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