"Sydney used to be a fantastic, vibrant and fresh place in terms of eating, and it still has some great restaurants, but when I came back in March I was really disappointed. There was no one doing anything very exciting. Nothing seems to have moved on and I had some very ordinary meals.
"Sydney seemed far less egalitarian than Britain, where more and more people are now really into food and can really cook themselves."
Torode said London in particular and the UK in general were "now way, way ahead in terms of food".
"I think Australia has a real problem defining what it is really about in terms of food - a lot of the time it's not fusion, but confusion," he said.
"Australians are in love with themselves about their cuisine but it seems pretty tired when you think about what is coming out of Britain and Europe at the moment, especially in terms of the produce."
Maxine Frith and John Bailey on John Torode’s assumptions about dining in Australia
September 30, 2007
Over Brunch Mr Stickyfingers brought the above to my attention. Curious, I asked him to paraphrase the article in the Sunday Age and also the Sydney Morning Herald. My immediate reaction was that the statements were a branding exercise designed to increase the profile of one of England’s celebrity chefs.
It reeked of a marketing ploy employed to draw attention to someone whom Australia has forgotten. The actions of one who seeks notoriety in the pursuit of the local advertising dollar via endorsements, TV shows and appearances.
Could it be that former Melbourne chef John Torode is looking to spread his celebrity clout a little further, with these disparaging remarks? And I use the term celebrity with reserve, given that his media profile in the UK rests on an erratic performance on a TV show named MasterChef Goes Large on BBC 2. His restaurant, specialising in meaty dishes is named SOS – Smiths on Smithfield. In an online search it seems to consistently be reviewed as unimaginative, over priced and over rated, with poor and arrogant service.
Now this is odd, here is a man whose press release touts that “John Torode is an Australian chef based in the UK but specialising in Australasian food” renouncing Australian food as “pretty tired” – a criticism which in fact is increasingly levelled at his own establishment, a glorified grill room. Is this not transparent?
Food porn has hit our TV’s and along with it comes the cult of the celebrity chef, complete with groupies, merchandise, cookbooks, magazine articles, newspaper columns, websites and public appearances. Chef’s in pursuit of the perceived media cash cow now have agents and managers to stage manage their careers beyond the confines of their restaurants. In the US the highest earning chefs have multiple restaurants across at least two continents and increasingly have at least one in a high profile hotel or casino. Many sell their own gourmet grocery or cookware online and like athletes they have highly paid endorsement contracts.
Even here we are experiencing an emergence of a similar phenomenon on a smaller scale. One just needs to follow the trail of Luke Mangan and Curtis Stone as Aussie men who have surfed the local branding wave and are now on the verge of international branding campaigns, with the chance to move into the echelon of the global food celebrity in the vein of Jamie Oliver. And guess what? They’ve done it without feeling the need to make outrageous and inflammatory comments at the expense of others.
In truth, who in Australia who is passionate about food, gives a damn about John Torode’s opinion? We who are here, and others including Anthony Bourdain, know better. If he doesn’t get what it’s about over here, he should stop calling himself a representative of Australasian cuisine, because while he has stagnated, we have certainly moved on.