Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who is stealing the soap in Restaurant Loos?

The Federal minister for Tourism, Martin Ferguson has announced plans for a sweeping taskforce to get to the bottom of the problem plaguing many of these so-called ‘hipster’ restaurants.
‘Who is stealing all those high–end toiletries that make the dunnies look so god dammed posh?’ ‘I mean, when people like Oprah come here, they expect to be pampered, and we’ll never be taken seriously as a cultural destination if we just have a bar of bloody Lux on the basin!’

His sentiments are born out in the latest trend to sweep hospitality venues across the nation.
Walk into any rest-rooms at a restaurant or café at the vanguard of design these days and you could be fooled into thinking you’ve stepped into Le Bouquetiere such are the lavish accoutrements de toilette on offer.
Creams, suds, elixirs, perfume, cologne, nail-care products, hair foams and scented Parisian linen are now de rigueur. Some establishments have taken it up to eleven by offering a full
body-spa, nail treatment and hair-styling right there in the lavatories!

Whilst this must be a boon for the patrons, it might be just too tempting for them as many of these toiletries are being stolen.

‘It’s gotten so bad now’ said a staff member from the new restaurant, 'G’day Modern' in Melbourne, ‘that they (the customers) just wait in the loos until we re-stock, then they’re gone!’

A spokesman for Aesopp concurred, ‘These restaurants want their clients to feel the touch of luxury so naturally they come to us, their punters steal our products and they get replaced-it’s a win-win for us’.

However another theory on the phenomenon is gaining traction.

Noted Hospitality Consultant, Tony 'El Dread' had this to say: ‘I reckon its struggling restaurateurs pinching the stuff and selling it on the black market to prop up their failing steakhouses/Mexican joints and Burger bars, oh and call me 1800-El-Dread’

Until then, we’ll await the findings of the Ministers report.

Clancy St Hubbins, of The Cygnet Herald and Farm Equipment Catalogue International,

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Have you been to that new place and are you really ready?

A twitter conversation between Ed Charles, Stuart Knox and myself on twitter regarding 'what customers want' prompted my liitle paean.

Disclaimer: To my keenly frequent and anonymouse grammer/spelling/poetry/short-story critic, please be gentle-I'm only having fun.

When you leave your house for dinner
You’re seeking something unique
Things you could never cook at home
But not from Larousse Gastronomique

It must be somewhat modern
Pickled smudges & foraged flowers
Not some retro-throwback
Like a foodie-Austin Powers

So you venture far and venture near
To the hottest place for geezers
Apparently they serve food on bricks
And one eats the food with tweezers

You’ll need detective skills to find this place
and it’s just impossible to book
Where attitude can come in big dollops
Especially if you don’t fit the look

In the queue outside you rub shoulders
With people that share similar expectations
Like being treated as some sheep
With hunger-pain tribulations

You finally get a table
Time to relax and look at the carte
You scan up and down the page
Wild panic rising in your heart

This place has those chefs with tatts
Who toil and sweat and pose
Like those bad-boy wannabees
On the telly shows

The menu seems to be full of
Ingredients of which you cannot equate
Like bits of this and bits of that
And prices to make one faint

One such dish, minimalist at its core
And plain for all to see
a solitary onion and a pear
you’ll have to order three

The courses keep on coming
But no sign of a chicken breast
And some starch would be nice
So you smile and pray for the best

“What’s wrong?” the waiter asks
Seeing your half eaten foam-gellee
“It’s not you it’s me” you say
“My eyes were too big for my belly”

So you swig your drink and you pay your bill
And make your way toward the door
And the doorman gives you a look
That says: ‘You won’t be back for more’

His wise words, “Comfort food, that’s your thing,
There’s no shame in feeling this way,
Some people just don’t get what we do
Perhaps you will one day?”

You thought your boundaries needed pushing
But your senses found way too exciting
All the time you were aching for
Some chips and deep-fried whiting

Ok Ok, you’ve tried the hip new thing
But it’s clearly not for you
Better get back to your mums old house
For her famous Irish Stew.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

