Saturday, 29 August 2009

Phew....!

Thank god we’ve reached the end of this tumultuous week in the world of Rita!

Next week looks like being more of the same, but from the relatively peaceful Saturday morning fug I call my life, all seems calm on the western front at the moment.

The hullabaloo over the Bruny Island Cheese listeria debacle ended on a slightly more humourous note for me on reading the final sentence of an email I received late yesterday afternoon from Nick Haddow at BIC:

"But even if I never make another cheese again, I can rest happy in the knowledge that Sir Grumpy bought and enjoyed one of my cheeses!"

So, Sir Grumpy, you can claim some success here! Nick now has established the base guidelines for the rating of good food in Tassie - if the ultimate arbiter (that would be Sir G) in fine food stamps his seal of approval on your product, you’re onto a winner!

Last night Rita attended the 2009 Tasmanian Training Awards at Wrest Point. Amongst those who won or were runners up for some awards were the delightful and personable Penny from Grub Café (runner up for Best Small Business of the Year, as well as Training Initiative Award) and nifty Nick Platon from Industry Link (runner up Training Initiative Award, and Private RTO of the Year). By the way, Employer of the Year went to Norske Skog (and was accepted by my old friend and great mate, HR manager Kate Blizzard, a woman of huge integrity and competence) – a sure indication of good practice and efficiency – a great win not only for the company but also for the Derwent Valley as NS provides much of the direct or indirect income for that whole area.

I chatted to both Penny and Nick, and was pleased to see the hospitality industry well represented, with Federal being the ultimate winner of the Training Initiative Award, and employer of the Apprentice of the Year. Nick had a particular sparkle in his eye, and spring to his step last night, and it seemed like the reason for that might have originated in France, or Bali?

Next week, Rita has the huge privilege of escorting four high school student cookery teams (four students per team) to Devonport to participate in the annual Whirlpool Challenge Cooking Competition. This is a competition which is now into its 6th year. It will give our Year 9/10 students 45 minutes to cook a four course degustation of appetizer, soup, entrée and dessert, and can be either hot or cold. It should be a huge test of everyone’s skills, enthusiasm and expertise. I will be observing with great interest how they all go. We have Mount Carmel, New Town High (2 teams), and Ogilvie High participating this year. Good luck to all.

En route to Devonport on Monday, Rita has organized stops at Ut Si’s Café for the students to check out a commercial kitchen and speak with the chef, then Ashgrove Cheese to see the cheesemaking, then Anvers for a small truffle and chocolate tour (and sample), then on to Devonport! The competition is on Tuesday at Devonport High. A big start to the week.

Posted on by Rita
30 comments

30 comments:

ut si said...

Chef doesn't speak AND it's his day off Monday so it may be 'speak with chef's long suffering mother' Rita! Bloody kids expect a day off these days! Went to a Tas truffle night at Fee & Me last night...you would have loved it. x

Anonymous said...

So is fee and me still open??
What are others thoughts on leo schofield comments about the AGT restaurant guide? I know its the same old, same old every year we all get on here bitching that the guide is bias to sydney etc etc.
But do we really think Tasmanian restaurants are that bad? that they all need to lift there game??
EG Picallilly, Leo himself raved about it so why doesnt it, or fee and me, or stillwater or marque 4 get a star yet a crappy beachside cafe in bondi does??

Rita said...

Thanks for the update Colette. I think you'll do just fine chatting realistically with the younguns about life in hospitality!
Anon - Fee and Me didn't sell at auction, so is still owned by Fee, even though the restaurant itself is now shut. She used it last night for her Thermomix demo/truffle night.
Not sure about Leo's comments. I don't feel qualified to talk about comparing our restaurants to other states as I haven't eaten out at any of the places he mentioned in order to be able to compare.
Having said that, I think maybe we suffer from a fair amount of parochialism. We seem to prefer the status quo. The general attitude seems to be "If you don't like it, still shit".

Anonymous said...

Sorry I dont understand that rita?

Anonymous said...

What did Leo Schofield say?

ut si said...

Long live BIC AND Sir G!

Anonymous said...

im very impressed with GP having the balls to stick up for tas restaurants in the paper today.

ut si said...

and long live GP too.

Anonymous said...

what did he say?

i live in melbourne now (formerly lonny) but it's not on the mercury website.

greg

Anonymous said...

My summary would be that GP said that we are getting screwed on the GT awards in that a number of our top chefs when they leave and go to a mainland restaurant are suddenly found to be better chefs and get high acclaim!
So no stars here but move them somewhere else, heaps of stars!!

P

sir grumpy said...

I knew Nick from Bruny was a man of fine taste and integrity, Rita!
But, even knowing his tongue is stuck firmly to his cheek, I'm still blushing.
I thank him for some fine cheeses.
They've graced many a water cracker and Walker's Highland oat cakes at Grumpy Towers.
And melted on toasted olive bread, ye gods, heaven on a plate.

Anonymous said...

Here's my thoughts on the whole GT matter...

