Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I have a favour to ask.
Enjoy life a bit, go out and spend some money on something created in Australia.
For example, walk to a local restaurant and enjoy the fruits of some Chef’s labours swished down by a local red whilst chatting to your partner, the waiter and indeed other people enjoying life. How hard can it be?
I am told by the media who feed on malcontent that the USA is currently and technically bankrupt, chunks of Europe are in similar doo doo and the world will end next year on the 21st of December. Even if Mr and Mrs Mayan are wrong about the world ending, the pundits tell us we are destroying it at an ever increasing rate and we will all be under water when the polar caps melt trying to get away from ozone depleted atmospheres which singe our diseased and pot-marked noses. One so called economist even said the other night on radio that it is a good thing that we are not spending any money but saving instead because we will need it when everything goes belly up. Probably the same bloke who said Australia was going to sink with the GFC. [Pun intended!]
Platitudes like ‘soft economy’ and ‘we need to ...’ and ‘it’s time’ and ‘we will need it’ are all designed to convince us that the writer/speaker is in control and dynamic and understanding but actually unable to achieve anything themselves because of those evil ‘others’ holding them down.
I am an economic idiot but even given my challenged understanding I am aware that an economy is based on money being circulated through trade. If for some reason the money stops going around then the repercussions are immediate; just like the falling dominos. Using the restaurant analogy, if not enough people go out to eat then the restaurant closes down which means a bunch of people lose their jobs and possibly a gaggle of suppliers lose the money owing to them and the landlord loses the value of his/her investment. The ex-employees don’t spend any discretionary money and worse, because those suppliers have sustained bad debts through no fault of their own they also delay paying their bills to their primary producers who in turn run out of money to be able to go to one of the few restaurants left. Then the utility companies suffer bad debts through people being unable to pay for their electricity and jack the prices to the remaining few so they can survive. Those remaining few now come under increased pressure and also stop spending which means all the clothing shops fall over as do all the luggage shops, airlines and all discretionary spending type shops.
Now, because everyone has run out of money there is no tax income for the government to run our country and we can’t pay social welfare to the ex restaurateurs, suppliers, primary producers and ex luggage shop owners and we as a country start to default on loans, lose our credit rating and suffer ever increasing interest on those loans because of the drop in credit rating with associated risks for the lenders. Anarchy develops, the streets turn to battlefields and fresh water is sold on the black market to people reduced to peering through dirty and diseased dreadlocks using monosyllable utterances like ‘me’ and ‘food’ and ‘want’.
And to think, all this could have been avoided by going out to dinner, enjoying life and feeling good about paying taxes. How hard can it be?
Australia is in great shape and leading the world in many aspects yet the doom and gloom merchants [everyone with a mouth and a microphone] continue to create fear. Why? Because it’s easier to be gloomy rather than positive and you can blame others for doom but must take responsibility for being upbeat. With apologies to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, ignore the ‘O, woe is me’ and the ‘it’s time’ people and go out to dinner.
Spend a bit of money and watch the smiles develop.


