05 October 2007

Dupleix Vs Torode trendspotters?

"John Torode has been living in London for 17 years and has become accustomed to how things are there. London has some exciting things happening on the food scene because there is money pouring in from Russia and for £200 you can eat some amazing things, but most of us can't afford that."

"More importantly in Australia we have great affordable food and can eat out several times a week and still eat well."

"In London, Nordic food is getting popular - thankfully light, clean, fresh flavours."

"Young English chefs are doing away with heavy food and are addressing British food in a lighter way......more casual.....like the Australian way of cooking. I think we actually have a lot to teach the British."

Jill Dupleix on John Torode’s assumptions of Australian dining.

I'm not sure what compelled me to turn on the TV when I did, but there was Jill Dupleix in the ubiquitous checkerboard mini apron that she sports on the cover of her latest cookbook, Lighten Up. She was cooking one of her light recipes and telling daytime talk host, Kerri-Anne Kennelly how she helped her husband, Terry Durack, lose five belt notches of weight or six stone. Then Kerri asked her about John Torode's recent comments about Australian food (see my post, John Torode - Hidden Agenda?). Jill's response is above.

Now I have been a big fan of Terry's since the hedonistic eighties and have always hoped that I could emulate him, though sadly I will never have his incisive wit. In Jill I saw someone who was instinctively able to reflect the zeitgeist through her work first in Advertising and later in food writing.

The current book is a reflection of this, to the point that on viewing her latest recipes, I wondered whether she had been looking over my shoulder whilst I cooked for Mr Stickyfingers. Or am I too just an early adopter of global market changes by eating low GI foods, doing away with big pasta meals, cutting back on the size of our meat and starch portions while consuming more vegies and oily fish and omitting trans fats, palm oil and corn syrup?

The thing is, I don’t think I am alone here, so it made me wonder, if this book is meant to be a groundbreaking approach to eating, whether in fact Australiais ahead of the UK, where she and Terry now reside? And I say this in spite of John Torode’s assertions that what Australia has to offer is “pretty tired”.

Over here there is a growing resistance to the Americanisation of our supermarkets and the loss of favourite local brands to global brands and house brands in the pursuit of better profit margins. We also have experienced a rise in food allergies, and more people are beginning to turn to our abundant fresh produce over processed foods.

So using the marketing part of my brain, I was also curious as to what the whizz-bang £200 London restaurants are offering? I suppose some of these restaurants are featuring Molecular Gastronomy, which on our local scene is attracting the Melbourne Foodanista’s, some of whom are not really there for the food. Given the expensive machines and labour intensive techniques required, Molecular dishes don’t come cheap.

Trend spotters acknowledge that this movement has risen to prominence on the back of the apocalyptic global mood, in the wake of the rise of fundamentalism, the threat of global Terrorism and increased knowledge of Global warming. By the same token fashion is reflecting the post-apocalyptic phase of the eighties where the general sentiment was that we would either die of HIV or nuclear fallout.

Somewhere in the middle ground between the rustic trend supported by Gordon Ramsay, Rick Stein and Antonio Carluccio and ‘The Molecular’ came the East/West Fusion and the confused Global menu. Fusion done at it’s best is now accepted as an inspired and healthy fine dining choice. But the other phase, the crude global mish mash of cultures where menus listed poorly crafted versions of Laksa alongside pizza, nacho’s, tagines, sushi, grills and risotto is sadly still in existence at some of our more mainstream venues. People who favour this style of eating will never comprehend Molecular Gastronomy.

The global phase that is emerging now turns it’s back on hedonism and pretention, and perhaps the laundering of Russian money? The term that was coined for this predicted trend ten years ago was ‘Think global; act local’ a process of thought that moves from the ‘all is lost’ perception to ‘how can I do my own little bit for the future?’ has finally hit.

The extension of this in dining sees support for producers of slow grown sustainable foods, rare breed meats and heritage vegetables coupled with low food miles. Again, this is something Mr Stickyfingers and I have incorporated into our diets over the last two years. Fortunately for us, this is readily available in inner Melbourne and by shopping carefully at farmer’s markets is affordable. However, once it hits the restaurant scene as a trend, prepare to pay haute cuisine prices. Fashion-wise, look for alternative textiles like hemp and a move away from synthetics to natural and sustainable fibres.

Although this is aptly being led through smaller café venues and home cooks, in Melbourne we actually have one restaurant contender in this ‘Locavore’ food league. The 100 Mile Café, is not extortionately expensive, but as the forerunner in this league it can’t afford to be. Like most trends it will make an initial splash and then move into the mainstream where, as my new friend, chef and witty blogger The Gobbler put it, “it is merely another weapon in their arsenal of getting bums on seats.”

Whatever the trends on offer, eating in Australia is progressive and is one of the few places in the world where we have affordable fresh produce that in some parts of the world costs and arm and a leg. With Jill Dupleix asserting to food writer Matt Preston that she and Terry just make ends meet living in Notting Hill - European assignments aside -perhaps it's time that they came home to the good life?


Truffle said...

My partner has recently moved from Melbourne to Notting Hill and I'm quite sure is desperately missing the affordability and quality of Australian food. Great post!

Anonymous said...

Excellent post Sticky, some big ideas & hey, Thanks for the plug!
The photo you posted with the ever smiling Jill Dupleix, Dorian Grey-like, she never seems to age, has me deeply concerned for Terry's welfare. He looks like a cadaver!
Enough is enough Jill! Its plain to all that Tezza needs a big fry-up to raise a smile.

Please Sticky, help save Terry Durack from wasting away!

stickyfingers said...

Wow Truffle, a Sydneysider in Melbourne with a partner in Notting Hill - will you be doing some London blogging? Thanks again for the encouragement, and I LOVED your recent post on the other side of Sydney dining.

Gobbler - glad you enjoyed that. I know that particular post was probably not standard blogging fare, but I felt the urge to bang on.

If you catch Jill up close, you can see the wear and tear of London life on her too. The new big 'do' she is currently sporting made me do a double take.

In the cause to save Tezza I would fix him a big bowl of his favourite mash and cauliflower cheese, served with some juicy King Valley beef and a gutsy beer.