- So, over to the story that really got me going, Lethlean's "Hipster diners - how Urbane, Ester and LuMi differ from Sagra and The Euro". His basic premise was to separate nice from niche (which automatically sounds a little offensive, implying niche isn't nice). Lethlean was clear this wasn't about him being a grumpy old man, but rather those he was interviewing. In many respects we have to believe that, as most of the niche restaurants he mentions have been on the receiving end of glowing reviews and cracking scores from the author himself.
Lethlean poses the question: "Has going out to dinner stopped being about you? Has going out to dinner become about them? Well, sometimes, yes. 'They' are the hordes who make up Australia’s food, wine, bar and hospitality workforce, and a school of fanatical diners who follow them, many from the worlds of media, PR and food/wine supply. There are a lot of them, and they spend." It sounds like a culinary call to arms ... grumpy old men unite.
"Demand for the dining values of the past — mood, respect, approachability, common sense — hasn't disappeared, but supply seems to be drying up" explains Lethlean. And, it is clear these old guys think they know better in regards to noise, booking policies, food, lighting (in fact practically everything), their tone is slightly patronising and the us vs them mentality is clear. It's grumpy old men whining about an evolving dining scene that dares to cater to people in a different age bracket to themselves, to a burgeoning group of diners who want to eat the food these "hipster" chefs are cooking, incidentally food the "hipster" chefs want to eat themselves. Don't even get them started on natural wine.
This argument of cultural evolution is as old as the days, we see it in art, music and even, as my Dad points out (who happens to be reading a nerdy grammar book on the same topic) the English language. "The graybeard sensibilities ... come not just from an underappreciation of the fact of language change but from a lack of reflection on their own psychology. As people age, they confuse changes in themselves with changes in the world, and changes in the world with moral decline - the illusion of the good old days." Hear, hear.
- We finish with a spoon full of sugar, a couple of lovely stories about Margot Henderson of Rochelle Canteen. There's a beautiful article "Where are all the women chefs" in Lucky Peach. Unlike the above, it is not so much a derision of the "other" but rather an open conversation celebrating the differences."There is a difference between men’s and women’s approaches to food. A really great restaurant is aware of both and finds a way to combine them. I think it’s ancient. I think it goes right back to the Stone Age. Women produce food; men provide food." If you would rather consume with your eyes and ears, watch this vid with Margot on Munchies.