum percentage of products have to be sourced locally, Catalane dishes, etc. Then we would be inspected, at a cost, and audited to see if we meet the requirements and then finally get the label, which means, I suppose we would have some sort of emblem to display and promotion by the Park as one of its’ labelled restaurants selling the products of the Park itself.
I got invited to a meeting at the stage of setting up the criteria of qualification for the label, but unfortunately it was at the beginning of August last year, which instantly made me suspicious that in fact the people instigating this initiative didn’t actually have any idea of how the restaurant business works in this area, as any restaurateur worth his salt wouldn’t have been able to actually attend the meeting. Er…or perhaps this was the aim…. Anyway, not to be deterred, I turned my attention to the details in September, well after the expiry date for our invited comments, but I read it all through and as I suspected, it looked like it was all going to be expensive and complicated. One complication that I thought would actually probably be the biggest sticking point for us, is that they state that something like 80% of dishes have to be made on the premises (as opposed to being bought in), and about 1/3 of our carte is Pierrade, which although not bought in, is not exactly cooked by me either!! Another of my worries was a seeming attempt to standardise the cuisine by making us all cook ‘Catalan’ cuisine, which as pertains to us is plainly ridiculous – we are NOT Catalan, or even French, and it’s not my preferred cuisine or style. But worse, I think, is a danger of forcing everyone to do more or less the same thing. How dull. Dull for chefs and dull for the customers. There is definitely a market for sourcing locally, I have noticed that from our customers, but let us be creative with it! Finally, no way, with all other charges we have to pay am I going to fork out another load of money for this – and I feel that as it is their initiative, and they obviously want as many people as possible to participate, they should bear the lions share of the costs.
I submitted my considered opinions and I was surprised to receive a really prompt reply from the guy in charge, actual efficiency in the government offices! Shock horror!! He tackled each of my points, agreeing with me that homogenising the cusine was not at all the goal and that they expected the cost to the restaurateur to be around 40€ – which is reasonable, I think.
Well, I just got a letter to say that the label *Restaurant du Parc naturel régional des Pyrenées Catalanes* has been deposited at the National Instituted of Industrial Property and the list of criteria has been approved by the minister of the environment, and inviting our canditure. So I shall have to study the list and see what the final version is. I know Dave is not interested AT ALL – he thinks it is all a load of old codswallop, but I am more informed of trends in eating out and I think there is a place for us as a small rural restaurant in this scheme.