According to Pagina de media, ProTv has announced the new Masterchef jury. I was a juror myself for two seasons and I enjoyed it. I commend their choice and each member of the new jury. Samuel Le Torrillec is a very talented chef, with a strong contribution to the creation of modern Romanian cuisine. Liviu Popescu has built a solid and impressive business having cooking at its core. That alone should suffice when it comes to his credentials in judging a dish. My friend Razvan Exarhu has learned about cooking the hard way, in his own bistro. We’ve cooked together, we’ve eaten together and we’ve reviewed together so many dishes, that I can rest assured about the show’s future. Regarding the comments on how much of a celebrity chef one should be in order to be part of a cooking contest jury, be it for amateur cooks, like Masterchef, or for professional chefs, you should take into account that, at international level, the show’s format is not limited to a jury panel made up exclusively of professional chefs, it also includes restaurateurs ( see Joe Bastianich), foodies, cookbook authors, various gastronomy professionals. Even the famed Michelin guide, which awards the stars sought after by countless restaurateurs and professional chefs alike, is put together on the basis of judgment imparted by several people, of whom only handful are chefs. Therefore, when in the kitchen, we should pay attention to our pots and pans; while on the couch, we should focus more on not chocking on popcorn while enjoying (or not) a TV show. Godspeed, Masterchef!
One of the roots of the deprofessionalization phenomenon happening in today’s Romania can be traced in the country’s history, way back when the saying “The tricks of the trade are stolen, not learned!” Was discovered, adopted and implemented on a large scale. Romanians turned out to be an incredibly at this, too proud to beg, too dumb to steal properly (this is from one of Sting’s songs, which obviously, is not about my rant, but it seems to come in handy). The saying “The tricks of the tradeare stolen”, which can still be heard way too often, reflects our failure to provide and to demand education. Mentoring is as good as non-existent and graduates are, exactly as I was twenty years ago, perfectly unprepared to produce any added value whatsoever. We’ve all been stealing the tricks of the trade until the trade is almost gone. Anything that could be salvaged seems to come at a high price nowadays. Most likely because it is. Unfortunately we can’t mass-produce professionals, cheaper by the dozen. Or mentors, by the same token.
No breaking news from Crete. Yes, we enjoy thriller stories, cliffhangers or stories whose beginnings hold more surprises than the end ( if told by Tarantino), but lately we seem to be chasing cheap thrills and drama. Instead ,today I would like to present you with a story lacking drama, but filled with innocence. While in Crete, I’ve met a young Romanian who works there and who offered me ten minutes from his life. Check out my conversation with Florin Fotache, student from Iasi, in the new episode from Out of the kitchen.
Patsiris is closed on Monday, starting with 1922. The current owner rented the place six years ago and works together with his family in the small tavern near the entry to Kokkini Hani. They all have blond hair like German people, they speak English with a pleasant accent and they cook very well. I’ve eaten there three times, while I’ve tried the food at other taverns. I’ve eaten well everywhere, including at the hotel (a thing of wonder considering the high rate of failed experiences with hotel food), but nothing compares to Patsiris. Sea-tasting fish, perfectly fried calamari, fried pork sautéed with onion, bell pepper, wine and olive oil, meaty anchovies, sharp cheese and a brilliant tzatziki. One can tell it’s not the best of times, that there are few tourists and that “The economy is booming”- not, but one can also tell that people make the most of what they have. And there’s your answer to the question “Why is it so difficult, if not almost impossible, to find a Patsiris in the Romanian tourism?”. If you haven’t guessed it already, there it is: we have too much of everything, and that dilutes both our common sense and our imagination. My theory is validated by my experience on the Romanian seaside over the past two years and also by my experience during each drive I take from Bucharest to Cluj, either through Prahova Valley, or through the Olt Valley. And no, I don’t have any expectations. I’ll stop myself short of stating the obvious and I’ll report back when I have better news. Good news is when the bad food and the poor service are the exception, not the rule.
I found this topic discussed by Lucian Mândruță in Ziarul Financiar, about some entrepreneur’s drama that he wants to work, but he has nobody to work with. It’s the same drama every services or production entrepreneur has, and I think it’s only partly because the social security provided by the State encourages idleness or encourages the ‘I’ll take this from the state and make that on the black market and everything will be fine’ type of thinking. I realize in my own entrepreneurial shoes that work isn’t what it used to be. Somehow, my mother’s generation, who is exhausted after 40 years of work, is capable to work for minimum wage, without protesting, but also lacking the efficiency from 20 years ago (please excuse my lack of sensitivity, but let’s face it, the body has its limitations). At the same time, the 20-30 year-old generations seem to not find any motivation in the salary, or in the work environment, or professional evolution. I already encountered that dozens of times. I bitterly concluded that the person asking ‘how much does it pay?’ before even sending in the resume will not stick with you until the end of the season. I bitterly concluded that when dealing with employees, doing good will get you in trouble, or worse, I came to believe that the way my bosses treated me from 17 to 30, when I was an employee, was the right way to go. All those years, nobody wanted my opinion, nobody explained to me HOW to do, but WHAT to do, the salary was fixed and sometimes it didn’t come, taxes were paid in a similar way in many cases, and lack of performance was punished by being taken out. The phrase ‘there’s 10 like you waiting at the door’ was as common as ‘good morning’. I feel frustrated because although I told myself for the past 10 years that I would not treat my employees the way my employers or direct bosses treated me, I came around to missing them. Today, I feel that the odds of starting a business that I can share with my employees are close to nil.