Buffets... reflection of the world crisis

It has been a very long time since I have left my thoughts down. Great opportunity to speak from a new perspective.


For a long time I have felt hospitality needs changing, sometimes voicing my thoughts and vision has not been enough. This world crisis will change the way we interact, it will question the way we live, how choices affect others, as it always has been, but we have been educated to be selfish and not see it.

We are all connected and indeed we need a change. This is first in my agenda "Buffets"





Once I got a massive food poisoning for eating from a buffet. I was already a young chef, I understood the risks of  it. Hey, a lot of people is eating at the same time, I didn't think: the chef didn't wash his hands or the chef forget to check the content of the container, or the chef didn't cook it properly.

I just went for my breakfast in my all inclusive package.


To explain my point, I will break it down in a few points...


Profit


Buffets are not that profitable, but it does attract people and seems like is a good deal, which keep the customers coming. The psychological aspect of a display of "fresh food" can make you feel hungry but fuller faster after a few bites; people indeed start eating with the eyes, this has been a saying in the kitchen since I can remember.

Around the world buffets can be displays of humble Continental breakfast where there will be a selection of bread or pastries, some coffee, juice, fruit and maybe some protein like cheese and meat. Others are full displays of food art with a vast variety of section divided by country, hot, cold, sweet etc. Places like Las Vegas people queue to eat in this famous buffets. Might sound like a good offer to have your breakfast included but if we wanted to be responsible and sustainable we should say no thanks!


Health and Safety


I am so glad Corona Virus might make my dream come true to Health and Safety regulations bans Buffet style displays. A few months ago I actually said the words. My dream is to finish with  the "buffet concept" even if I don't see it in this lifetime. I actually can see this happening.


Viruses don't need a host to make you sick. They live in surfaces and as you have heard for many days. Imagine there is this beautiful display of pastries. One person didn't wash their hands after he/she sneezed, he takes the tongs and takes a pastry. Not necessary that person sneezed directly to the pastries but it actually left the virus in the tongues. Now after this each person that touches the tongues will carry the virus at their hands.


The current information we have of how to deal with food display from the food safety point of view, regulates from farm to fork meaning, where is the product coming from to the final destination. Let's take the example of cheese.


I am small Bed and breakfast housing, I have for my guests a small table with a breakfast buffet that is served from 7-10 am. I am the only one working in the kitchen so everything has to be ready by 6:50 am. At the table I have 3 types of pastries (croissant, pain au chocolat and pain au raisin). 2 types of juice (orange and apple) a jug of whole milk, water for tea and coffee; a platter of cured meat and cheese. 


I buy the cheese from a responsible supplier that follows all regulations. His van has a fridge that controls the temperature below 8°C. 


I take the cheese and I place it in an area of the fridge designated for only dairy products. 

When I set up my table the cheese is the last thing I will place. 



Here is where it gets complicated, legally you can display the cheese if is refrigerated and you can keep below 8°C. But I am a small business and the cheese will be at room temperature. Legally the cheese can stay outside for 90 minutes and I can put it back in the fridge and be used tomorrow.

I can give you some many examples of how wrong this can go.


So far I am in lines with the regulations but it doesn't mean I can control 100% of the environment.


WASTAGE!!!!




For me, this is the main goal, avoid wastage. Yes, health and safety is crucial, specially today, but just imagine as well people that are not having access to food because others hoard. Is not a healthy cycle.


I have worked in places where I have seen many 40 Lt bins full of food that has been displayed in buffet. I have always felt like I am a sinner after having to put food in the bin. Equally might have not being safe to eat because it was exposed to temperature and people for a long period of time. Here is the grand question. A tomato that took the farmer to prepare the land, seed the plant, make it grow for at least 4 months, then the tomato to produce fruit, then the fruit to ripe, the farmer now picks the fruit, sells it and now is sent to the vegetable supplier. The chef preps the tomato in a delicious salad, that most likely will be put in the bin not to be eaten.


Please tell me that this is making you think about just a few examples of food wastage. Like in the B & B breakfast that cheese might end up in the bin.


People are demanding more transparency for where the products are made, what the cows are fed with, how they keep the chicken healthy? do they have a space to walk around. Is the red pepper full of pesticides? Should the onions come in a plastic bag? Guess what, we are all part of the problem. I will break it with this story.



I was very blessed to meet a tomato producer in Sicily. I honestly imagined a field of tomatoes, being kissed the sun looking at some beautiful view. Well, it wasn't exactly that, his plantations where all in green houses, all very controlled of the environment and pests. The tomato was grown in a little box made of coconut shell that kept the right amount of water and drainage. According to the time of year, sun hours, moisture in the air and weather they will adjust the amount of water. They would have bumble bees that would help to pollinate the vines. (Extremist Vegans that won't eat this kind of tomatoes because they exploit bees) I see as a win-win, bumble bees are just benefiting from this as the farmer.


The result of this tomato was so regular, all the sizes of the tomatoes where the same, they produced about the same amount of fruit. A well oiled machine. The farmer had another view, he was hoping the market wouldn't demand such perfection. He asked the question, why would you (as a customer) require for me to send my tomatos with the vine. Someone answer why if I want to roasted and served them on top of a steak?

By sending the tomatoes with the vine, you are adding specially packaging (bigger) and also more unnecessary weight.


Wow! This has been a conversation that has hunt me. If our demands were only for our need to eat. We would be even paying less money. Instead we are demanding making food like our current state of mind, all for how it looks for the Instagram photo, rather questioning if it will feed us.

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