Modern food service is a perversion of what consumption should be. It is an art form, delivering physical and emotional responses with deep ties to culture and land that enthrals me with its intensity.
In food’s rawest form, it is a tool for energy. Primatologists consider early humans’ ability to cook food a key to homo-sapiens brain growth and development, so how did we get here? McDonald’s to your door in fourteen minutes. Karens ask for egg-white omelettes only if the chicken lives within 30 meters of the kitchen, and best of all, the illusion of consumables delivered in gastro dining.
There are two issues that need to be focused on by someone who has worked in food service for six years. Understanding the limitations of your environment and accepting that when dining in someone else’s kitchen, the chef’s method is how you will eat. The latter is something we only value in couture-dining. People happily sit and trust a Michelin chef to feed them foods they have not heard of, all harvested from local producers. Trust is the key, people dignify experiential dining separately from day-to-day consumption. Why? You are eating the same food that should be given the same respect as your late night fruit loops, although plated well; how one feeds their body cannot be a weekend-only activity.
Limitations of the environment are something we rarely consider. Chefs challenge themselves with only local ingredients — narrowing the scope of possibility allows them to perform a more faithful service to their community. Famously, restaurants like KOKS exist in remote environments and find a way to create beauty. This is not limited to Nordic countries, as it may seem, and it is what I hope food education becomes. At the risk of being controversial, having access to the world’s flavours makes a chef unimpressive, not only an environmental risk but a reason for global farming to push crops farther away from their inherent genes. Locality needs to be the pinnacle of our diet, living and breathing your community and allowing your body to be a reflection of that.
Think about Sackville — there is nowhere the consumer can experience a meal harvested from our local area. Passions remain in places like Ducks Aren’t Real with a heavily garden-focused menu, but it is constantly closing! I think that if the food will nourish them or teach them about their surroundings, people will not feel inconvenienced by long wait times or higher prices.
I sound like a masochist, and based on the kitchens I like to work in, I might be, but the mentality remains. Suppose we do not challenge ourselves by indulging in our community and truly living within its borders. In that case, we remove so much of our naturalistic humanity and the remarkable satisfaction living locally creates. We pervert the most basic human need into a marketable plastic cup manufactured in Ethiopia two years ago.
I encourage you all to go to the farmers market next week and make an authentic Sackville stew.