Is our fixation with ‘food’ hurting our industry?

ugsrp5Food plays an integral part in the life of any restaurant, but the question is, have we gone too far?
In Canada we can look back a couple of decades and see the relationship between the start of the Food Network and our gastronomic education.  We can see the rise of the celebrity Chef in that same time-period and welcome in recent years the ‘rock star’ farmer.

As a person who enjoys food and cares about our food system I embrace this evolution. Food should hold a prominent place in how restaurants are thought about but has this fixation drawn our attention away from other very important issues in the restaurant industry?  Here are some points to consider.

The last 5 years has seen a growing concern about wasting food in restaurants, yet we seem to show no resolve to fix the epidemic of human burnout in our industry.

We buy local because we want to support our farmers yet a significant amount of people working in our kitchens are regular users of food banks. I find this the most sobering thought!

If there is a ‘cause’ concerning food it is very easy to get a large group of restaurant people and Chefs together in support, yet we rarely get together to speak about serious concerns plaguing our own industry, issues like ‘retention’.

Our industry has an amazing amount of recognition and awards for Chefs and artisan suppliers, but how many awards do we have for those that are providing great service, or developing and caring for their employees?

I follow Dominique Crenn on Instagram and there is something I have come to notice about this amazing woman.  She shows many beautiful food photos on her account, but she posts even more photos of her staff, telling their stories, laughing, recognizing their efforts.  My sense is that this great Chef understands that restaurants are not about food, they are about people. Food is a vehicle for sensory fulfillment, it can be the entry point to a great restaurant experience but without people, food is nothing.  People from the front and back of house make restaurants work, make ‘food’ delicious, and make experiences memorable.  Let’s keep talking and showcasing food but let’s show an equal amount of attention to the everyday restaurant employee/manager who make restaurants not only amazing places to enjoy a meal but an integral part of our local communities.

Let’s not stop our love affair with food but let’s start one with our people!

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