Fresh West Australian truffles
Chefs, sommeliers, restaurant managers and food service owners descended on the Royal Hall of Industries, Moore Park last week for the second annual instalment of Restaurant 07.
As someone who has a slight obsession with the Sydney dining scene, this was too good an opportunity to pass up, a chance to see what life is like on the other side of the fence, and to find out first-hand the challenges facing restauranteurs and chefs today.
Discussion panels, taste testings and cooking demonstrations were all on offer at this industry-only two-day event. And the session by Alain Devahive from El Bulli brought the biggest crowd, mesmerised by demonstrations of the Texturas range used at the award-winning restaurant.
Alain Devahive from elBulli Taller Research and Development
Creating liquid melon pearls, or "caviar" using algin spherification
Melon pearls suspended in a prosciutto jellied stock
Creating liquid olives using algin and reverse spherification
Liquid olives encased in firm gel (reverse spherification)
Martin Boetz from Longrain
cooking with vegetables
Peter Gilmore from Quay
demonstrating poaching techniques
Alex Herbert from Bird Cow Fish
talking about duck
Whole ducks are bought and used at Bird Cow Fish
both as a means of responsible consumption and price effectiveness
Confit of duck leg on buttermilk mash with celeriac and apple salad
Duck breast on buttermilk mash with brandied prunes
What was particularly interesting was the discussion that emanated from the Talk Business forums. In the session titled Point of Review: How Important is a Review and How Do You Manage the Fall Out, conversation focussed on the print media. It wasn't until questions were taken from the floor that someone asked "and what you think about the rise of foodblogs?"
Warren Turnbull, from Restaurant Assiette, acknowledged that in the United States, online review websites were treated very seriously by restaurants, and were studiously checked every morning. Another panel member was not so generous. "What we have to remember is that just because you like food, doesn't mean you know anything about food", a statement so sweeping I almost fell to the floor.
Turnbull did acknowledge that feedback from restaurant sites such as eatability occasionally brought up constructive points of criticism on his restaurant that he had otherwise overlooked. He was more than happy to rectify these if he saw validity in their statements. The panel seemed to agree that at best, online restaurant reviews were much like mystery shoppers, only free.
Never mind, thought I. Surely the next days' session World Wide Web: Using the Internet to Grow Your Business would be more technologically savvy.
You can imagine my incredulity when the session focussed on the importance of having a website for your business. "The internet is really important these days," said one panel member. "Make sure you include your phone number and a map," advised another.
I was cynically surprised they weren't calling the internet "the information superhighway" in a blinkered mentality that was more circa 1999.
Having a presence on the internet today is not an option, it's a presumption, akin to wondering aloud whether your business should be included in the yellow pages. Perhaps more worryingly, the entire notion of managing a restaurant's online presence was not broached nor discussed. Chefs and restaurant owners may not be technologically adept, but like it or not, most of your diners are. And yes, they're talking about what they ate, where they ate, and what they thought about it. And it's happening now.
The final session on The Future of the Australian Restaurant Industry included agreement on the need to look after young customers: they're the ones who will be your future bread-and-butter for the next fifty years or more.
Young people. They're the ones on that Internet thingummy aren't they?
Food for thought.
Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms
Pink oyster mushrooms
Restaurant 07 was held 13-14 August 2007 at the Royal Hall of Industries, Moore Park.
Restaurant Sydney 08 will be held 11-12 August, 2008 at the Royal Hall of Industries.
Restaurant Melbourne 08 will be held 26 - 27 May 2008 at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Restaurant 09: 10 marketing tips for restaurants (and what they really think of food blogs)
Bird Cow Fish
Shops 4 and 5, 500 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9380 4090
Cala Montjoi, Ap. 30 17480 Roses, Girona, Spain
Tel: +34 972 150 457
Longrain Restaurant and Bar Sydney
85 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9280 2888
Longrain Restaurant and Bar Melbourne
44 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne
Tel: +61 (03) 9671 3151
Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms
PO Box 433, Bowral, NSW 2576
Tel: +61 (02) 4871 2879
Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9251 5600
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8/19/2007 11:59:00 pm