PROBLEMS IN THE CULINARY WORLD

I have been asked to write an article on my personal opinions regarding problems/issues within the Culinary World and International Culinary Competitions.  Whilst reading my piece within this article, you must remember it is only my own personal view and no-one else.

Firstly I will give you information regarding myself:

My name is Gary Filbey and I live in England, United Kingdom.  I have been in the Catering Industry now for 53 years going way back to 1966 when leaving school.

I worked in local hotels and had an apprenticeship for 5 years, attending College on day a week to gain my City and Guilds’ Qualifications, learning English and French Cuisine.

Moving quickly forward, I have been a Chef all my life and gained many more examinations and qualifications along the way, including a Degree through Greenwich University.

Having held senior positions within the trade and also being a College Lecturer for the last 18 years of my working career, now retired and trying to enjoy my life, I can reflect on the past, present and future.

I was also very lucky to be given the opportunity way back in 1995 to travel abroad to International Competitions, starting in Malta.  I have worked and studied under some great chefs including Brian Cotterill, Ken Fraser, Rod Naylor, Kevin Viner, Panicos Hadjisymeou, Luis Alves, Martin Camilleri to name but a few.  I was taught the art of judging exhibits within Live and Static entries and for at least two years I was taught the correct way of judging competitions.  So now, after 24 years as an International Judge, I feel I can give my view in what I see today.

Competitions always used to be about the competitor – judging their performance and giving them the correct feedback as to the award gained, or reasons on how they needed to improve to gain higher levels.

Modern trends of today appear to be about Judges gaining as many medals, certificates, accolades for themselves – which, in all honesty, should never have been awarded.

Unfortunately it appears that today you no longer need the required qualifications of training and developing your culinary skills through a real working environment.  You can just attend a 2-day Seminar and be given the accolade of an ‘International Judge’.   This means you could be a brain surgeon, football player, gardener, etc and after attending a seminar you will be a qualified to judge.  So you do not have to be a trained chef to qualify for judging.  You could even be in the trade as Management or as a Barman, Wine Waiter, Waiter, write Books, be a Television Host, etc – of which several of these trades are and have been allowed into the Judging World.

Is this correct?  In my view it is not and should never be allowed.  It appears that anyone can wear a Chef’s Jacket, have medals and ribbons around their necks and look like ‘a bunch of clowns’.  You only have to look on Social Media to see what I mean.  It is full of fake Judges, cheap and nasty medals and certificates that mean nothing, just given for the sake of giving.

So, at the end of the day, I look back and ask myself why I have spent over 50 years working so hard to develop my knowledge, gaining new skills, as at the end of my Judging Career all I wanted was to give back to others and pass on the correct training and develop the skills required to make our trade great again.  Younger chefs of today are our future but they cannot succeed without guidance and help along the start of their chosen career.

Years and time have changed our outlook on life, cultures, nationalities, fast food outlets – the requirements of life itself.

Unfortunately, in many countries, gaining a qualification or two at College makes various students think they leave with Executive Chef Status and are proud to have it embroidered on the Chefs’ Jackets and, thinking that because they work in a Café, Bistro, Take-Away, this gives them a licence to wear highly decorated Chefs’ Jackets with their Name and Rank plastered all over it.

These days, everything in the preparation and execution of food in many outlets has become so simple even a child can operate the said recipe – open a packet, tin, take something from the fridge or freezer.  Long gone are the days of preparing good wholesome foods like Mum used to make.  Not so many housewives can spend the time to prepare a proper healthy meal nowadays.  Families need to have Mum and Dad both working to make ends meet and the only way in which a meal can be produced for the table is fast food products.  The world talks about obesity – no wonder!  All you have to do is look at the ingredients contained in packets, jars, tins, etc.  Fatty foods from Take-Aways do not help, but I guess we are all to blame for that as some of them can be very good and tasty.

Having said all of the previous, it would be wrong of me to criticise all Establishments and Chefs.  There are, of course, some very good Chefs that care about our trade and produce excellent food on a daily basis.

There are some fabulous establishments, even though they are totally over-priced, but you pay the bill for the name and popularity of the restaurant, not always the food.  However, in the everyday world, and looking at the average amount of money that families have to spend on food and the luxury of dining out, probably this does not happen that often.  Only the rich can afford to eat/dine in high class establishments.  It is a lot easier to pop down to the Chinese, Indian, Fish and Chip Shop – take it from one who knows!

During my judging life, when giving feedback to the younger chefs of today, I have always suggested they go back to basics – go and talk to Mum or Grandma – and gain and produce the great recipes once used in every household.  They might be time-consuming, but they are healthy and full of nutrition, all fresh produce.  The amount of hours they spent every day was amazing but proper food was put on the table.

So, to end, please remember these are only my personal views.

Now, after 54 years within the trade and gained my stripes so to speak, I look at Facebook on a daily basis, observing yet another Society, Federation, Organisation etc popping up from nowhere – not recognised globally, only within each country.

Once again, back in the day, to become an Executive Chef, Head Chef or even a Sous Chef, you had to have years of experience to be honoured with the title.  The only Masters of anything was Master Baker – not Master Chef.

So, if I had one question to ask and get a positive answer it would be:

How can a Chef or a Make-Believe Chef with either a good CV or fake CV become a Master Chef at the age of anything between 20-35 years old?

The only answer I can find is Super Hero – Well Done but Impossible!  How can you ever get that title with only spending a few years within our trade?

Lack of knowledge, understanding, experience within High Class Establishments – you will get caught out eventually and the sooner the better.

There are so many false and imitation Societies these days it is unbelievable and, in most, if you are prepared to pay the entry fees, you can gain membership.  Anyone can forge a Professional CV these days – when and whom checks it?