Unfortunately there is a perceptual difference between a lowly food blogger and a closer to God professional food reviewer. The reviewer sees the blogger as a threat to their ability to wax lyrical without legal responsibility whilst the blogger sees the reviewer as a bit of a wanker devoid of a real life understanding of the dining ‘experience’.
As a restaurateur, we find the most value in the blogger because they represent our customers with all their foibles, idiosyncrasies and misunderstandings of food. Despite their food knowledge being passé at best they are the people who actually pay the bills. Even if they mistakenly castigate a dish, we must heed their opinion.
Fortunately for our business, my partner locks me in the kitchen when someone inappropriately complains because I don’t deal well with idiots who believe their opinion is sacrosanct. The same for professional food writers - don’t be misguided into believing their opinions. For example, how does a pizza shop score 17/20 [hat territory] or how does a restaurant deemed by another food writer as one of the worst ever receive an accolade by the same publisher two weeks later as one of Melbourne’s best restaurants?
May I make the bold assumption that food writers as a rule have missed the point in that dining out is really a total experience meaning the combination of food, ambience and service dictate a great night. All three have to be present, not just food. The acerbic crap they write is designed to sell news-papers to people who feed on malcontent.
I read Stephen Downs narrative in the Virgin magazine wherein he expressed just how miffed he was that mere customers could offer an opinion on their dining experience and publish same as a dreaded ‘food blogger’. He seemed concerned that the bloggers lack of food education and their me me me attitude should prohibit them from offering an opinion. ‘I mean, how dare they have opinions when I as a food writer should be the only one with the talent and the capacity to write.’ [not his actual words]
All of which quite clearly begs the question, ‘Are food writers still relevant?’ or are they like the carpetbag steak; best forgotten. Many restaurants will not serve food writers because, like politicians, they need to get more and more out there and vitriolic to sell newspapers. They HAVE to get controversial! And, there are indeed many restaurants that seem to have fallen off the wagon in terms of food yet still maintain their multi hat-ted status. Beats me!
Enter the blogger. Judging from most blogs, their level of knowledge is passé at best and they are also very keen on having their words in print, yet, they represent the real customer. But most of them wouldn’t know good food if it bit them on the bum. Albeit Mr. and Ms. Blogger do follow the trendy places so they can be seen to be having fun and being totally cool. They feel pressured to blog blog blog because all their friends are also joy-oh-joying at the same place. ‘One must be gregarious you know, be the first to be in print and agree with all our friends’. OR ‘I want to be seen as different so I will make something up – stuff the restaurant – it’s all about me me me’
Question: ‘Why are holidays so much fun?’ Simple, because we can do something different, pretend we are more than we are, talk rubbish and enjoy sensations away from our normal circles where peer pressure normal y intervenes. Damn good fun because we open our minds to new stuff without the impediment of others knowing what we are really like.
Question: ‘Why is dining out so much fun?’ For exactly the same reasons. We enter an environment created by the restaurateur to move us away from the hum drum, are waited on instead of chasing kids detritus around the lounge room and get to use all our senses when we partake in one of the few things we all enjoy and on which we can and do offer opinions. It’s a bit like psychology, we all have definite opinions but few of us know what we are talking about and indeed rarely get it right.
Whilst we would all love every restaurant to be magnificent in everything it does - it won’t happen. If the total experience is good then enjoy it as value for money. For example, there is one well known hat-ted beachside restaurant we have been to a few times where the food has always been a major disappointment but the room is fantastic and the service professional. Overall good experience. Food is third on the list.
Re-enter the blogger. They can be anyone they like by hiding behind some non de plume, pretend they are expert, offer their opinions and make themselves feel important. A thoroughly healthy and democratic way of life. I have a blog on which I publish various essays about things I find important. I don’t care if anyone reads it but it makes me feel better by transferring thoughts to paper. []
However, there is a downside. A vitriolic blogger is the same as a vitriolic ‘professional’ food writer. They are both destructive.
Some places deserve to be castigated and perhaps should not be in business. Many of our well known restaurants fall into this category. They must hate bloggers because there is no possibility of plying the blogger/reviewer with bubbly to iron over that errant cockroach hiding in the soup or providing a junket to somewhere in return for some positive words. But of course this level of corruption never happens because our industry is so squeaky clean. Isn’t it?
Perhaps it’s all about taking responsibility. I chased one idiot blogger in print for posting drivel. I responded to her comments suggesting amongst other things that she learns how to eat before waxing lyrical. The sort of rubbish this girl posted we can do without and indeed has no place in any forum. The idiots need to be curtailed and be held accountable for massaging the truth and defamation. We had a very destructive ‘review’ by a blogger on our Port Melbourne restaurant. Unfortunately he/she got the name of the restaurant wrong, could not have been there on the night they said and offered comments on the decor which had changed some months previously. Obviously they never came in but pretended they did and hid behind an anonymous tag whilst playing me me me at our expense. This entry has been removed and I am pursuing the person.
We can keep professional food writers out of our establishments but we can’t keep the bloggers out. We need to accept both as a fact of life BUT also must pursue those who take advantage of their positions for misrepresentation, defamation and damages.
There is no free lunch and people must be accountable for their actions. All actions have repercussions for someone. An idiot blogger is the same as an idiot reviewer is the same as any other dysfunctional person and must be stopped and held accountable.
However, as a general rule, keep blogging. Enjoy your experiences and tell the world but, if you don’t enjoy it tell the establishment – to do else is spiteful and immature.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Political leadership

