‘MasterChef-itis’ leading to Australian restaurant staff shortages (and dumb food safety)

Young Australians are attracted to the “rock star” chef lifestyle depicted in reality cooking shows, but don’t want to put in the hard graft to get there, Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby says.

rockstar-chefRigby has just released the latest annual Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide and said while the food industry was going strong, many restaurants were still having a tough time finding staff.

A Deloitte Access Economics report last year found a current gap of 38,000 staff across the tourism and hospitality sector, a shortage predicted to increase to 123,000 by 2020.

The report predicted demand would be strongest for chefs and restaurant managers.

However, Rigby said young people in particular just weren’t prepared for the years of physical toil it required to make it to the top.

“I think there’s a little bit of MasterChef-itis, I’m going to call it.”

Meanwhile, the Guide announces 11 café trends they’re glad are going away.

Here’s another: No more raw eggs in mayo and aioli.

But that’s a food safety thing and can’t compete with food porn.

Until people get sick.

Food safety competes with this? FoodPorn, circa 1600s and now, more about status than appetite

Tove Danovich of NPR writes that in the 1600s, when famous still life artist Jan Davidsz de Heem was eating, people showed off their meals with paintings.

food.porn.1600s.jul.16A new study by Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab found that capturing and showing off decadent and expensive meals is a decidedly old-fashioned practice. Brian Wansink, author of Slim by Design, and Andrew Weislogel, a curator at Cornell University’s Johnson Museum of Art, studied 140 paintings of “family meals” from 1500 to 2000 and found that the majority of foods depicted were not part of the average fare. Some of the most likely foods to appear were shellfish, ham and artichoke. For the common classes during the time these paintings were made, Wansink says, more likely items to eat would have been chicken, bread and the odd foraged fruit.

People don’t usually Instagram frozen foods they put in the microwave. Instead, the most successful #foodporn is often an item the photographer laboriously made in the kitchen or found in either an expensive or out-of-the-way restaurant. A recent top #foodporn on Instagram is a photo of seven elaborately decorated eclairs. In the caption the food blogger behind @dialaskitchen compares the Toronto-made pastries to some found a couple years ago, “while at L’atellier de l’éclair in Paris.” Wansink says that today’s social media food posts often attempts to convey that their creator is worldly, adventurous and has money to spare. “None of these things are about food,” he says.

In the paintings, some of the most popular foods are ones that had to be imported or were highly valuable. “It wasn’t Italian paintings that had olives,” Wansink says. “It was the countries that had to import them.” Olives, he points out, are somewhat useless nutritionally and aesthetically. “They look like black marbles,” he says. Even if they are delicious.

Heston don’t know food safety

Amy and I both had an idiosyncratic experience in Melbourne over the weekend while celebrating Sorenne’s sixth birthday: we read a newspaper.

heston_blumenthalIn print.

On the cover of the Saturday magazine was a fawning piece about chef Heston Blumenthal, who is packing up his famed Fat Duck restaurant and moving it to Melbourne for six months, while the UK location undergoes renovations.

Amy read the piece and said, “I know why he made those 550 people sick at The Fat Duck: he has no training and only four weeks of restaurant experience before opening The Fat Duck.”

Unsurprisingly, the piece doesn’t mention that nasty outbreak of Norovirus that sickened 529 at the Fat Duck, which only seats some 40 people a night, so the virus was circulating between staff and patrons and back again.

A report by the UK Health Protection Agency concluded that Norovirus was probably introduced at the restaurant through contaminated shellfish, including oysters that were served raw and razor clams that may not have been appropriately handled or cooked.

Investigators identified several weaknesses in procedures at the restaurant may have contributed to ongoing transmission including: delayed response to the incident, the use of inappropriate environmental cleaning products, and staff working when ill. Up to 16 of the restaurant’s food handlers were reportedly working with Norovirus symptoms before it was voluntarily closed

Heston shills for Coles, Jamie Oliver shils for Woolworths, and both suck at food safety.

Why does Australia have to rely on overrated Brits for food porn?

So in Feb. 2015, when Blumenthal will leave his British power base and bring his beloved Duck, including almost its entire staff to, of all places, Melbourne’s Crown Casino, I won’t be attending.

The restaurant is being built here, and will operate for six months (while the English Fat Duck building is renovated). Then, when it closes, a second Dinner by Heston Blumenthal restaurant on the same site will remain permanently in Melbourne.

