Bureaucracy leaves a bad taste for Europe’s top restaurants
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.