Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A right of reply to Toni Jordan's article in 'The Age', September 7, 2010

It’s been a while hasn’t it.

It was about 12 months ago that I took a fair run up and had a whack at Michael Shmith from ‘The Age’. He wrote a restaurant etiquette article which was published in ‘Epicure’ where he basically had a go at various front of house rituals; my favourite was when he asked a FOH manger where the toilets were only to be looked at oddly and without directions. We all know Michael that the trees across the road from the restaurant would have been fine!

So with this I had my right of reply. And even though I wasn’t at that time working in a restaurant (still not), I couldn’t just read this self indulgent drivel and not get my soapbox out.

Move almost 12 months on and it seems another worldly Age journo has gotten out a stick and gone whack at restaurants again. And the reason this time; dodgy adjectives to describe menu’s!

Now I sort of agree that some menus go a bit far in selling their fare; giving the town from where the beast was raised to me is a little too personal. I don’t want to know that said bovine lived next door to old Mabel in Royal Street Wonthaggi – the district will suffice.

What got up my goat about this article, written by the smiling Toni Jordan, and the same with the Shmith article from last year is they don’t name restaurants. Is this so Dubecki and Co aren’t chased out of eateries by meat cleaver wielding chefs?
When writing an article like this, shouldn’t you start with real examples of what she calls ‘... dodgy adjectives to gloriously describe a menu is simply poor taste.’ What I find poor taste is what she starts with:

''FREE-RANGE organic brown wild duck breast and leg (but not the thigh because that's too fatty), stuffed with hand-polished Israeli pearl couscous, surrounded by a sprinkling of sun-dried heirloom apple picked by naked virgins under a full moon, and crescendoed by kalamata olives pickled by my Greek grandmother in Brunswick 1999.''

Followed with.....

''Slow-cooked tails surgically removed from happy oxen who spend their lives listening to Mozart, nestled on a Doona of home-made wholemeal chestnut gnocchi, napped by a jus studded with chunks of oven-roasted then smoked embryonic beetroot and ribbons of black cavelo nero that has travelled only 80 food miles to get here, on the back of the forementioned now-tailless ox.''

Come on! Show me one menu in Melbourne that comes within three light years of the above rants and I will happily buy you dinner Toni. I bet you that if you saw on a menu, ‘Duck – cooked here’, you would surely be curious in how it was cooked. What about the wine list – would you like red or white with your piece of meat?

All this is is a generalist insight in to Melbourne restaurants: do you think Jacque Reymond or Guy Grossi are two chefs she is taking aim at? What about Shannon Bennet or Teague Ezard? Don’t think so.

I dunno, maybe it has been a quiet news week; I can't think of anything that has been making the news over the past few weeks except for some bloke in FNQ wearing a silly hat!

Question; are all journalists as right wing as Andrew Bolt? Maybe that is a generalist remark on journalists or is Toni just getting a little out of hand like the all of the other Melbourne menu descriptors are. Ponderous, really ponderous!


  1. The piece was the humour article on the non-serious back page of the paper- where Danny Katz et al appear, so it isn't meant to be taken seriously as news. The author is a contributor - not a staffer - and the Epicure team would not have been aware of the piece until seeing it in print. There are only 2 Epicure staffers in the building, and they only work on their section; they are not included in the meetings of what goes into the daily sections. (Disclaimer: I work next to the 2 Epicure staffers - no reviewers work on-site -, although I'm not a writer. There aren't many of those left in the building.)

  2. She writes better than you, dude.

  3. Gross generalisations and heavy-handed sarcasm are the aim of stirring conversation, I suppose. Shock value gets things talked about and are deemed "entertainment value" these days.

    We're too old school for stuff like this, I'm afraid, but I'd happily join you on your soapbox as I'm yet to ever come across menu descriptions coming even close to that!