A Decade of Tom’s Food!

March 31 was the tenth anniversary of my retiring from the practice of law. One door closes, a hundred restaurant doors open. It wasn't quite the plan. People have asked why the Tom's Food! domain name is www.ormidalels.com. Simple, really. It's short for Ormidale Licensing Services. Glasgow's coat of arms features a bird that never flew and a tree that never grew: OLS was the company that never traded.

I had a bright idea for a wee business which wouldn't compete with my former colleagues. A business needs a company and a website. I knew how to form a company. More importantly, I knew a 13 year old child who knew how to make a website. The same gentleman is now one of Britain's leading computer whizzes. It's fair to say that, just as my initial articles were apprentice pieces, so the OLS website was an early work for him.

After a few months spending a very enjoyable time as an unemployed layabout, I decided that the hard work of developing a fledgling business was not for me. I would instead devote myself to my dream job of being a restaurant reviewer. After all, I knew I was the world's greatest restaurant reviewer. The fact that I'd never written one was a mere incidental. I had picked up enough from the teenage computer genius to add a new page to the website and lo! Tom Eats! was born.

Simpsons-in-the-Strand

I see that six reviews were penned that first year. Three of the places remain in the same format, and one (Mark Greenaway) is in a different venue. The one you would have bet a fortune on surviving was the then 175 year old Simpson's-in-the-Strand. While I gather there are plans for it to reopen, the owners literally sold the family silver, in the form of the magnificent silver carving trolleys. Will it ever be the same again? We shall see.

Tom Cooks! came later. I had no claims to be the world's best recipe writer; however, completing a long overdue promise to my girls came in the cookbook named A Bunch of Fives, subtitled Routine Masterpieces and Others. I look back on some of the recipes and shudder, but it did teach me two things. Firstly, I enjoyed doing it. Secondly, writing recipes aimed at the average amateur cook isn't easy. My target audience is the me of 15 - 20 years ago, a weekend cook lacking a lot of the basics. I'm unwilling to assume too much knowledge or skill, and I do know that some of the stuff may be a bit too basic for the many talented cooks (including a number of professionals) among my readers.

If it wasn't for a photograph of an infected toe nail, On The Side might never have come to be. As the site became more successful, the platform owner wordpress.com started to add adverts. There must have been something in the small print that said they could. I had no objection to this in principle, but certain photos are just beyond the pale in a food article. A new website was needed, but the boy genius had moved on to greater things. Enter another superstar, Alan Tomkins of Alpha Tango, website designers extraordinaire.

Over the years I had had a lot of ideas for food articles which were neither reviews nor recipes. Column three was born, as was the abilty for readers to add comments. They are mostly great (and I do have a very good SPAM filter); however, one chap accused me of a lack of ambition and a fear of innovation. (I think it's because I don't refer to drinks in the restaurant reviews.) I was able to point him to an opera review; to an article about food and racism; and to an exposition on how the railways changed the way we cook meat 

I never heard from him again. A pal did express his concern when I shared the idea of a weekly recipe, fearing I was making a rod for my own back. But food, like music, is infinite. Of the three, Tom Cooks! has given me the least stress. On The Side has, perhaps, the greatest development potential. Of planned projects, a gin producer had to go into hospital, and a potato farmer saw last year's atrocious weather wipe out most of her crop. For Chef Watch, there are plenty of them out there, but ideally I'm looking for more who aren't white British men. Supper with an online influencer has given me an idea for Foodie Watch, a broader range of mini interviews with fellow food lovers.

If you know innovative food producers, or influential people in the Scottish food scene, I'd love to hear from you. In the meantime, here's a toast to all my readers. To the next ten years!

Which will resume in a couple of weeks

10 Comments

  1. Pat M on 3rd April 2024 at 7:02 pm

    Congratulations Tom. Your columns have given me lots of ideas, information and, dare I say it, amusement over the past 3 years. I have no idea how I came across it but glad I did – and found a new friend too. All the best for the next decade.

    • Tom Johnston on 3rd April 2024 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks, Pat. Look forward to meeting up again soon.

  2. Fiona Garwoid on 3rd April 2024 at 9:33 pm

    Well done Tom. Great achievement and keep going please

    • Tom Johnston on 4th April 2024 at 3:26 pm

      Thanks, Fiona.

  3. Anne Hillerton on 3rd April 2024 at 9:39 pm

    Thanks for the ten years of interesting, amusing and informative reading material. Keep up the good work!

    • Tom Johnston on 4th April 2024 at 3:26 pm

      Ta, chook. Meet again soon, I hope.

  4. Janet Hood on 4th April 2024 at 12:01 am

    10 years flew past. I love your reviews, recipes and On the Side.

    Keep going and I’ll continue to cook chilli fired food for the insane and, of course, follow in your licensing footsteps!

    Thanks Tom

    • Tom Johnston on 4th April 2024 at 3:26 pm

      Thank you, my lovely.

  5. Mark Baird on 4th April 2024 at 10:59 am

    Congrats on your 10 year anniversary Tom. I have tried many of your recipes; visited (and avoided) restaurants based on your reviews and enjoy the Chefwatch articles. Here’s to the next ten! Mark.

    • Tom Johnston on 4th April 2024 at 3:24 pm

      Thanks, Mark. Catch you soon.

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