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Embrace the changing food scene

Embrace the changing food scene

The food industry is moving fast, so take the changes and run with them, says a leading Kiwi chef.

Michelin star chef and MasterChef NZ judge Josh Emmet shared his experience and observations of the local and global restaurant scene at Hospitality New Zealand’s conference in Rotorua today.

Josh asked the 250-strong audience whether fine dining was dead, and did it matter that it’s dead?

"Most people would say yes it is dead," he says, "But I don’t think it is. The landscape has changed completely but I think it’s for good. I don’t think there is ever a time when fine dining will be gone because there will always be a special occasion. And what defines fine dining, do you wear a tie, is it white linen table cloths? There are three-star Michelin restaurants around the world serving food off cruddy old tables in backwater restaurants that take hours to get to."

"Everything has changed. Nothing seems to make a lot of sense, there’s not a lot of structure and definition anymore, but I think that’s a good thing. We need to embrace it and run with it."

Emmet said globally, the dining scene has changed, with the global financial crisis being one of the biggest game changers, when account spending became a dirty word as global banking halted excessive spending on corporate entertaining.

"It’s not that people didn’t want find dining though, they were just spending less."

While there’s now an environment where food trends and ideas spread quickly throughout the world – the cronut being a good example – there are significant differences between countries in what diners want in a restaurant.

Emmet said when they bundled up the package of a Gordon Ramsay restaurant from the UK to New York, the language between the two countries proved about the only commonality.

"We learnt pretty fast that these were very different cultures, in what people wanted and how staff interacted with guests and what they ordered. You have to learn to adapt and adapt fast."

Hospitality New Zealand Deputy Chief Executive Sara Tucker says that Emmet’s experience working throughout the world, and now owning restaurants in New Zealand, has shown that adaptation is key to survival and success in the hospitality industry.

"There’s no question things change fast in this industry, and while that’s certainly frustrating, it can work to operator’s advantage if they do as Josh suggests, and embrace it. Our conference, as always, has been a great opportunity for hospitality business owners and staff to get together and share their experiences in facing the challenges that changes can bring."

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