Steak tartare is the food porn dish of the moment

I’ll take food safety advice from Vogue when I start dressing hipster or listen to Madonna.

Yet according to Vogue, steak tartare appeals to a sophisticated kind of adult who knew where to find his or her pleasure. Raw meat bound with raw egg, it was a rite of passage that often arrived with a push: Chances are, somebody more worldly first persuaded you to try it.

And it generally hewed to a basic recipe—one taught in culinary schools in the United States and Europe. Chopped or ground meat is mixed with something flavorful (mustard, Worcestershire, Tabasco), something crunchy (capers, cornichons, shallots), something colorful (chives, parsley, scallion). One version might have a pinch of cayenne, another a splash of cognac.

And on it goes, for pages of food porn and vulgarity.

If food is the new sex, and food is the new drugs, and the eating of anything and everything is the new social rebellion of this still young-and-dripping new century, then Dana Goodyear is a fair guide to the underbelly in her new book, Anything That Moves.

Or so writes ex-chef Jason Sheehan in a review.

To her credit, she doesn’t judge. She seems to move through this world in a slick bubble of anti-bias, putting those who cook tarantulas competitively anything that moveson the same footing as a guy like Craig Thornton who runs Wolvesmouth in Los Angeles — a private, invite-only (from an email list that runs in the thousands) recurring dinner party in his apartment — while flaunting all rules and laws about who gets to cook what for whom. She shows us the out-and-out insanity of those who will eat raw chicken meat of dubious provenance, gotten from questionable sources, but never points her finger, jumps up and down and shouts, “Holy crap, look at these nut jobs over here!”

And while that might appear noble, it’s also the book’s major weakness. There are moments … for an educated, embedded voice to step back … and say, simply, that this, then, is too much. That some people, in their quest for the new, the rare, the strange and the slimy, take their obsession too far.

But Goodyear does not. She goes in with her eyes wide and her mouth open and leaves it to us to decide what, on this extreme edge of cooking and eating, is food and what is not. 

Food porn trumps food safety, again: Bon Appetite likes it raw

Bon Appetit, the Penthouse of food pornographers (same photo techniques), has compiled a slide show of the 15 most prominent examples of raw meat around the globe.

“In this enlightened age of hygiene and actually knowing how people get sick, raw meat has picked up a regrettable reputation. The elegance of a nice steak.tartaresteak tartare, mixed up tableside, has been mostly forgotten, and some people even (horror of horrors) ask for perfectly nice pieces of beef to be ruined into well-doneness. But in other parts of the globe (and even some parts of America), the raw meat dish tradition is going strong.”

Like porn, it gets redundant after a while.

Yup, I said that: ‘porn industry more responsible than food industry’ here’s why

Who doesn’t like to wake up to porn.

Food porn.

Someone over at Food Production Daily, a web news service that seems to have an alarmingly more number of readers than I do, decided to watch a doug.braun.sorenne.capitalsvideo of a talk I posted last week and recorded three weeks ago.

 “… I would argue the porn industry is more responsible than the food industry, ‘cos the food industry says, ‘well you have got to cook your pot pies’ or ‘you have to cook your hamburger.’

“The porn industry says ‘just use a condom’ and they shut down if they get a positive [indicator of a fault], just like that.”

Not quite, but transcribing can be challenging.

To the food industry types who e-mailed me with outrage, here’s what I did say, with surrounding context:

“Bacteria don’t care; there are outbreaks at big places, there are outbreaks at small places, there are outbreaks in local food, there’s outbreaks in food from around the globe. People either know about bacteria and take steps to reduce the risk, or they don’t. And what I want to be able to do is buy from the people that take those steps, and let me know about it, because at the supermarket, it’s all faith-based (safety).

“In fact, I would argue the porn industry is more responsible than the food industry. Because the food industry says, you have to cook your pot pies, or you have to cook your hamburger, or you have to cook your eggs. That’d be like the porn industry saying, use a condom, when, they shut down when they get a positive just like that. The whole food safety message is sorta lost in the overwhelming amount of messages involving food porn.

“What do we learn from all these outbreaks? Food safety begins on the farm and goes all the way through the systems; these are biological systems, not conspiracies; any system is only as good as its weakest link; and, stop blaming consumers.”

(I’m much more efficient with words when writing than babbling at a computer in the early morning).