I lived and worked in Tassie for nearly 2 years (2006-08) as a chef before moving back to the mainland. At the marquee places that I ate at ove that time (2-3 times at each), I found the restaurants to be seriously lacking compared to mainland restaurants. These included Lebrina, MIV, Piccalilly, Source & 373.

Food & service wise, they just don't compare tbh. On the food, I found them to be either unchanging (Lebrina), pretentious (MIV), too new on the scene to be comfortable in itself (Piccalilly), confusing (Source) and seriously overrated (373). Quite often the food would be out of season (peas in May?) and quite often overworked.

As a chef, and as someone who has worked in tassie, a serious problem to me is suppliers. Turning up during the afternoon, or worse, in the middle of service, is just not kosher. If it was on the mainland, if you weren't there by 8:00am you wouldn't be supplying that kitchen again. It's as simple as that. Fruit and veg wise, quality is seriously lacking when it arrives and I found that I had to send a lot back. I also got sick of the tassie attitude of "what's the rush - it's tassie" and "why does it have to be better? No one else has complained" Competition breeds success.

Service wise, it's just too laid back and there are not a lot of professionals in the ranks. Career waiters are a god send. Uni students aren't.

I think the local industry needs to get a little more professional, pay a lot better, and really push for changes in key areas such as suppliers, training and staff. I mean, training wise for apprentices there is not much choice (Drysdale anyone?), meat suppliers are poor (I even had to explain dry aged meat & MSA graded meat to a butcher) at times, Fruit & Veg suppliers are a nightmare, packaging suppliers are bad (2 weeks for bento boxes or napkins?!?!?!) and the list continues…

Tasmania has some truly outstanding (albeit limited) produce such as apples, walnuts and cold climate seafood. Why can’t it be used properly? I think it all comes back to pushing for change, education and getting rid of some of the ego’s around town. Get some mainland chef’s in or offer the local guys stagiere’s at mainland restaurants so they can come back better than ever. It’s a pretty great place tassie. Just needs a lot of work…

Now, I have eaten at some great restaurants around the world (Gagnaire, L’Arpege, Ledoyen, Maisons des Bricourt, Bras, Veyrat) , and they are 10 times better than anything on the mainland. Australia is very much an emerging food destination, and we have a long way to go. But we are getting there...

At the end of the day, it is just a list. Everyone will have their own thoughts, their own opinions. You can read into it as much as you want but it’s never going to be 100 percent. It’s just a combined effort by some very experienced diners to make some sort of sense of what’s about and give the rest of us an idea what’s about. We can only aim to improve and get that elusive star or get listed in the guide….

hrv said...

Good on you GP. There were some positive comments in Tasmania's GT reviews but he is dead right.

Rita said...

Thanks Anon 8.54 for your well thought out comments on our restaurant scene. Everything you say makes perfect sense.
I also agree with HRV and others who have complimented GP on his comments in Sundays paper re the GT stars. What he said was totally correct and merits some response from GT.

Anonymous said...

I read the Tasmanian contributors for the AGT guide were Roger Mcshane, Sue Dyson & Rodney Dunn.
Perhaps these people could detail why they felt that Tasmania was not up to the standard of the rest of the country?
Angasi a star over the likes of Meadowbank, Stillwater, Smolt, Piccolo, Piccalilly, Mud-come on!?!

Anonymous said...

i say to last anonymous, what's you're benchmark? how do you gauge a certain level of excellence and how do you compare? finally how do you compile your response or review a certain establishment?

try doing it year in year out when it really doesn't change. try being nice, try being honest, not negative.
try being served a fermented dessert at one of the best restaurants in tasmania, a dessert with strawberries in autumn, a dessert that shouldn't be fermented.

there's your answer, tasmania is a long way behind the eightball and graeme phillips is doing himself no credit for carrying the flag without the foundations to really cry foul. i think you should all stop worrying about stars and all the rest and really have a good look what is happening in this state. it's woeful! really woeful.

Anon854 said...

Thanks Rita! I wondered if it made sense.... I am a chef you know....

To tha last anon (8.54am - 12 hours after me),good post. On the woeful thing though, I'm not sure that it is at that point.

I think it comes down a lot to quality & training of staff. At the higher end of the spectrum, there is usually a good crew in the kitchens and FOH (MIV, Lebrina, Picalilly, Source, Meadowbank etc) who really push and demand for the very best from suppliers through to their own staff.

However (it's like a special but- lol), at the lesser establishments, I don't think they push so much for the very best. Coming back to suppliers (and I don't want this to be a witch hunt for them - some need to change though), when I hear the aforementioned excuses, it means to me that other establishments aren't demanding the very best from them. There is no reason, nor will there ever be, to accept low quality "stuff". Why except herbs that are beginning to wilt or meat that hasn't been hung properly. I know there is a certain food cost/price bracket point you need to reach but the general public do want quality. We/they aren't stupid you know - just ask them :-)!

A chef needs to call them out when it is poor quality. A FOH member needs to call them out when the coffee is rancid. It's a conscious choice we can make to improve this little state. They may hate it - but they can deal with it or go somewhere else. With any luck, each and every restaurant in this state will make that choice.

