Written by Billy Gallagher, Honourary Life President of the World Association of Chefs Societies and South African Chefs Association, and the Editor of Culinary Artist. Billy passed away on the 19th of May 2016, and you can read more about this iconic chef and mentor by clicking here

I had lunch with Oliver Twist last week. It was grueling.

I remember as a youngster, we used to say if you read it in the newspaper it must be true. Today, we say that if it’s on the label it could be suspect especially if you look at the hullabaloo created by the recent meat scandal, not only in the UK but also here in good old SA. Being in the industry, we all know a few tricks of the trade. However, what is happening with the addition of suspect meat appears to be pure fraud.

So do you know the difference between beef and donkey, goat, horsemeat, and, not to forget, kangaroo? It’s pretty difficult to determine without the assistance of the laboratory. Do we really know what we are eating? Chances are that we don’t trust the supplier to deliver what he/she is supposed to and not to improvise or, more to the point, rob the customer.

Technologists at Stellenbosch University gave us an insight on what we really are buying when they analysed various meat samples, and I am sure this shocked a lot of South Africans in the process.

The whole issue becomes more clouded when you take someone’s religious beliefs and abuse them by adding ingredients that were known to be incorrect, yet not declared to the customer. Coming from the United Kingdom, many years ago you would consider a typical Sunday lunch in Wales to be a roast leg of lamb, baby carrots, green beans, roast potatoes and, of course, mint sauce. Today the chances are that the leg of lamb comes from New Zealand, the carrots from Guernsey, the roast potatoes from Holland, and as we all know, the green beans from Kenya. I am not sure where the mint sauce comes from. It just illustrates how food is moving around the world, affecting what we once called seasonal fruits and vegetables and local produce.

Do we blame it on mass-market production, or anything just to get cheaper prices? We know that price plays a big role in the purchasing debate. However, at times buying what you think you are paying for is one thing and getting something completely different still sounds crooked to me.

The local farmer and the local butcher need to come back into our purchasing manuals. Promoting local produce and local industry that you know and trust is one of the best ways to ensure quality produce.

Is it time for the hospitality industry to have a long look at where it gets its food items from and jointly work together to ensure that the word sustainable is part of our culinary culture.

*Article taken from The Culinary Artist, Issue 1

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