A friend the other day said to me "Hey, you should open a restaurant!" That was about the thousandth time someone has said that to me because they know I like and write about restaurants. What they don't understand is that the more I know about what you do for a living, the further away I get from any thought of doing what you do. Honestly, my job is a walk through the park compared to yours. And I felt this way long before all the regulatory, food police stuff began hitting the fan.
A case in point is the recent decision in New York City to ban trans fats in all foods served in New York City restaurants. Now New York City health officials have the power to govern how menu items are prepared and described. As if your jobs aren't hard enough. In the wake of the New York City ban, other jurisdictions, including Chicago, Washington, DC, and the state of New Jersey are considering similar actions.
In recent years, this industry has been criticized for making America's youth fat, for serving evil carbohydrates, for allowing smokers to run amok and for torturing geese to make foie gras. And that's just to name a few.
All of this focus on the industry leads me, and I'm sure you, to wonder what's next. Clearly, the foie gras ban suggests there will be a stronger focus on how animals are raised. Will you be condemned if you don't serve free-range this or that? Look for more regulations in this area.
Another ingredient surely to come under attack in the future will be high fructose corn syrup. The medical community has long criticized the common sweetener as a major cause of childhood obesity. Soft drinks are a major user of the ingredient, but it's used in everything from pasta sauces to bacon to beer to bread and other baked goods.
What concerns do your customers have, and what sort of dust are your local politicians kicking up? Send me an e-mail about your concerns.
A new columnist. RestauRant Hospitality welcomes a new columnist, Michael Ruhlman. He's written several books since graduating from Duke University in 1985, including Soul of a Chef (2000), which focused on the professional life of three American chefs. He's also worked with Thomas Keller on two other books, The French Laundry Cookbook (1999) and Bouchon (2004). Ruhlman also penned A Return to Cooking (2002) with Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin.
Two years ago, Ruhlman released Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing. Last year came The Reach of a Chef: Beyond the Kitchen. He's currently working on a book about sous vide.
Ruhlman has eaten in many of America's best restaurants, and plenty of its not-so-good eateries. Where ever he eats, he has strong opinions. There's a good chance he's going to make you laugh and he's going to tick you off, perhaps at the same time. Check out his website and blog at www.ruhlman.com. His first column in this issue focuses on televised cooking competitions, including the one he helped judge with Ming Tsai and Todd English. Enjoy.