Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Getting a Mission Statement for the Blog

Had an interesting chat with Datin Su of Vision 4 Media at the MIGF Dinner at The Olive in Genting. If I got it right, Su saw the Vision Four mission as to promote the food and restaurants of Malaysia rather than offer any critique since critique is different from promoting and critique would deter rather than attract punters. This seemed to stem from a writer (actually an old acquaintance) who apparently had written some scathing review of somewhere and it had not gone down well. Well, and maybe fair enough and not wrong from one perspective. The promotion aspect is clearly a very important one to get us punters through the doors of restaurants and, in the broader context, to want to come to Malaysia. 

But from another perspective, this felt a bit short sighted. If anyone wants to find out about a restaurant today, there are innumerable blogs out there offering a range of reports and views on Malaysian restaurants and their offerings. And by reading a few you can get a fair idea of what the restaurants are about and whether one is preferable to visit over another. 

In this, most of the blogs offer very good photos and descriptions of the food. But they do seem to lack much in the way of the How and Why the foood or service was good and worth experiencing. Or whether there were aspects that could be improved upon (toilets!!) And I think there is a need for this. There's a danger of creeping complacency in media and business getting nice and cosy together that can, in the case of restaurants, lead to a downslide in quality which can go unnoticed by managers. There is a need to keep some kind of distance in terms of being friendly with the food industry. Getting too cosy can mean that perspective and objectivity can get lost, which does the industry little good in the long term. True, the real test is repeat customers and making a profit at the end of the year. Positive news in the press clearly helps this, and gushings of praise from the cognoscenti certainly boost the Restaurant profile and status both nationally and globally. And the successful restaurants seem to be those where the kitchen just keeps churning out the same formula with consistent taste and quality. But chefs are human and need love and appreciation and the space to create like all of us. And without constructive and dare I say intelligent feedback, there is neither growth or improvement nor any incentive to grow and improve other than the chef seeking to self improve in his or her own time and so move up the industry greasepole. 

So I figured I needed a mission statement for the blog. Still a work in progress but something like

"To write my experiences of the privilege of drinking and dining at restaurants as responses to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one of an officious diner who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. On this journey, I will seek to be fair, reasoned and direct. Any critique will seek to be constructive rather than being just for its own sake (Dear Lord, please help me keep my ego in check). I do not seek to destroy. No one loves a critic. We are all on individual journeys of growth and when we all grow together it is a beautiful thing."  

Whilst I lay no claim to being an expert when compared to the pro-eaters and gastronomes, I feel I have a valid standpoint as a punter who knows a good meal and glass when he gets one.We all have a view and a perspective on food, and whilst the chefs do their darnedest to please us foodies, the channels for direct considered responses to their offerings remain few and far between. In truth, chefs should only listen to chefs since only a chef truly knows food and what ingredients can enhance and transport one's dish from excellent to sublime. But then chefs are expert eaters, and much as most of us aspire to be gourmet eaters few of us have yet to reach this pinnacle. For me, I have dined at Michelin stars around the world serving hearty Provencal fare through to deconstructed New Age gastronomy. I'm getting to understand where all this comes from, whereby the experience of the degustation becomes intertwined with the context of the ambience and theatre of preparation, presentation and service. And for this, the world will pay to dine because, when done properly and with imagination, it can be transcending.

What I want in my food is Michelin Star quality in Malaysia. I want the number of restaurants in KL with per capita Michelin stars to equal that of San Sebastan. Daring, inventive chefs creating miracles of gastronomy with simple techniques and ingredients. Where is the NOMA or The Fat Duck? Whither Paul Bocuse Chin or Joel Robuchon Mohammad? At present, many of them go to Singapore because the money and opportunities are better.  There is occasionally a "poor Malaysia" response to criticism whereby the chip on the shoulder from being "backward" in access to quality ingredients and therefore unable to match cuisine standards in Singapore and Hong Kong. Maybe, but perhaps this is more an argument for regulations with regard to food imports to be relaxed and allow fresh food imports to be processed and delivered as quickly as possible. Notwithstanding, it is incredibly good value to fine dine in Malaysia when compared to the rest of the world. And whilst some argue that the fine dining in Hong Kong and Singapore is "finer" that should not detract from the basic point that darned good is still darned good. It's an old point that says to know the excellent one must start somewhere, and Malaysia is a very good place to start a gastronomic odyssey of a lifetime. And so I will write. I now have a dream. 

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