In search of.....the handwritten family recipe book

One of the great marketing slights of hand of recent years has to be convincing all of us to re-buy our music catalogue from records and tapes, then Cd’s and now over to digital. I never amassed a stockpile of vinyl in my youth but I did manage to collect zillions of tapes, most of which are languishing in our shed exposed to the elements, nesting Starlings and our dogs’ inquisitive snuffling’s.
It’s been possible to convert ones entire cookbook library to digital for some time now. I’m still confused whether this means you have to purchase your entire collection over again or you simply download an app to do it at a price?
The benefits I’m told are that you can access a specific recipe instantly without the need to flick through pages and pages of books. Whilst this seems attractive, especially if you’re in a hurry, it marks a distinct fork in the road for me as a devoted lover of cookbooks. Whilst I freely admit that I do not peruse them as much as I should, I like the fact that they are there, on my shelves, just in case. When a moment of ignorance strikes, an unusual ingredient or technique rears its head or the need to simply cross reference a recipe, nothing in my opinion beats the weighty confidence that holding a cookbook can administer.
We are in the midst of a groundswell of seeking authenticity in our lives on many levels and food is one of them. Cookbooks as I have said before are a snapshot of the times and it’s my opinion that as we progress into the digital age we’ll start to discard those butter smudged and stained pages like we did so with many of our venerable buildings to embrace some questionable architecture to replace them in our cities, just because they were new. In other words we’ll regret doing so. I hope as an antithesis of this prediction that the hand-made and revered family recipe book will make a welcome return.
Committing pen to paper has definiteness about it. Yes you can use a rubber or liquid paper and write over but once it’s done, it’s done. Anything digital can be altered on a whim, polished, pruned and airbrushed. Somewhere in the technology, the snapshot has become fluid and I’m not so sure that altogether a good thing.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Sponge cake tutorial

pre-heat your oven to 170C

whisk ten egg whites to firm

add one cup of castor sugar and mix well
Add the yolks and continue to whisk

Grease and sugar your cake tin

add one and a half cups of self raising flour

and carefully 'fold' in

pour into cake tin

bake for thirty-five mins or until golden and cooked

cool cake, slice in half, spread jam, then whipped cream then berries. place top of cake on, dredge heavily with icing sugar and take place amongst Pantheon of Cakes.

Thankyou Genevieve for the recipe I'll forever use.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!

Arrive in darkness
Turn the key and put the coffee machine on. Put the beans in the hopper and grind.
Listen to phone messages, check bookings book, read staff message/incident book.
Look at fridge temps. Turn kitchen lights on.
Check proving bread.
Turn on radio. Turn on oven.
Go outside and collect kindling. Light wood oven. Stoke wood oven.
Make muffins, doughnuts, pastries, scones.
Unlock storeroom, outside doors, fridge.
Put tea towels on to dry.
Exchange pig scraps bin.
Feed sourdough starter.
Set kitchen up. Sinks, bins, boards etc.
Check mise en place list.
Check whiteboard for ordering. Check cleanliness of loos.
Make first of many strong coffees for the day. Kitchen staffs begin to arrive.
Plan the day with kitchen staff and confirm specials and who’s doing what.
Go to office to check emails. Read numerous notes from my book keeper.
Glace at formidable payables list, stomach churns.
Check bank balances and EFTPOS transactions. Roll eyes skyward.
Adjust specials menu. Make phone calls to suppliers.
First front of house staff member arrives and I pounce.
Communicate specials, deliveries coming in and discuss shift hand-over issues or service difficulties.
Answer phone calls from the office.
Do a roster projection for the next five weeks taking into account numerous requests for particular days from staff.
Re-do rosters after I get some requests wrong and don’t take into account Public holidays.
Back to the kitchen to put the sourdough bread into the wood oven after dampening the flue.
Pick some tomatoes from our plants outside for the days’ specials.
Quickly knock up some bread dough for the hamburger buns that we have run out of.
I’m stressing that they won’t be made in time for lunch.
Breakfast orders start coming in and the kitchen tempo goes up.
Within minutes all of us are enrolled into breaky service as it is very busy all of a sudden.
We all take turns to run food from the kitchen as the next waiter is 15 mins late for their shift.
Pensive looks are exchanged.
Customers trickle in and two of the kitchen staff are now taking orders on the floor, the café is half full.
Finally, the waiter arrives, apologetic, caught behind a cattle truck.
We scramble back to the kitchen, service looming but we are yet to be fully prepped.
Quickly get the remainder of the cakes ready for the cake counter.
It’s only 10.30am and I’ve had six coffees.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

New Food Fringe installation set to challenge Foodies

Incredible that The Fringe Food Festival TM has attracted the likes of much hyped but enigmatic character, Sebastian St Hubbins, to do a ‘Pop-up’ installation for two weeks only.
It’s obvious that this piece of performance art (coincidentally happening at the Adelaide Fringe festival) is homage to the works of St. Hubbins. Recently the German performance artists Gunthav und der Ripper 24 toured with a similarly themed show based around a Munich Hofbrauhaus. To say Hubbins work inspires other artists is to thoroughly understate his broad influence around the globe; he is after all credited with inventing the words ‘Pop-up’ which have been absorbed into the modern day lingua franca.
In his exclusive work, commissioned especially for the Festival and generously funded by noted art patron, mining magnate and living National Treasure, Clive Palmer, St Hubbins is set to electrify the art world with his take on a Melbourne phenomenon, the laneway restaurant and bar.
The premise of the performance is this: Can a restaurant that offers nothing at all, become very popular and make money?
The installation has been meticulously fitted out in consultation with six degrees, meme design and Chris Connell to replicate that edgy, urban feel. Staff have come from the Chadwick agency with a brief to fit the quirky look much associated with Melbourne bars and cafes. Perhaps most significantly, St Hubbins has eschewed the omnipresent touch of chef consultant to the stars, Mr Wilson in favour of little known chef, roof-top-gardener, lane-forager and drain-hunter, Tristan D’Arcy who aims to instil an authentic and up to the minute re-imagining of the foodie zeitgeist.
Hubbins promises there will be queues, there will be attitude and there will be no plates or glass-wear. Adding to the excitement, no bookings, unmovable single tables and hows this for a worlds first: A Non-menu and Non-beverage list!
Inspiring and brave stuff indeed but then again, what else to you expect from a visionary like St Hubbins?