“Given that Australia is an economic powerhouse with lowish debt and an economy that is booming, in contra-distinction to the rest of the world, why are people afraid to go out the door and spend some of their disposable income with the net result being that Australia is just treading water when we should lead the world[?]”.
The answer can only be a lack of confidence by Australians in Australia. Our dollar is strong so the rest of the world thinks Australia is a good bet; yet apparently we don’t think the same.
Why do we have this lack of confidence? I believe the reason is that we have lost faith in our leaders to actually lead this country; even from a position of strength.
Our Prime Minister is all over the place with little in the way of clear thinking or direction, the leader of the opposition is negative to the point of absurdity and the Greens believe they should decide on just who are the proper and correct people to lead our biggest companies!
No wonder we have lost faith.
We need leadership, not rhetoric, stupidity or platitudes. Watch Q&A and you will see the worst of the politicking, watch Question Time and you will see mentally pre-pubescent fools trying to be King of the castle, watch the media and you will see politicians well out of their depth.
Where are the leaders such as John Howard, Paul Keating, Malcolm Fraser or Bob Hawke. These were leaders who could galvanise a country behind a common objective no matter which side of politics you believed in.
A leader is not blind Freddy dealing with minutia but a person with strategic vision and enough oomph to be at the pointy end of the debate.
Too many people with too much to say about nothing.
If this wasn’t so urgent it would be laughable and pathetic.
Jon Langevad
9/27a Brighton Road St Kilda 3182

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is happening at Port Melbourne? Basically nothing.

Maybe there are monsters roaming the streets which remain just out of sight but everyone knows they are there so no one dares venture out at night, lest they be torn limb from limb.
We own a restaurant [Paris Grill] opposite the beach which we opened a few months ago expecting to take advantage of a veritable avalanche of customers enjoying our beautiful bay for both summer and winter.
Great theory, but absolutely wrong.
Quiet would be an understatement. Not just for us but for nearly every one of the restaurants within coooee. We do a walk around each night to gauge how everyone’s doing and sad though it be, staff often outnumber customers for some of the larger, well known and GOOD restaurants.
There are only four major considerations for a profitable restaurant – décor, service, food and customers. All eight of our immediate beachside restaurants look good, provide good service, serve great food at acceptable prices but just don’t have enough customers.
Our other restaurant in Fitzroy [Mon Ami] is over-full most nights with the same food, same service and a similar feel, yet in Port Melbourne we are surprised to see someone walk past after dark.
What happened to winter evening promenades by the beach? Where are the 4 million Melbournians? What has Port Melbourne done to reap the wrath of so many? Is someone not telling us we have collective BO?
Who is responsible?
We personally have seen big chunks of the world where people celebrate their sea, river, lake or indeed any puddle. Paris has the Seine, Chamonix has its beautiful grey blue glacial river, Sorrento has the Tyrrhenian Sea and Cassis the Mediterranean, but none have the waterfront or beaches to match Melbourne.
Yet we ignore the sheer pleasure of being able to winter promenade along the beach in Port Melbourne where we have action – ferries, ships, restaurants, trams, views, wine, coffee, lunch, dinner, wind, cold, excitement, sunsets and its all here at Port Melbourne all the time.
Where is everyone?
In other parts of the world strolling and chatting followed by some sort of repast is an art form yet in bayside Melbourne we seem to stay at home and watch TV. Go figure.
Get out of your air-conditioned cocoons and enjoy the winter-scape which our beautiful Melbourne does so well. Embrace the cold as if it was your long lost sister – enjoy the warmth of a relationship with the elements whilst looking forward to an embracing Aquavit or Gluhweine or dinner or coffee or even a splash of icy seawater on the face.
Aren’t we lucky.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Reducing speed limits - will it work?

It seems that around 2 pedestrians a year die by being hit by a car in our city of umpteen million people. I would suggest we are at greater risk choking on our Weeties.
Of course reducing speed would cause fewer accidents, this is a no-brainer, but at what point do we enter padded cells so we can’t hurt ourselves or others. Just dropping speed limits cannot change behaviour by dropkick drivers or suicidal pedestrians but it does cause frustration and turns normal law abiding people into law breakers. Just ask anyone who uses the ring road with its variable speed limits.
But, there are times when reduced limits are vital, such as Acland Street in St Kilda which needs to be 30km/h because mobile phone infused people just wander aimlessly across the road playing chicken with cars.
We drive through the city every night about 11pm between Fitzroy and St Kilda. Every night we see multiple cars run red lights. Every night we see idiot pedestrians run the suicide gamut across the traffic ignoring the fact that a ton of metal tootling down the street will turn them into a strawberry blob. ‘She’ll be right mate, I’ve only had a couple of drinks, a few drugs and my lobotomy scars have almost healed.’
Just last night we came across two girls giggling their way across the traffic whilst bemused drivers tried to avoid stiletto damage.
Sometimes I think our gene pool is too conflicted.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Food – ‘Fine dining wank to street side woofing’.

