Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Critics accused of killing the great chefs of France

France's top chefs railed against the pressures of their job and the power of the critics after one of this food-obsessed country's culinary giants committed suicide, apparently because of a bad review.

Bernard Loiseau, 52, whose restaurant and inn La Cote d'Or in Burgundy is one of the undisputed temples of Gallic haute cuisine, was found dead in his bedroom on Monday, his hunting rifle by his side.

"He tried to do too much," said his wife, Dominique. "He was worn out; he'd just had enough."

Others were harsher. Mr Loiseau, they pointed out, had managed to retain his priceless three stars in the Michelin Red Guide, but lost a devastating two points in France's rival foodie bible, GaultMillau, falling from 19/20 last year to 17/20 in the 2003 guide."

"Bravo, GaultMillau, you've won," declared the legendary Lyons chef Paul Bocuse, 80. "Your verdict has cost a man's life. We cannot let ourselves be manipulated like this: I'll give you a star, I'll take one away; I'll award you two points, I'll deduct them. The profession will respond."

Another tri-stellar restaurateur, Jacques Lameloise, said Mr Loiseau had once told him that if he lost a star he would commit suicide. "The critics play with us," he said. "They mark us up, they mark us down. I think that's what made him crack."

Marc Veyrat, who this year became the first man to be awarded 20/20 by GaultMillau, said chefs at this level were "like fragile little boys, under pressure from all sides: from ourselves, to do better every time; from the public; and then, when we've reached the summit, from the guides and the critics, swords of Damocles hanging over our heads ... because for us, where we are now, there's only one way to go".

What a pack of pathetically jelly-backed, creme caramellic prima donnas!. Top Aussie chefs are made of much sterner stuff.

Years ago Master Chef Harry Edwards of "Harry's Cafe de Wheels" was at the top of his game. Celebrities queued up to just get a smell of his gourmet delights.

"Harry's Cafe de Wheels" had been awarded a '5 Cork Hats' rating for an unprecedented 12 consecutive years by the bible of Australian gastronomy, "Geddit Indyu Tout Suite". A regime change at the publication, a public health campaign against genetically modified offal and a number of unexplained, but legume related deaths saw 'Harry's Cafe de Wheels' slowly stripped of its titfers. In 2001 'Harry's Cafe de Wheels' received a single ignominious "Newspaper You Borrow From A Perfect Stranger To Put On Your Bonce Because It Looks Like It Might Rain" award. Was Harry gutted? Was Harry going to top himself? Was he going to steal recipes from Delia, the Queen of Lard? Was Harry going to start shagging Nigella?

Not on your nelly! Harry just snooted his cock at the critics and carried on doing what he did best.

In 2002 Harry sold just 7 pies. He's been at the crease for 2 months this year and is yet to open his account, however in an interview last week he said he was quite hopeful.

"Things looked like they might be turning around. I heard that Pommy sumo wrestler bloke Johnny "The Gullet" Prescott is out here and he doesn't mind fangin' a bit of nosh and I've heard he'll eat anything what's got a letter of the alphabet in its name.

And now that Shane Warne has been outed for 12 months he can chuck out all those dianetic pills he was taking and pork up again. He used to be one of my most regular customers. Loved his pie and peas on a bed of caramelised baked beans he did. Washed the lot down with a six pack of palate cleansing "Harry's Cafe de Huiles Vegemite Thickshakes" he used to. That bloke is not only the greatest spin doctor the World has ever seen, he's a bloody fine gourmand to boot.

And I got meself a website.

And while I'm here I suppose I'd better give a bit of a plug for the bloke what I get my meat from for the pies. You can visit his web site where it tells you all about him.

"Butcher Brian Hughes has two shops; one for fresh meat and the other, diagonally opposite, for cooked meats. A small narrow shop, it looks as if it is untouched for generations; indeed it is one of the last of its kind, cooked meat shops being almost a thing of the past. Most everything here is roasted and you will find ham, ham hocks; belly of pork complete with crackling; breast of lamb; juicy faggots and a rich and gelatinous brawn that for once is a natural dusty gray rather than a chemically induced pink. Everything is sliced by hand so you may have to wait but do pop in, there are not many shops left like this in Britain."

Spot on, people hang around my establishment for hours waiting for his juicy faggots with their rich and gelatinous brawn to arrive ... judges, priests, members of parliament, you name 'em.