Australian Functional Ingredients – by Vic Cherikoff

From Global citizen to Australian of the Year nominee

My global travels over the last two months has slowed my usual occasional blog down to a trickle but I want to describe some outcomes of my end-of-May trip to the USA in the hope that some of the things I learned might help you in your work too.

From Germany, I traveled to France, the UK and then changed my plans. Instead of visiting my distributors in Belgium and The Netherlands (now delayed a few more months) I went to the National Restaurant Association (NRA) show in Chicago.

NRA show

This was a great show for US restaurateurs to visit with everything a chef or food outlet owner could want; equipment for the kitchen, bar or front of house, ready-made foods, from finger foods, soups, meats, finished dishes and on to desserts, breads, ice cream and other add ons. Then there were marketing ideas, marketing gurus and marketing managers and specialists of every kind. One thing was very clear: the restaurant trade in the USA sees outsourcing as the way of the future, from management to food.

And the show doesn’t end even when you head home. I am still receiving emails from the organizers with information which networks me into the exhibitors because I logged in at the show and created a database of companies I wanted to visit. The organizers match my needs to other companies which I may not have met and the networking continues, months later. Now that’s service and how much better than the exhibition companies here in Australia who take your money, offer too many shows and expect you to cough up year after year for a piddling attendance and little ROI?

I guess it’s the principle of do what you’re good at and recognize that you can’t be good at everything. Once you work out what you’re good at, optimize everything you do, then leverage it by forming alliances, joint ventures and host-beneficiary relationships to gain the maximum value for your clients and yourself. I love the American success mindset and I see, learn and harness more of it every time I go there.

I spoke to a mob of people about my authentic Australian ingredients and created a ton of work for months to come.

I also caught up with ex-Google Chef, Charlie Ayers who was involved in the Chefs for Humanity, Art of Food show at the Art Institute of Chicago. Charlie is a mover and shaker in the US and has a commitment to raising money and awareness for various causes through the Chefs for Humanity movement. I met the gorgeous Cat Cora (CFH President), the enigmatic Ming Tsai and caught up with an old acquaintance of mine, Grant MacPherson who now heads the team as Executive Chef at Steve Wynn’s casino group in Las Vegas.

Chefs for Humanity
From the left: Charlie Ayers, Martha Foose, Grant MacPherson,
Ming Tsai and Cat Cora
See the Chefs for Humanity website for more on the Chef’s Council.

Charlie took a bunch of us for a meal at Charlie Trotter’s place for which I thank him sincerely. He couldn’t have known that Mr Trotter prepared probably the most boring degustation we could possibly expect. Little wonder he didn’t even bother to say hello but disappeared before we finished an unmemorable dessert. There were courses of steamed meat with no flavour served on smears of flatulence food, no texture, no highlights and definitely no Wow factor. If that was an indication of his skill I’ll put him in the basket with so many of our own under-whelming, so-called celebrity chefs. Still. It may be unfair to judge him on just a single meal, even if there wasn’t even a glimmer of great food in ten courses.

But back to the show. It was great to see a few faces from Down Under – and from both sides of the Tasman. Kiwi pavlova company, Pavlova lights was getting good interest as was Aussie firm Australis with their home-born but American reared barramundi. I love it when our innovative businesses get amongst it in export markets. We can compete and prosper. It just needs the front to get there. However, one thing missing with the Aussie thrust was the very obvious American use of endorsements. There were celebrities of all kinds adding their assurances to American products of all sorts but none of the Down Under companies at the show utilized this clever approach.

It has led me to make an offer to all my readers:

Think about the value in using the Vic Cherikoff name for your menus, dishes, products or even your concept of an Australian cuisine. I am open to discussing endorsements and collaboration in helping you achieve the success you deserve. Call or email me before I head back to the US in August.

Vic Cherikoff - the essence of Australia

And a bit of news before it hits the presses tomorrow morning:

I have been honored to have been nominated for 2007 Australian of the Year through the Australia Day Council. I am pleased and humbled that someone shares my love for the native food industry so much that they thought of acknowledging my role in pioneering the possibility of having our own authentic Australian cuisine.

The award obviously means a great deal to those nominated and I am no different. It means the recognition of my role in realizing the benefits to the environment, agriculture and the tourism and hospitality industries. Additionally, it ratifies my belief that there are significant benefits stemming from the native Australian food (beverage and cosmaceutical) industry, benefits for remote area, farming and indigenous communities. However, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of colleagues, friends and supporters; those dedicated growers, foragers, chefs, manufacturers and foodies who share my passion for our unique flavours and the opportunities arising from inviting the world to experience the ‘essence of Australia’.

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