The week that was (21 July 2017)

I only want to talk about Strodie this week. His way of being and the things he cared about represent a lot of what we discuss in this missive each week, a lot that is important to the industry, so today we'll do it through the eyes of Jez. 

Plenty has been written about Strodie's immense contribution to the cooking of our country (see BISMHGT). From pomme to MG Garage and Bistrode, his culinary legacy looms large. One of the original Brit pack, Jez brought those traditions and sensibilities with him and wove them into our culinary tapestry. British influences, French technique with Australian accents paved the way for a new, simplified, but no-less lauded bistro dining. I have included some pics of his old reviews below for those wanting to take a walk down memory lane. 

When Jeremy and Jane opened Bistrode in an old butcher's shop Surry Hills it was a revelation. His cooking had a lightness of touch and, above all, a respect for the ingredients. They won best bistro in Sydney two years later. Bistrode (later Bistrode CBD) have held a hat in the guide every year since. Simon Thomson, ed. of the Guide in '07, said: "Strode was ahead of his time in offering clean, unfussy and bold flavours and secondary cuts of meat and offal at a time when the city was still in the thrall of fine dining and degustation." He removed the gilded cage and paved the way for the simpler, yet sophisticated, bistro dining we love today.

Strodie was particularly instrumental in bringing offal to our tables. Of course, eating offal is about much more than the taste or the mental barrier, it's about respecting the whole animal. Fergus Henderson is the poster boy for this kind of eating in England, Jez played that role in Australia. As Anthony and I drew up a list of the people we needed to talk about the meat book we only had one name alongside offal: Strodie. 

On a human level Jez was a supporter. He was everyone's supporter. He always had kind words. He embraced the next generation and looked upon them with encouragement and excitement. He was a mentor to many. I wonder if there's a greater compliment to anyone than to be considered someone's mentor? I wonder if there's a better way to view your career than to think about how you share it with the generation who come after you?

A prolific 'liker' on instagram, you felt his support wherever you were. In person, he took time to say it. For me, it was his support of the words in this missive, but I also had the pleasure of watching him at soft openings, at new restaurants, in the kitchen, with the chefs. He was proud of everyone, he was proud of our industry. It is for that reason you will have seen #thetruth on instagram. The chef's chef, he was god father to many. 

His support delved beyond the visible and, in 2015, Jez pulled together his R U OK? dinner. He gathered chefs from all over, Australia's best, the crowd testament to his friendships and the high regard with which everyone held him. Strodie was quoted: “The hospitality industry is renowned for its unforgiving nature, adding pressure personally and on our relationships. Having the foresight and taking the time to have a conversation with someone you may or may not know and asking if they’re ok, is a wonderful thing.” 

There is still so much for everyone to understand regarding mental health and depression - both in and out of our industry. Building awareness and raising money for research is paramount in that. Jez clearly understood that. In lieu of flowers, the Strode family have asked for donations to be made to R U OK?.

I recently watched Samuel Johnson's interview with Anh Doh. He lost both his Mum and his girlfriend to suicide. I wept watching it, but felt his sentiments were so beautiful. Johnson said (about his girlfriend): "Maybe I lost her earlier than I would have liked, but I had some of her, I got to share my life with her. You don't always get as much as you want of everything, and you don't always get as much of your loved ones as you want. But you get them, don't you?"

From Jez we learnt respect - of the animals, the produce and of the people around us. We learnt the importance of kind words and support in a gruelling industry. We learnt that there are also struggles beneath the surface and that the only way to tackle them is to bring more awareness. He has gone, but his legacy will live on in all of you who knew him and, I hope as well, for those of you who didn't. 

A mark of the insidiousness of this disease is always the beauty left behind. All my love is with Jane and his boys this week.