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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Restaurant 07, Royal Hall of Industries, Moore Park

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
Restaurant 09: 10 marketing tips for restaurants (and what they really think of food blogs)
Restaurant 08
Restaurant 07

Bird Cow Fish
Shops 4 and 5, 500 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9380 4090

elBulli Restaurant
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

Quay Restaurant
Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9251 5600
24 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 8/19/2007 11:59:00 pm


  • At 8/20/2007 11:14 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    older people say internet like "THE internet" as if its something you can catch but unfortunately they dont understand the power of food blogs lol but dont worry i reckon its only a matter of time... your name popped up quite a few times at euro lounge restaurants' birthday bash!

  • At 8/20/2007 12:51 pm, Blogger M-H said…

    I had those alginate 'pearls' filled with maple syrup - they called them 'maple syrup caviar' - on a dessert at Aria a few months ago. They were amazing - they burst on your tongue just like real caviar - but the waiter wasn't very helpful, so I googled to figure out how they did them. I still don't fully understand, but I'm not about to try them at home so it doesn't matter.

  • At 8/20/2007 12:54 pm, Blogger M-H said…

    And also, chocolatesuze, I'm 56 but I'm involved in the 'the internet' pretty much up my armpits. And I've heard some awfully ignorant comments about the internet from the thirty-year-old mothers of primary school kids. I don't think that understanding of the internet is necessarily related to age. :)

  • At 8/20/2007 1:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The person that said "What we have to remember is that just because you like food, doesn't mean you know anything about food" sounds like a complete a food elitist and a crashing bore lol.

    I think its hilarious that some people still think the internet is some sort of fad that will go away and they don't need to pay attention to it.

  • At 8/20/2007 2:33 pm, Blogger Ed said…

    Dammit, I had to cancel my visit to the Melbourne demo of those El Bulli thingies. Funnily enough I was talking to the CEO of Restaurants & catering Victoria who was saying how restaurants just don't understand the Internet. It is bizarre that so many ignore this marketing opportunity.

  • At 8/20/2007 5:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    m-h: oops sorry i didnt mean to sound like older people are ignorant or anything i just meant some people are pretty set in their ways with advertising and arent open to new ideas but yeah sorry i didnt mean to offend anyone =)

  • At 8/20/2007 8:54 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow it all does sound so very 1990's. A website nowadays is an absolute MUST for any credible restaurant and although blogging is still pretty new for Australia, it is taking off big time as are restaurant review sites so restaurants will only do themselves a huge disservice if they regard it as drivel. I read about 'sperification' in last months Gourmet Traveller mag (pg 21). Apparently you can buy the kit from Simon Johnson. Looks cool!

  • At 8/20/2007 11:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good article. Websites should be the bare minimum for anywhere that takes bookings, but I regularly go to restaurants that do't put their phone number or opening hours on their web page.

  • At 8/21/2007 11:03 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    services without websites give me the irrits!

    AG: i wonder if you've noticed the lag in internet-savvy when it comes to New Zealand. apparently they still don't have (much) broadband! i found this quite frustrating when i was organising my wedding. sigh.

  • At 8/21/2007 12:57 pm, Blogger Terri @ A Daily Obsession said…

    "Just b/c u like food doesn't mean u know anything about food" is so smug, this is what I'd like to tell tt person: it was exactly b/c i ate a lousy meal tt i decided i shouldn't be intimidated any longer by food bloggers or professional chefs, n go ahead n write about what i think about food. heck, anyone who eats knows about food. u don't have to be some food snob to be able to have an opinion. just ask my 12-year old son, he'll u honestly if ur food is good or bad. no emperor's new clothes syndrome for kids.