I do in fact feel sorry for some people because they obviously miss out on one of the great pleasures readily available to nearly all people on a regular basis. We all eat to live but most of us actually enjoy the look, smell, texture and taste associated with eating. Not as one so called journalist wrote “..shoving it in [our] deluded gobs..”. This rather quaint turn of phrase seems to remove her from us mere and deluded mortals who enjoy nearly everything we eat. This is true all the way from woofing a ‘dimmy’ covered in soy sauce standing on a street corner at 1am to sipping on a fantastic local merlot whilst tootling through say 5 courses of some degustation repast that a chef has spent a reputation producing.
The fact is we are all different and that is the beauty of enjoying food, whether that be as a visual treat, a perfect aroma, a textural balance and/or a taste sensation. All four or just one, it’s still a treat.
Take the ‘dimmy’, open the double layered bag, close your eyes, smell the aromas of dodgy product and soy sauce and look into the bag to the white-ish blob dribbled with black stuff and let the thought of all that flavour wash over your ‘what is it’ fears. Squeeze two fingers into the bag and try to come to grips with a very hot lump. The path from bag to mouth is quick to avoid blistered skin only to transfer that risk to tongue and teeth. But once the dimmy is firmly in place, all that salt in the soy sauce erupts the saliva which in turn helps cool the super tasty chunk of indeterminable but super tasty substance. A couple of bites and woof, it’s gone. Wow.
How do I know? Because we did just that last night on the way home after closing our very well known fine-ish dining restaurant and we followed that evening sensation with a jam doughnut. Fantastic.
Incidentally, for our dinner earlier we had a fine Italian risotto created with locally grown red onions, freshly cracked black pepper from Madagascar, pink Malden sea salt, house ‘Danish’ cured King Salmon from New Zealand, beautiful Canadian sea scallops and Manuka smoked salmon all drizzled with slow roasted house made vegetable nage and gelatinous seafood stock made from the bones of contented fish.
See, both sides of the culinary divide from fine dining wank to street corner woofing.
May I suggest everyone enjoys all aspects of this simple and delightful past time all the way from people who like to pontificate at length with words none of us have heard before to dimmy munchers using only single syllable utterances such as mmmmm.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


It’s an odd thing when we let a ‘motherhood’ statement rule our decisions and get in the way of rational thought. One such statement is, “respect must be earned”.
On first utterance it seems logical and indeed truthful to say that someone must earn the right to be respected. After all, why should we respect someone unless they have proved to us personally that they can be respected?
But what are we really saying?
The moment we say someone must earn respect we are conveying to the world that we have set ourselves up as sole judge of their societal norms and we will make a binding decision as to whether or not they are worthy to join our self imposed lofty ranks of the great respected.
The trouble is that firstly we may not be part of that high and mighty echelon and secondly, the other person probably has the same thoughts about us and is waiting for us to prove ourselves. A circular and dysfunctional dichotomy me thinks.
Alternatively, let me put the rather odd proposition that everyone is entitled to respect from the get go. Then life becomes simple and easy. We get to enjoy others company, opinions and beliefs because we have not deemed ourselves automatically superior.
If we all wait for everyone else to show we are all worthy of each other’s attention then no one respects anyone and we live diminished lives. If we assume everyone is entitled to respect, we deal with everyone on an equal level and our lives are enhanced.
But, this does not mean you have to believe in everything they believe in, far from it.
I try to respect a person for their values and the way they treat others even if for example they have the temerity and to be part of a different religion or indeed have a different skin colour or wear pink socks. I can enjoy other people’s company, common discussions and even heated argument about opposing beliefs, if we have mutual respect. But without that mutual respect we spend the whole time trying to prove ourselves superior and end up hating each other for no reason other than a belief we are better than they. What a waste.
We always give children respect and don’t expect anything in return yet once those kids develop a cognitive ego they are automatically inferior pariahs until they prove otherwise.
I wonder how many of the world’s problems could be solved if we assumed respect without reservation? Indeed, I wonder if horrible teenagers are really good people and would live up to our respect for them if we were to actually show them some?
I may not like certain people and choose not to socialise with them but I can still respect them and their beliefs and, it feels good.