Bu­reau­cracy leaves a bad taste for Europe’s top restau­rants

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Indulgence - MICHELLE ROWE

MICHEL Roux Sr has made his ca­reer in fine din­ing. He and his brother Al­bert trained nearly 50 per cent of Bri­tain’s Miche­lin­starred chefs at one time or an­other, and Roux’s The Water­side Inn in Berk­shire, Eng­land, now run by his son Alain, is the only restau­rant out­side France to have held three Miche­lin stars for 25 con­sec­u­tive years.

So Food De­tec­tive was taken aback when the French-born chef told her there’s no fu­ture for fine din­ing . . . in Europe at least.

‘‘Europe is fin­ished,’’ Roux says. ‘‘Brus­sels dic­tates that peo­ple can work only 35-40 hours a week, and for a Miche­lin-starred restau­rant, for­get it.’’

The chef, awarded an OBE in 2002 for his ser­vices to the Bri­tish food in­dus­try, says ridicu­lous oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety reg­u­la­tions are crip­pling restau­ra­teurs. ‘‘I’ve got a sous chef spend­ing hours each week just record­ing fridge tem­per­a­tures and mak­ing sure no­body is cough­ing or has some­thing so much as an ab­nor­mal pim­ple.’’

He says pro­hib­i­tive start-up costs, and the fact ap­pren­tices want tele­vi­sion star­dom rather than long days learn­ing their craft, have also sounded the death knell for high-end restau­rants. ‘‘You need 20-24 chefs for a three-star restau­rant,’’ Roux says. ‘‘Only five years ago I would have had 10-20 names on a wait­ing list; now I’ve got two or three if I’m lucky. Chefs like Luke Man­gan used to come here at 21 or 22 and work as a com­mis, then make their way up to chef de par­tie and be­yond, but now they want to be chef de par­tie straight away. And they want to be celebri­ties. They re­alise it’s hard work in a restau­rant and want to leave, all be­cause they’ve been watch­ing TV.’’

Roux be­lieves the only fine­din­ing restau­rants to sur­vive in Europe will be those lo­cated in palace ho­tels with ex­ten­sive fi­nan­cial re­sources. Asia, he says, is the place to be. ‘‘If I was young I’d be head­ing to China or Viet­nam, to an­other part of the world where peo­ple can still eat the food they love to eat and are still ready to learn and work hard.

‘‘If I were my son, I’d sell The Water­side Inn to the high­est bid­der and go to Asia.’’ More: water­side-inn.co.uk.

IF the olive and gruyere toasties and chicken liver par­fait be­ing dished up at Rus­sell Blaikie’s buzzing Must Mar­garet River wine bar and restau­rant aren’t rea­son enough to head to the glo­ri­ous West Aus­tralian wine re­gion, here’s an­other. Maggie Beer pro­tege So­phie Zalokar has just opened For­agers Field Kitchen & Cook­ing School in Pem­ber­ton, about an hour’s drive south of Mar­garet River.

Zalokar, a pro­po­nent of lo­cal and sea­sonal pro­duce, has launched a packed calendar of lunches, din­ners and cook­ing classes, with overnight ac­com­mo­da­tion pro­vided in on­site chalets. ‘‘It’s been ex­cit­ing re­al­is­ing six years of plan­ning to open For­agers,’’ she tells De­tec­tive. ‘‘Four-course din­ners in our Field Kitchen will have a sea­sonal theme and cost $75 a per­son. On nights when we don’t have events, we’ll of­fer din­ner ham­pers to our chalet guests.’’ With menu in­clu­sions such as pork and lemon meat­balls with egg­plant and dill, or braised lamb with mus­tard glaze and pick­led pear, and classes cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing from truf­fles to au­tumn har­vest bak­ing, a trip west beck­ons. More: for­agers.com.au; must.com.au.

JUST when De­tec­tive thought she’d seen the end of the sci­enceas-food malarkey that pro­duced myr­iad copy­cat molec­u­lar dishes and a le­gion of self-im­por­tant chefs, she reads that South Aus­tralian Cole Thomas is work­ing on a dish in which a su­per­con­duc­tor makes a piece of tuna leap off the din­ner plate, so it can be eaten midair.

‘‘I want the diner to have the ex­pe­ri­ence of be­ing the fish,’’ Thomas has told Gourmet Trav­eller mag­a­zine. De­tec­tive reck­ons he needs to get a grip. More: co­lethomas.com.au.

WORDLens is an iPhone app that can trans­late a Span­ish menu into English sim­ply by hold­ing the phone over the words.

A good way to avoid hav­ing one’s cro­que­tas turn out to be co­jones, De­tec­tive reck­ons. More: questvi­sual.com.

rowemi@theaus­tralian.com.au

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