Food without memory is just digestion

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Australian Food: Come on Aussie!

Having ventured to the Great Southern Land, Gentle Reader, I was looking forward with considerable relish (no pun intended) to a veritable feast of fine food. And I'm desperately disappointed.

In Dominic's recent post about a certain restaurant in Canberra, he lamented at the poor quality of the offering. Your Humble Correspondent would feign call him mistaken, were it at all possible.

I must say that, like the United States, Australia boasts magnificent produce. Whether shopping for my humble home or considering what was on offer at the various eating establishments I have visited with the Child Bride, I have no doubt that the ingredients are of the highest quality. Magnificent seafood, extraordinary cuts of meat and poultry, superb vegetables, and some of the best delicatessens I have ever experienced. There is a passion for the providore that thrills me to the core. So what, I wonder, is the issue?

In your Humble Correspondent's opinion, the problem happens once the produce gets to the kitchen. Too many cooks spoiling broths, and not enough chefs focused on what hits the plate. Over-cooking such as Dominic suffered, or under-cooking like I experienced recently when the filling for a steak-and-kidney pastry was barely tepid, is a solid indication that some-one at the kitchen door is not paying attention. Wait staff make the simplest mistakes, and seem driven to have the diners in and out quickly. A cross-eyed view to the top-line, rather than customer satisfaction and growing a crowd of "regulars".

Perhaps we are all a little spoiled in Tokyo, but there where livelihoods are on the line chefs go that little further to make sure customers are delighted. Here in the Antipodes, it seems that people have jobs rather than passions and the competition is for employees rather than learning opportunities. It's almost as if the roles are reversed between kitchen and floor, and between diners and eateries. For goodness' sake, food is not fuel and dining excellence is not measured with a stopwatch.

It is all a rather large pity - the venues and locations are splendid and the ingredients (as noted) real quality. Why, oh why, don't people apply that finishing touch of the entertainment inherent in food? If all the world's a stage, where are the players?


Dom said...

i agree with everything you wrote terry. we have such great quality produce in australia that good eating is often just a matter of getting the food fresh and not messing it up. case in point - dinner tonight at home is a dozen fresh oysters bought at the local supermarket with a bit of tomato and worcestershire...however, there's a lot more to be got out of food than simply not messing it up. not enough of our chefs are exposed in their training to the best the world has to offer, in the way that young japanese chefs (to be) die to apprentice in the great restaurants of europe. we're just a bit too cosy and self-satisfied for my liking.

however, must say i tried the tapas place at the new justin hemmes "ivy" complex in sydney yesterday.

not bad at all. i think i'll need to try out one or two more in the complex to see if there is something interesting still happening here...

Anonymous said...

Australia is great at promotion.
Does it really have great produce? Everything looks great, but made with pesticides and lots of fertiliser on bad soil?

I hardly ate out when I lived there for 7 years, unless it was expensive. It was difficult to find reasonably priced good food. A few extremely bad experiences put me off.

Now we are in Tokyo - what bliss - never had a bad meal, just variations of average to good