Now to defend the suppliers, when you do get that nice stuff, we need the quality of staff to actually do something nice with it. Food is such a wonderful thing, and can bring so much joy to someone, that we, as chefs, have a responsibility not to butcher that food.

Simplicity and restraint is key. Yes, you can do foams, airs, gels & emulsions to it - as long as the dish makes sense. Or it could be as simple as a plate of cured meats or a perfectly grilled piece of rump with maybe a piece of lemon and drizzled with EVOO or a freshly shucked (order comes in - it gets shucked and never washed under water. yuk.) oyster.

Ok, I'm done (well not really. I could talk about food for days but I don't want to come across as being egotisitcal!) and it's just a few thoughts. Obviously, feel free to tear it apart!

p.s. I will be forever known as Anon854! lol

Anonymous said...

i really do think we are a state in disarray at the moment... we have a premier touting the vision of the place as the 'pure food bowl of australasia' (as now seen on commercial tv adverts!), we have the tourism industry promoting us as a gastronomic destination (over promising and totally underdelivering) yet no investment in the underpinning infrastructure of the complementary industry sectors (primary produce and tourism).

It is very sad to watch, particularly given how obvious it seems, yet despite best efforts, most of us are powerless make change and progress forward. There is always something dragging us back.

keep on keeping on, be vocal, work collaboratively where we can, take leadership and hopefully one day someone will listen and allow us to take action.

TJ.

Anonymous said...

Hmm.
All this despair about Tassie dining.
"woeful" eh.
Well SOME of us here ARE doing some great things. Things that many tourists & visiting journos appreciate. Reviewers here convieniently ignore this fact, Why? because they are about retaining their influence & stifling anyone that dares challenge their grip on power.

Anon854 said...

And it's thinking like that that seems to rear its ugly head in tassie way too much. The reviewers have a professional & ethical responsibility to provide an accurate and correct review. How can that state improve with thinking like that. What about some positive thinking?

Anonymous said...

Chefs have to LEAVE Tassie to be appreciated/respected by local media. When these chefs get the nod from the more credentialled reviewers on the mainland, the local media quickly backflip.

sir grumpy said...

Look anon854, you haven't enlightened us poor Tasmanians. Those who have been reading local blogs for years have heard it from Steve and Rita and contributors.
I hate awards, it's all shit. I make my own awards when I choose to eat somewhere.
It is nor woeful here and it's not rip-off like Sydney and melbourne.
If you argue for awards etc, just think of the barny the latest Gourmet Whatever has caused among those who even subscribe to such arbitrary crap.
I wouldn't even read a mag like that. Those glossies are the ones that are out of touch.
Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

You would surely tolerate an award for the best chips Sir G, wouldn't you?

P

Anonymous said...

Why do people praise GP? He does the exact same thing to restaurants here! If it is not in his little clique He won't venture into a restaurant. We have been open 10 months and he only stepped foot into our place last week, not for a meal, but to say hello to his friends, and then promptly left. Even Gourmet Traveller have written about us, TWICE! and a review in the Qantas mag, amongst others.

Our young and very talented chef happened to be there when GP walked in and walked out without even caring to look at the menu or to see what we are doing. A blatant insult to any chef and especially a young one.

What do they say about people who live in glass houses Graeme?

B.

Anonymous said...

Why do people praise GP? He does the exact same thing to restaurants here! If it is not in his little clique He won't venture into a restaurant. We have been open 10 months and he only stepped foot into our place last week, not for a meal, but to say hello to his friends, and then promptly left. Even Gourmet Traveller have written about us, TWICE! and a review in the Qantas mag, amongst others.

Our young and very talented chef happened to be there when GP walked in and walked out without even caring to look at the menu or to see what we are doing. A blatant insult to any chef and especially a young one.

What do they say about people who live in glass houses Graeme?

B.

sir grumpy said...

Personally, you can have best anything, as long as you don't go handing out bloody Logies or oscars for them.
If I say these are the best, it's for ME only, I'm not making a judgment for the whole universe.
Don't you think it smacks of insecurity and vanity to be looking for awards all the time.
people should be thanked and praised by their customers when the grub's good, if they feel they want to.
But look, its just grub, get over it. Let's resist turning it into an intellectual exercise.
Holy moley.

reb said...

Lord Grumpy, judging from your post at 5.19pm, I have reached the robust conclusion that you are indeed a gentleman of great taste and distinction.

Anonymous said...

here you go...food for thought... from the Premiers address today

“The food bowl plan is not just about irrigation it is a complete paddock to plate strategy including:

• Creation of a top flight Farm Management Course,
• Establishment of the Tasmanian Culinary School of Excellence,
• Savour Tasmania, and
• Food and Wine Tourism.”

TJ.

Rita said...

Hmmmm. Now where have I heard that Culinary School of Excellence idea before? Does the name Mr Bok ring any bells?

steve said...

It does Rita & TJ. However the 'old' Drysdale had a Culinary School of Excellence running I believe for the last few years. So who 'owns' that particular moniker?
The funding for the Drysdale version ran out late last year which coincidentally was when the new Savour Tas model was launched.
Is the demise of one linked with the re-branding of another more 'shiny' version-thats a good question!