Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A quick post about the state of American restaurants

I know I'm a food snob. I've been exposed to many types of food from many cultures so I have a depth of perspective that makes me picky to the point of being irritating. I know that. But today I drove four hours (each way) to attend a food distributors food show - a show geared toward restaurants.

Tyler and I usually hit the NASFT's Fancy Food Show which is a mega show featuring the best that the world has to offer in commercially available foods. We're awed and impressed by that show even if we only find a handful of "finds."

But this shows was no Fancy Food Show. I won't say the name since I have to work with this distributor. Let's just say that Silver City only has two restaurant distributors. We used to have four but two left the area due to poor sales. That's left us with the equivalent of Wal-Mart and K-Mart. I used to rant against one of the distributors, but have since learned that they offer a good, better and best, the best being pretty darn good - meaning, things I even have in the store (a few items anyway). But today's show was filled with six legged chickens, mega under-ripened tomatoes, and so many pre-made desserts that my lungs were filled with corn syrup instantly.

I could not find even ONE item that I thought I could work into my menu. When I was getting hungry, and every booth had samples, I could not find ONE item that I wanted to put in my body. Yet the halls were filled with chefs giddy about the show. These were chefs from Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. This was not a small show, and these were not McDonald's chefs - these were real chefs from real restaurants (private and chain).

Is it true that you can take shit, and with enough technique, turn it into foie gras? Am I just not skilled enough to perform this magic? Or have commercial kitchens given up on "from scratch," and "fresh" in return for convenience and output?

I don't know that I care what they're doing, and I better understand why I have little desire to eat out anymore. What I do know is that if you walked through the same show and me, you would make dinner at home tonight.


Tri2Cook said...

That show sounds awful familiar. Wouldn't happen to be a distributor that rhymes with crisco would it? You don't have to answer that, I understand all too well how it is to be held hostage to limited distributors in an area.

Kate at Serendipity said...

This is one of the many reasons that I am glad I live in Europe. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Stash said...

So this is your little home away from home. Heh.

Mediocrity is on the rise everywhere unfortunately.

RAHiggins1 said...

"From Scratch", "Farm fresh", these are words primarily associated with fine dining and fine dining price tags these days.

I think what distributors are trying to do is provide product that most economically imperiled restaurants can afford.

And yes being somewhat remote does exacerbate that.

Here in Atlanta its actually the other way round. There is so much competition that farmers are knocking on back doors of kitchens. We have one vendor who practically holds her free range chickens out so that the eggs drop in our hands as they are layed.

Manggy said...

Sorry to hear it was a bust, Rob :( Hopefully they can do better in the future, but those smaller restaurants should really know better (we've lost all hope in the chains!). Fresh and from scratch is what makes them supposedly so appealing in the first place!