The week that was (17 February 2017)

- Huck wrote an excellent piece about the influences that shaped Australia’s culinary history, particularly focusing his attention on the waves of immigration, for Taste Cooking.

“From political and social standpoints, our society is certainly still shuffling its cultural cards. But from a culinary perspective, we’ve found our footing—off the backs of generations that came before. They’ve gifted today’s Australian chefs the license to simply cook the food they love to eat. A manifestation of a myriad of cultures has contributed to the communal table, where conviviality rules over any pigeonholed ideal of what “Australian cuisine” should be.”

If you read one thing this week, make it this ...

- Beyond the impact of that melting pot of cultures on tables, there's the impact in our commercial kitchens. All of you working in our restaurants will know how important an open immigration policy (and working visas) are to staffing your kitchen. In the US (yesterday and today) they are holding "day without immigrants strikes." Restaurants are closing in support … Bravo. 
- While you are considering that, you might want to take a look at this fascinating article about the false expectations we have around dishes we think should be cheap: “This view of people of color as sources of "cheap" labor bleeds into our restaurant culture: Immigrant food is often expected to be cheap, because, implicitly, the labor that produces it is expected to be cheap, because that labor has historically been cheap. And so pulling together a "cheap eats" list rather than, say, an "affordable eats" list both invokes that history and reinforces it by prioritizing price at the expense of labor.” Chang has previously been vocalon this in the past. It's important.
- Moving to FOH, there were some excellent articles on service beyond the kitchen (more of those please). This oldie, but goodie, on Lucky Peach looked at the role of the bartender: “There’s a nerdiness to our industry that is changing it for the worse. Our guests don’t need to know every technical detail of every spirit; most are coming to us to have a good time. We need to go from technical intelligence to emotional intelligence.” And then, similar vibe, different profession, I enjoyed reading this piece on Brahm Callahan  looking at the challenges in becoming a Master Somm … he too concluded, as per the above, that it’s about the service not the wank. And while we're here, you could watch this delicious little video of a silver service waiter segmenting an orange at the table. I loved it.
- Globally: World’s 50 Best are a-coming. This week they’ve announced a couple of “Edible Ideas” talks. Saturday, April 1 will be in the Sydney Opera House with Massimo, Dominique Crenn, Pete Gilmore and Brett Graham. In Melbourne (on Monday the 3rd) it’s Daniel Humm, Will Guidara, Gaggan Anand, Jordi Roca and Grant Achatz. General entry tix from $30. Other things that are a-coming: Parabere Forum; theAdelaide Festival (and their excellent chef series line up); Tasting Australia (also in SA - more on that next week); the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival (alongside 50 Best); and don't forget Season 3 of Chef's Table drops today. 

- Locally: I thought Terry's article in the Good Weekend on the rise and rise of octopus on our menus was interesting, particularly given almost every restaurant mentioned in the reviews this week included an occy dish. Singing from my Dad’s argument song book, he gives us three reasons: “One, the Fremantle Octopus company now consistently supplies Australian chefs with first-rate whole octopus arms, tenderised and ready to cook. Two, charcoal ... And three, Instagram, the art of our age. The physicality of that graphic pink-and-black coil combined with a sense of danger-made-safe has tremendous visual and emotional appeal. Failing all three, it couldn’t just be because chefs have no mind of their own and are simply surfing the wave of whatever is fashionable, could it?" It's also affordable (and, perhaps consequently) currently hard to get your mitts on. There's a bit to ponder there. 

- I am rounding out this week with a wildcard. To nutmeg - verb - to pass a ball through someone’s legs. It's common in soccer (Suarez was so good, it was suggested he could “nutmeg a merman”), it's occasionally seen in ice-hockey and, as per this incredible pass by Lebron James, this week was seen in basketball. Its origins are dubious: some suggest it’s about nuts and balls, others call rhyming slang (nutmeg = leg) and others still look to the history books and tales of unscrupulous nutmeg salesmen sneaking wooden replicas in to shipments between America and England – to be nutmegged was to be tricked. Notch that up as one for the repertoire.