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|The Chester-Perry Co|
The Firm's Canteen
Each day the canteen is thronged with clerks eating the elaborate cuisine of master chef Mr. Gordon Blue. Bristow is so much a regular that he knows what the dish of the day is by sniffing the fragrant vapours wafting up the corridor. He will often phone Mr. Blue to confirm his order for lunch, and always ends up spelling his name with suitable accompaniment (B - Bouef Bourginon etc). Like the rest he is constantly complaining about the food and smothers it in tomato ketchup but he keeps on eating there.
Mr Blue was not the chef in the early days but his arrival seems to have only confirmed an existing state of affairs.
In strip 64 we find Bristow moaning about the canteen as early as May 1962 . (This is a rare example of a 7 frame strip)
It is quite interesting to see that the canteen was run by a woman. C-Ps soon revert to type by appointing a man, of course.
The canteen is fairly large. It can seat at least 760 people (because that’s how many tickets are sold for the Christmas Dinner & Dance one year). One day Bristow meets an old school pal. After droning on about how small a world it is, the pal remarks they will no doubt bump into each other again. He leaves and Bristow stares incredulously at the ceiling "Meet again? In a canteen this size?". A typical attendance is between 500 and 732 (one day in the summer after Mr. Blue has produced an another exquisite menu 500 Ploughmans Lunches are ordered; on another occasion when a pudding has gone badly wrong, Mr. Blue hastily orders 732 get-well cards)
Dish of the day is normally Poulet en Cocotte Bonne Femme (i.e. Chicken and Chips). Sometimes Fish Pie or Meat Pie (with dried up piecrust) replaces it. When Mr. Blue tries a European style dish (based on something he has had on his holidays) it is met with instant dislike and calls for more tomato ketchup.
The canteen caters for the Directors as well as the staff, and it appears that they even eat there, although they also have their own dining room (where gentlemen's relish replaces the ubiquitous tomato ketchup). In strip 4973 we see them visiting the canteen where unfortunately a fellow diner is Peterson of Public Relations . They do not get the same cuisine as the staff however. Mr Blue laces everything with alcohol first, then changes the names of the dishes to French.
Despite all the brickbats, at least the writers of the Firm's Canteen Good Food Guide are sympathetic. The canteen is regularly rated and usually warrants three, if not four stars. The inspectors have a tough job - they must sneak into the canteen somehow and eat without being spotted. Only employees are supposed to go to the canteen (but God knows who would go there voluntarily). They run the risk of being force-fed the clerk's favourites should they be rumbled.
One wonders how the FCGFG inspectors would know what they were eating anyway. The state of the menu cards is a perennial problem. Bristow's response to the blotched and food-spotting cards is to play pot luck and take whatever is written beneath the stains.
Needless to say there is one man who can be relied on to enjoy Mr Blue's food.
Step forward, T. Thompson strip 3538
One small matter remains unanswered. Some times we see the clerks queuing at a counter and being passed their meals on a tray; at other times they are seated and served by waitresses. So is the canteen self-service or not?
The clerks may have a poor opinion of the catering but they are happy enough to steal the cutlery. Eventually N. Walters & Son, in the guise of security consultants, put a stop to it. Or do they? Closed circuit TV is the next attempt to keep the eating irons inside the building. None of which stops various relatives of Mrs. Purdy from opening cafes, with names just happen to have the initials C and P.