I also compared food safety to coaching girls’ hockey, and wondered why is it I needed 30-something hours of training to coach a travel team of 9-year-old girls, but needed nothing to prepare food in Ontario, Canada?

My food industry critics didn’t mention that comparison.

While still awakening to the love letters about 4 a.m., another arrived, via Gustavo Arellano of OC Weekly, that I had nothing to do with.

“Kansas State professor Doug Powell is a legend in the food safety industry, and not just because his blog is called barfblog. He’s someone who always criticizes anyone in food–whether celebrity chefs, food producers, government inspectors, and others–who dismiss bacteria as harmless microorganisms, who doesn’t have safety on the top of their list.

“And in a video he recorded last week, Powell took it further: he stated that the porn industry is “more responsible” than the food industry. …

“For those of you who don’t know your porn: producers in California always immediately shut down all productions whenever there’s a report of a performer with HIV–no exceptions. Powell’s argument was that the food industry, when confronted with outbreaks, puts the blame on the consumers, not themselves, while porn does the opposite. …

“This isn’t the first time the profe has stated his golden quote. Back in 2010, he said the same on his blog. Powell’s blurb starts at around 21:17, but listen to the whole thing: not only is it informative, it’s HILARIOUS!”

Writing in all caps and with exclamation marks scares me. But as an obituary, Gustavo’s got it pretty much right, although Amy pointed out I’m not just that way with food safety types, it’s with everyone, and the real reason we don’t get invited to dinner (Journey sucks).

I tried to be reflective and said, “the problem with legends is they usually die young.”

Amy said,”You’re not young.”

Why porn and journalism (and food safety) have the same big pay problem

Everyone loves food safety – as long as it’s free.

I figured that out about 20 years ago, hanging out with food safety professionals at megalomarts who were neglected until there was an emergency.

Insert food safety in places to this piece below from The Atlantic by Jordan Weissmann:

The early days of the Internet were a bonanza for major pornography studios, as the web transformed adult entertainment into an instant, unlimited, and completely private experience — always just a credit card charge and a cable modem away. But what the Internet giveth, the internet taketh away. As the most recent Bloomberg Businssweek recounts in its feature on the rise of the new and controversial .XXX domain, the big production companies have seen their profits shrink by as much as half since 2007, as audiences have fled to aggregators such as XTube and YouPorn that offer up a never-ending stream of free naked bodies.

Stuart Lawley, the entreprenuer behind .XXX, has a plan to try and reclaim some of that lost revenue — micropayments. Per Businessweek:

Next year, ICM plans to introduce a proprietary micropayment system. This service, Lawley promises, will help blue-chip pornographers fight back against the proliferation of free and pirated smut online. "We’re going to do for adult what Apple (AAPL) did for the music business with the iTunes store," he predicts. Consumers who have become conditioned to grainy, poorly shot giveaways, Lawley says, will get reacclimated to paying for higher-quality hard core. Price, quantity, and specificity are key. Rather than the traditional model–$24.99 upfront for all-access monthly memberships–porn consumers will shell out 99¢ apiece for short clips of niche material (akin to buying a favorite song, not the whole album). Perhaps more compelling, people seeking porn on their mobile devices will have a convenient way to purchase a quickie on the run.

Yikes. … Convincing people to pay for to watch sex is a much taller task these days than getting them to pay for a song.

In fact, it’s a bit like getting them to pay for a newspaper. Like the porn studios, big media companies have seen their own profits plummet in the face of free aggregators, amateur bloggers, and the nearly limitless competition supplied by the web. Unsurprisingly, micropayments have been a hot topic in the news industry over the past few years. But so far, they haven’t really taken off.

What holds for journalism in this case holds for sex. In both cases, the competition is so broad that customers are likely to go elsewhere rather than pay. There are, obviously, exceptions in the case of newspapers — the Wall Street Journal has a profitable paywall, and the New York Times appears to be having some early success with its own. But that might be cold comfort for the adult entertainment world.

Sunday roast with scallops: gratuitous food porn shot of the day

The good things about food, safely prepared, from my kitchen.

Whole beef eye fillet for two, from the extra-super clearance cheap meat section of the supermarket, with an olive oil-mustard-garlic-lime-rosemary crust, pan-seared, then slow roasted in the oven to 130F and served with a red wine beef jus, with roasted potatoes, mushrooms, leeks and asparagus, whole wheat bread (they call it whole meal here), and Saucer scallops from the waters off the Queensland coast.