The week that was (6 May 2017)

- I've been thinking a little of late about the democracy of fine dining and so I found this article about what’s up next for Mr Keller thought provoking. The “what next” for chefs of a certain age is a pretty standard question … but for his generation of chefs you can’t help but think the “next” will be accompanied by a changing of the guard for all of us. I hate sounding the death knell for the fine dining, but perhaps it will be through this evolution we see the shift.
- To understand the extremity, take a look at the list BI ran of the 33 most expensive degs around the world: Osteria Francescana at the bottom end at 33; Quay at 31, recently crowned numero uno EMP at 21 (at $US590 for two); Alinea came in at 12 ($US770 for two with 21 courses); while L’Arpege tied at seven with $US848 – like many Parisian restos, it’s significantly cheaper at lunch. It was, perhaps most interesting to note both number two (Ultraviolet, Shanghai) and one (Sublimotion, Ibiza) offer “experiences”: lights, music, audio visuals. For $US3266 an "experience" would be the least of my expectations. 
- Conversely, I loved hearing Jonathon Gold has awarded Locol, the skater-themed fast-food joint in the ‘food desert’ of Watts, the LATimes Restaurant of the Year. There’s a reason that guy won a Pulitzer, namely, he thinks. His criteria:

“An ideal candidate has delicious food – that’s a given – but also a sense of purpose, a place within its community, and the ability to drive the conversation forward, not just in Los Angeles but around the world. Its chefs should honor diversity, but not at the expense of focus; health, but not at the expense of flavor; and sustainability, but not at the expense of complexity. It should feel like L.A.”
You may remember Locol from TWTW’s gone by - run by Roy Choi, renowned king of the taco truck, along with Daniel Patterson, of dual Michelin-starred Coi. This is thoughtful food, beyond the quick and convenient it’s made with “… kitchen techniques you usually find in restaurants that cost 40 times as much: lightening it, taking out much of the fat and sugar, using fresh ingredients, but staying true to the preferences of the neighborhood. The employees, many of whom had never worked in food service before Locol, come from the immediate area.” Bravo.
- Leaving behind restaurants and moving into agriculture, this article about the tannat grape in Uruguay in Decanter blew me away, not so much for the wine talk but rather the beef. It’s a country where the cows out-number humans by four to one, but unlike the pigs of Denmark, this ratio has been used by the government to create good.
“All beef in the country is organic, pasture-reared, grass-fed, with hormones banned since 1968. But over the past decade the country has slowly turned from focusing not only on quality but on producing a completely computerized traceability system for its meat. Its ‘pasture to plate’ programme ... paid for by the government at a cost of around US$3 million to promote the country’s US$1.5 billion export market.” Whoah. 
- And, from beef to mussels and this little excerpt from Dan Hunter’s new book, in which he describes the way he cooks the bi-valves slowly, over low heat, covered in water, only then removing the beard. It is contrary to everything I was ever taught. I am looking forward to giving it a crack.
A postcard from Adelaide:
- I spent a delightful evening on Thursday at The Salopian Inn, a restaurant that was designed to function as a true inn, a social hub for the wine community in McLaren Vale, somewhat modelled on the auberges of France. I had the good fortune to talk to Pip, who ran it for 16 years from the early ‘80s onwards, a fascinating time in Adelaide’s past. The dinner was cooked by current owner Karena and Alex Herbert. It was such a treat, that beautiful, convivial food that I dream of cooking for my friends every night.

There were some great talks throughout the evening: from range management vs horticulture to the importance of shared knowledge and the need for agronomy and teachers outside the chemical world. I also loved the idea of revelling in the delight and privilege a winemaker feels in taking a product, a humble grape, all the way from vine to wine. 
Yesterday's adventures were slightly less romantic, but every bit as fascinating. I called in some favours and spent the morning at the Paroo processing facility: think roo carcasses, watching them skinned, broken up and sent through the boning room to packaging. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but there were some fascinating stories. One fact in particular blew me away - a female kangaroo can influence the gestation period of their birth depending on external conditions (i.e. if there’s drought, they can slow the development of their unborn child to wait out the poor weather). Talk about adaptation to your environment! Terroir … it's incredible.