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Kitchen words-How George changed the game

I’m sure every family has a set of words that only they understand which leaves outsiders perplexed as to their meaning and origin. In my family for instance, Ch-kers, were matches, Boog-it was sugar and Butter-stumps were chubby fingers, the latter evolving into Chip-shovels as we got older.
Kitchens also have their own words or lingo that differs from environment to environment. I have carried this patois home and on occasion I will firmly say ‘Behind’ as I slalom my way through family members in the confines of our kitchen. I have been known to say it at the Bank, the market and at my children’s school, much to their embarrassment.
It reminds me how on particular word evolved years ago in a busy and cramped galley kitchen where eight chefs and three kitchen-hands toiled per shift, the air was regularly filled with shouts of ‘Behind You!’ as people jostled amongst hot pans, steam and fire. There was this great kitchen hand called George, a Chinese bloke with very little English who would imitate us in with a cheeky grin.
‘Be-Hine-Choo’ he would say weaving his way through the galley. Over time he shortened it to ‘Hine-Choo’ which we all adopted as the use of economical language in service is always preferred. I don’t quite know when it happened but it then morphed into ‘Hi-nch’. I knew it had been adopted by everyone when the boss popped into the kitchen and said ‘Hi-nch’ when he passed through the pot-wash, it was a proud moment for George and he relished it.
Curiously, when someone was in a rush or carrying something extremely hot and dangerous, the word was then shouted at the top of ones lungs as in: ‘Hi-nch! Hi-nch! Hi-nch! This thrice repeated call then became the cry of the kitchen, new staff learned to add to their tool-kit and I still use it to this day.
Post Scriptum. Sadly, a couple of years after I moved on, I learned of the death of George at the railway crossing in Bell St. Northcote on his way to work. His word though, lives on.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Art or Craft?

When appreciating art most people fall into two distinct categories, those that ‘get’ the abstract and those that ‘don’t’. The latter group tend toward realism and in my opinion in many cases this rounds the work down to technique over content. Whilst the ability can be breathtaking in its depictions and remarkable with its intricacies two of the most common phrases that the artist/craftsperson is likely to hear are: ‘That looks SO real’ or ‘That must have taken AGES to make?’ Both are meant to be complimentary.
Now if we look at the way cooking is presented in eateries outside of the home environment, could you apply the same litmus test?
I think you can.
‘The more someone knows about food the less they want it messed around with’, is an idiom that I’ve always remembered but I reckon it has even more significance in today’s world. It takes some understanding and interest in food to come to a point where one might appreciate the taste and texture of an heirloom carrot over one from a Monsanto catalogue.
Put those same baby carrots into a dish where they have the leading role and stand back and regard the audience as it divides like Mitosis does an amoeba.
‘Its just carrots, I could have done that’ or ‘$17 for a plate of carrots, what a rip-off!’
This is not the point. Of course you could do it and price is relative, the point is you didn’t do it because you aren’t thinking about the subject in the same way as the cook. So: Does this make that carrot dish any less worthy just because it has taken a familiar and commoditised item and interpreted it with a reverence that is unnoticed by many people? I don’t think so.
It just means that ‘you’ don’t value this interpretation. This would be all OK if it not for the routinely verbose methods of objection which ricochet like bullets around dining rooms, blogs and reviews-sites until they strike their target and become validated by being read or listened to.
Just because you don’t ‘get it’ does not make it wrong.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Menu of self awareness


Prix Fixe

To Begin and the Journey or the Journey and to Conclude-$ Half a lifetime
To Begin, the Journey and to Conclude-$ A lifetime

No split Bills

please allow decades for your choices

To Begin

Take time to be in the moment
Be grateful for friendship
See the good in actions and words
Appreciate people for who they are
Get to know yourself
Celebrate difference

The Journey

See things through
Listen to other opinions
Be patient
Accept change
See the funny side
Don’t take love for granted

To Conclude

Think of others
Make peace
Say ‘I love you’ more often
Take the time to understand
Let it go
Forgive yourself