  • At 8/21/2007 8:12 pm, Blogger Jackie Middleton said…

    Hey there, I'm a Melbourne based food blogger.
    Perhaps we were following each other around for the two days, I have the same photos and saw the same speakers, though I missed the review based session that talked about the bloggers... bugger I so would have said my two cents worth!
    I have posted some comments on my blog about this event also
    I was at the world wide web session and was the person at the side trying desperately to have my say but didn't get picked for the microphone. I spoke with Raymond Capaldi from Fenix after the last session, as he was speaking quite proactively about the role of bloggers in the restaurant marketing segment, I also know that he 'courts' bloggers and there relationship with his restaurant. Raymond told me that he was frustrated at the lack of acknowledgement in the industry about what's happening on the web. I also visited the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival in Melbourne at the beginning of the year, a couple of the US chefs were VERY blog aware and supportive, namely Will Goldfarb from "Room 4 dessert" was talking about trawling the web regularly for blog posts on his restaurant, and that he thinks it is the way of the future.
    Had a couple of great dinign experiences in your city as well!

  • At 8/21/2007 11:23 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi ChocolateSuze - Actually I should've realised the level of technological nous when the session itself was called "the World Wide Web". lol. Who says that anymore?

    Hi m-h - I had heard that Aria had been experimenting with Texturas. I think a few more Sydney restaurants will be unleashing caviar pearls on menus in the coming months (apparently the problem is that no recipes are provided with the tins so chefs are having to undergo their own series of experiments).

    And good point re: age.

    Hi lorraine e - I agree. The internet is huge and a growing beast. However with it comes great opportunities and enormous potential. It would be a shame if it weren't utilised.

    Hi Ed - I can understand that chefs aren't in the office and aren't on the Net all day. However I think its significance and influence cannot be underestimated. It's a communication tool for and by the masses. Why not make use of it too?

    Hi Goldie - The spherification powder looks rather intimidating to me, but I'm sure there'll be plenty of people keen to create their own home elBulli experience :) I haven't had a chance to read this month's AGT. I'll have to check it out. Thanks for the page ref :)

    Hi Mr_Gimlet - I'm the same. I'm constantly googling restaurant websites (as well as blog posts on individual experiences). I'm always shocked at the number of restaurants that seem to hide their address too!

    Hi Lindsey Clare - lol. Me too!

    re: Wellington internet. I was lucky to stay at a hotel with wireless broadband. That was a prime consideration, but yes I had done some research and noticed a fair bit of online discussion about lack of high-speed access. I didn't have too many problems.

    Hi Terri - Power to the people :) I think that statement fails to recognise that most people who dine at restaurants "aren't necessarily trained in food" but "they know what they like". Just like bloggers, perhaps. And therein lies the reason why people seem to read foodblogs so voraciously (and loyally too).

    Hi Jack - We must've walked past each other a number of times then :)

    I think that blogs will only grow in popularity and proliferation. It would be a shame if restauranteurs didn't realise their enormous potential.

  • At 8/22/2007 9:48 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    oh i should've clarified - i meant more the lack of websites and online information of restaurants, venues and services, food-related or otherwise.

  • At 8/22/2007 9:55 am, Blogger M-H said…

    My experience of urban NZ is that there is high-speed broadband everywhere, even in regional cities. However, a few kms up the road and the story is quite different. My daughter, for isntance, lives about 7 kms outside an urban city where I had hs broadband in my hotel room three years ago, and she has to use dialup. But then that's been my experience in hotels outside Australian cities also.

  • At 8/22/2007 11:19 am, Blogger thanh7580 said…

    I don't understand how some restaurants don't want to/can't be bothered to have a website in this day and age. With such high competition, getting your brand name out there must be a good thing. I know that I know usually only go to restaurants where I can check out their website and menu. Also I go to places that are recommended by other bloggers as it gives you a sense of what a place as they are generally very honest and won't sugar coat things.

    As for loving food and not knowing about it, we may not be trained chef, but I think the average food lover knows quite a lot. The internet has made it accessible for people to find out about all types of strange foods.

