Food As Culture And As Business: Taste, Profit and Politics

10 mins read

Food in human life is not only a necessity but also a certain hobby: a source of joy that brings people together and provides them with the tastes and delicacies they desire on a daily basis. This is why restaurants are always some of the hottest spots in the world’s leading cities to develop unforgettable memories and why catering and other niche related businesses such as planners for ADHD has become such a massive business in every society of the world. Ranging from ethnic restaurants to street joints and from fast-food chains to set-menu restaurants, the modern day food and catering business has infiltrated into virtually every aspect of our lives. Food is a sensitive issue as much as it is a total necessity for all and therefore the market needs to be observed, monitored and regulated by the respective authorities to ensure that there exist no hazards or risks to human health. Similarly, customers of the above-mentioned locations also need to be aware of such possibilities to choose the best places for themselves and to warn others and even maybe notify the authorities in case of a possible breach of security or law. This is why paying attention to the media is crucial to keep track of the newly developing realities, issues and problems in the sector to minimize the risks of harm to the individual, while ensuring tasty and unforgettable meals for all. 

Unfortunately, honesty is a value that is seldom found in the food and catering business, as many malpractices in the preparation and serving of food are being either overlooked or concealed by restaurant owners or respective authorities. As a result, dissatisfaction seems to be a dominant theme in the sector, which is why the likes of Chef Rossi for The Huffington Post have decided to enter the market and compete with higher standards and more constructive principles. Rossi is an honest storyteller and she begins by referring to her previous life as a bartender serving drinkers until the early hours of the morning, trying to make sense of her chaotic life in the process. On one such occasion, she ended up preparing a simple dish for a friend using leftover food, which became a habit for her, leading the aspiring chef to try different dishes with the bar’s rich food supplies after everyone left. She quit her job as a bartender soon after, to try her luck as a chef in the New York and New Jersey areas while having to deal with the dirty social politics of the 1980s Reagan America, namely sexism. However, she managed to become a real chef among an army of “misogynists” as she labels her past beloved colleagues, but soon discovered that she was more interested in the catering business rather than remaining as a simple chef. This was due to the fact that she grew up in a multi-cultural environment where foods by different groups of people always ended up becoming excellent mediators of communication and sharing, leading her to desire recreating such an environment. Rossi started her own company to utilize her cooking skills and some human and financial resources to develop a serious business and create daily menus consisting of a variety of different tastes from around America and casually from foreign cuisines. Today, she is also a columnist on food and catering, which shows that the sector helped her develop a brand new identity for herself, integrating her cooking skills with her care and love for people.

Food and catering are such important subjects that it is not hard to find opinion pieces and investigative work in today’s media, providing useful insights. Milly Stilinovic for Forbes magazine takes notice of the newly developing trends in the food and catering business to speak of five specific trends that will shape the given industry. As the world gets smaller, the issue of regionality will become more important for the food industry because increased possibilities and experienced alternatives will lead the customers to demand certain dishes and  foods from region-specific cuisines, which will increase the standards and competition alike. She then refers to the use of flowers as color and decoration for popular dishes at restaurants for not only attracting attention but also for adding a natural sense of ingenuity. Although this is common practice in rural areas of America and beyond, it surely is a hip novelty for the urban customer’s taste and pleasure. The meat business has always been a dominant player in this market but the recent discoveries of malpractice and unethical treatment of animals have both led to the emergence of a more aware consumer type for protein. This is why Stilinovic observes that sustainability will become a dominant issue in the sector, with clients and customers demanding to know where their protein actually comes from. In conjunction with the issue of regionality, unique seasoning will become a norm and a trend-setter, simply because a lot of people prefer to have taste and delicacy embedded within their food rather than having to add them later on as spices. As competition increases in the food and catering business, luxury becomes important for the rich and this is why the author predicts that gold will be a casual ingredient for the dishes served for the elite. Stilinovic argues that a lot of chefs working in popular restaurants in urban America have taken notice of how healthy, tasty and good looking of an ingredient gold really is and how such chefs will not hesitate to prepare dishes with it, regardless of its cost or scarcity. What can one say? It is always good to have insights like this, especially for those who love to eat outside while preserving high standards and quality. However, food and catering in the United Kingdom is in a different shape and form than it is in the United States, leading Tom Espiner for BBC to ask the concerning question “What’s eating the restaurant trade?” The author begins by referring to how several established firms such as the burger chain Byron, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurants and the Restaurant Group, owner of Frankie and Bennys and Garkunsels, are closing numerous branches to keep up with the demanding times and a vicious market. Espinger points out that the given pressure on the UK food sector is due the fact that “businesses in the sector are having to pay the new living wage, the apprenticeship levy, and deal with ‘upwards-only rent reviews’.” When combined with the increasing costs of food and ingredients, the market competition becomes impossible for large networks of the same restaurant to operate for long periods of time. In addition, the new customer type demands that the UK restaurants should be “instagrammmable,” meaning that the traditional style and approach of business is not acceptable anymore. And finally, Espiner takes notice of how the post-Brexit markets are observing significant rises in product prices which will soon be coupled by import taxes to make the situation worse. When considering all these concerning realities and their adverse effects on the British food and catering markets, it is understandable that such markets are contracting to create financial problems and loss for their businesses. The United Kingdom houses a modern society which has always taken pride in its cultural diversity and food has always been one of the dominant reasons of such pride. However, the newly forming political authority and its plans for a new conservative British society will surely make it harder for such a trend to continue, pushing existent restaurants into shrinking or foreclosure, while not allowing any significant new entries into the new conservative economy.

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