Australians are suffering from Masterchef Syndrome. Thanks to the influx of high-rating cooking shows, we now expect gourmet cooking, whether we’re at home or at a restaurant -- and many of us won’t settle for less.
But what about those of us still craving home comforts? The sad reality is fewer pubs and even few restaurants are catering for the ‘bangers and mash’ crowd.
Celebrity chef Curtis Stone, who's in Sydney to launch his restaurant Share on Princess Cruises, said the first thing he does when he’s home is find a good meat pie.
“When it comes to food whether it’s a great taco or pie, or fish and chips -- or something gastronomic from Aria -- it’s all fantastic and there should be a place for all types. But there’s a special place for food that is super simple. Never under estimate the power of comfort food,” Stone told The Huffington Post Australia.
“The influence of shows like Masterchef has been very positive. If you think about a lot of the traditional pub grub, much of it was probably taken out of the freezer and thrown into the deep fryer.
"But there should be a nice medium, particularly when it comes to pubs. A mixture of gourmet and tradition is a good thing as we see Australian tastes maturing and moving with the times.”
Trend forecaster Michelle Newton said one reason why we’re hard pushed to find good-old bangers and mash at our local pub is because more people are expecting high quality food.
“Some pubs have done a great job in creating incredible gourmet menus. But many of us go to a pub wanting nostalgic food. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to reach for mac and cheese, burger and fries, bangers and mash.," she said.
"You need simple menu items so people can hark back to comfort food. But, on the other hand, we prefer a modern twist. We say yes to nostalgia but, these days we need it to be healthy or slightly exotic. We’re becoming difficult to please.
“There are start-ups like Kitchit, that allow you to have a personal chef cooking a three-course dinner party at your home. Dinner Lady will deliver restaurant-quality meals. The rise of the celebrity chef has had a huge influence on the Australian palate.”
The ‘gourmetisation' of Australian food even extends to kids lunch boxes. Hundreds of mothers are posting photographs on social media of their child’s fabulous lunch – leading to guilt-ridden mothers questioning the merits of the Vegemite sandwich.
“Those mothers posting photos of fancy lunch boxes --they’re not kidding anybody! We all know this isn’t realistic. Social media allows us to project what we want people to believe. It’s a reflection of their own brand -- me,” Newton said.
“Mum might be falling apart in the kitchen but, according to her Instagram feed, she's creating love-heart shaped sandwiches that the kids probably don’t even want to eat or prefer to swap or share with their friends. But anything that inspires kids to want sushi instead of KFC -- even better."
Newton said we're also seeing the rise of the sharing economy extending to food, with companies like Eatro, which allows people to share homemade food with their neighbours, gaining popularity.
Stone's restaurant Share is based on the very Australian concept of food sharing.
“I like to use my Dad as an example when I explain the concept of sharing food. He’s a bit stuck in his ways," Stone said.
"When Dad eats out with me, he usually orders his favourite dish; whatever he’s comfortable with. Then I’ll order something and we’ll share. So he’ll be nudged in the direction of trying something different."
“Share is a restaurant that’s designed to get diners to communicate, interact and share choices with each other. Diners will be asked to choose three dishes and you literally share it around the table. It’s not only very Australian, it’s a great way to get people to taste dishes they might not have chosen on their own.
"I think Australia has a beautiful, casual attitude when it comes to food. Everything is more personal here whereas dining overseas seems more of a performance. Here, the waiter will still have a joke with you and that's what Australians do so well -- they take their food super seriously but themselves? Not so much!"