  • At 8/22/2007 2:04 pm, Blogger Julia said…

    Re: having a presence on the internet. I couldn't believe one of my favourite restaurants, which I think is hatted too, Bentley Bar and Restaurant in Surry Hills, simply has their contact details on the most boring front page. Bit of a shock, especially for a restaurant with such an interesting, innovative menu. So not everyone gets it, even in this day and age - unbelievable isn't it...

  • At 8/22/2007 4:37 pm, Blogger syn said…

    oh the indignity! i think more restaurants ought to be Grateful to foodbloggers like you for free publicity and giving people a look into what it's like to eat at their restaurants, not to mention that a blog audience like yours certainly likes food, maybe doesn't know as much about it, but aren't we the paying customers? Argh. I find your reviews a whole Lot more interesting than published ones or whatever the restaurant's spiel is because you've got *my* perspective, so I trust you more. So there! :)

  • At 8/23/2007 11:58 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Lindsey - Ahhh... I didn't have too much of a problem finding the websites of the restaurants I visited. And the Wellington tourism site was great :)

    Hi m-h - Isn't it scary how quickly one gets used to the speed of broadband! :)

    Hi thanh7580 - I agree. The internet is an invaluable source of information for people. I, too, enjoy reading bloggers' accounts of restaurants. It's personable and brutally honest and people realise and appreciate that.

    Hi Julia - Absolutely. I think I remember googling Bentley Bar after you wrote about it and hitting that same front page. Argh. Dead end! Next!

    Hi Syn - Thanks :) I don't expect restaurants to be grateful to bloggers, but I do think they need to realise that The Internet can be their friend :)

  • At 8/25/2007 4:04 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Interesting comments regarding the internet. I think it's more that Australia/Sydney doesn't embrace it as much as overseas restaurants do. I too find it frustrating that when you try to look up a local restaurant on the internet, they're often just a front page with not much information at all.

    Oh, and there's already quite a lot of use of Texturas products (spheres, foams, emulsifiers.., with recipes in the booklet provided) in Sydney at the moment. The reason why it might not be more widespread than expected is probably because the spherification kit is pretty expensive, and most of the spheres need to be done a la minute - which can be difficult from a service point of view, unless you've got the staff. Good fun though :)

  • At 8/26/2007 12:12 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Y - Absolutely. Some Australian restaurants do seem to be behind the times, although in some cases, they seem to be about 10 years behind!

    I've heard of Texturas being used at a few different restaurants, but as you say, the complexity of creating these to order makes their availability a little more difficult.

  • At 8/26/2007 7:54 pm, Blogger Jackie Middleton said…

    I totally agree that most Australian restaurants are behind the times in regards to web representation, yet the reason for this is also the exciting reason that our food is so dynamic... In Australia we are still lucky enough to have low-ish barriers to entry, so if someone is passionate about preparing or serving great food then they can. In Europe, London and the US restaurants are often operated by groups, since the entry level is so high, hence the passionate younger people don't have access to serving us great stuff. If we have to tolerate bad or non-existant web sites because of this (small restaurants don't have marketing departments)then I can deal with it.

  • At 8/26/2007 10:48 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jack - I don't think there's necessarily a relationship between being a technophobe and having dynamic food/being receptive to inexperienced chefs, but I can see where you're coming from. On the other hand, websites don't have to cost a lot of money, and in the long run, their international exposure and ease of reference for future customers (local and overseas tourists) would surely pay for itself in the long run?

  • At 8/28/2007 9:23 pm, Blogger Jackie Middleton said…

    Ohh, I think i have missed the punch line in what I was trying to say. When people either chefs or managers are running their own place, 80 hour weeks are more common than not and unfortunately things like websites are down the priority list to getting the immediate job done. Sad. I agree with you about costs and skill level, though it just a matter of prioriting time, I think.

  • At 8/28/2007 11:29 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Jack - I hear you. Chefs do work incredibly long hours but in this day and age, a non-web presenence is a bit like saying I have no time/money to install a telephone line. An online route to your restaurant is vital, and I am talking more about higher end dining, not your local Chinese. But yes, don't we all wish we had more time in each day? :)


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