Eight Days (23 September 2018)

Dan Hunter shared some home truths in Good Food’s chef chat. It was honest, raw and just a little blunt. I enjoyed it. In fact, I have lots of these conversations with my friends, it was nice to see those ideas published.
On the fancy restaurants (and his time at Mugaritz): "it's young kids that can just f---ing run. It's the same as Noma," says Hunter. "The labour force is single, under 25, and can work all day, party and come back to work, and when they're done, [you] get the next lot in. And that's the truth, you know? They all have a good time. They get something extraordinary out of it."
On working for the man/woman: "I don't really care what lots of chefs say about the owners who look after them. You're a commodity. You're still just a number in a spreadsheet. If you don't do the job, the restaurant still has to function."
On sustainability and small towns: “I just figure that when you talk about sustainability, it should be sustainability of your local environment, your local town and your local economy."

- This week it was Adam James of Rough Rice - also a very worthy read.
- The 50 Best have copped some flack as they announced they are trying to fix the gender divide. Their best female chef award has long been contentious, as has the lack of women in the restaurant line-up.

Apparently, their starting point is their judges, with a new mission for diversity: “From now, 50 Best is committed to achieving a 50-50 gender balance across its 1,040-strong worldwide Academy of voters. Prior to the next round of voting for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, Academy members will also be encouraged to look beyond the current list, to explore a diverse mix of restaurants during their travels and to take issues of representation into consideration in their voting choices.”

It begs the question: what was the split in previous years?
- The videos from MAD 2018 are now available online. You can check them out in the link.
Eight days in Le Rayol – 
I wrote the below ten years ago, when I first found myself in Le Rayol. The Tropicana Club remains my second home and my office when I return to the south each year. In fact, I am amazed we do not have similar in Australia. I'm not talking about exclusive, invite-only type beach clubs, I'm talking about the beach club in the European tradition ...  beach beds with umbrellas (yes, they are $15 a day, but surely doing away with the grief of packing everything up and going home for lunch makes that worthwhile??); they are a sanctuary from the sand and the sun, somewhere to eat or have a drink while still soaking up the beach atmosphere. Incidentally, the Tropicana Club is now for sale ... anyone?
“Beachside, hidden on a normally sleepy corner of the Cote D’Azur, is the restaurant you have always wanted to own. Even if you have never wanted to own a restaurant, you would want this one.
There are no walls, instead it’s a narrow garden of cacti that separates the Tropicana Club from the beach. Everywhere feels the breeze and is part of the ocean or the hills that stretch up behind it. The exposed blue rafters and white sails provide a feeling of solidarity and yet it feels lucid, like you could pack it all up at a moments notice.
During the day, it offers relief from heat of the Mediterranean sun. There is coffee in the morning, drinks by night, lunch throughout the day, they serve simple meals: salads, carpaccio, fish and those exquisite, sweet, petit bouchot mussels.
But Tropicana is more than a place to eat, it’s a summer home. It feels as if the rooms and their uses have grown organically over the decades. It feels natural, not forced - like a family home that grows with the addition of more children.
Madame Bladget is the woman of the house. She is formidable yet charming. She passes from table to table, not in the sense of a restaurant hostess, rather as if she is entertaining in her own home, she sits, she talks. It is through her affections I can ascertain who belongs, the families that give this restaurant its soul. It is not unusual to see four generations of the same family eating together. There is a feeling of continuity. It is what separates this place from so many others on the coast.
Madame Bladget has a husband. He is placid, he allows her to rule (not that I imagine he has a choice). He has a soft face, all smile lines, with tanned skin, silky white hair and a small stoop that hints at his age. In contrast, she is always standing tall, shoulders back, head held high. She is immaculate in her appearance: perfectly coiffed, with a tiny kiss of make-up and a hint of past hippy tendencies in her colourful caftans and over-sized necklaces. While she works the room, he is more content on his feet, calmly moving from bar to kitchen, to her side and back to the kitchen. It is clear that she is the boss and that he is happy with the arrangement.
While the “vielles familles”, and of course Madame Bladget, give this place an undeniable sense of charm and elegance, it remains a family restaurant. Children play while waiting for their meals, their older siblings sit at the bar with cigarettes and i-phones. People bring their dog. The place fills with conversation. Local kids work here throughout the summer, the same faces, all smiles, they know all the families, everyone kisses everyone else hello. 
While she plays hostess with grace, Mme Bladget is yet to notice me. I have passed under the radar a dozen times in half as many weeks – her attention is firmly focussed on the vielles familles. It does not upset me, she is right to maintain her focus, it is these families that give the Tropicana Club its sense of permanency.

And yet, at the end of the month the Tropicana Club will close for the season. The sails will be pulled down, the beach beds packed away and the vielles familles will return to Paris. And yet, they know they will be back, they leave safe in the knowledge that their transient home will be waiting to welcome them next summer."
Of course, life is not always that predictable. Two years ago, Monsieur Bladget died. Three months later, heart-broken, broken, Madame Bladget committed suicide. Last week it was RUOK day. It is an important day. Every day is important. Ask the question. Ask for help. Ask.