Recently, one of my favourite bloggers (who is also a chef) recently asked why profit is a dirty word. It reiterates the age old one-liner from anyone working in hospitality, “Doing it for the love,” against the much envied position of doing-it-for-the-love-with-profit.
Let me clear it up from my perspective here, there is no pride in carrying plates, there is no pride in playing human Tetris, being bullied during the whole service and being called a “crowd controller,” managing peoples egoes, pushing food around on plates, washing dishes or worrying about food costs versus labour costs, hours, how many ice machines a business really needs or questioning your own creative input on an industry facing overdramatisation, romanticism and a media glut, and somehow satisfying yourself through self-actualisation and education in making strangers happy through turning a basic need into a want. But you know what, bitches gotta live and in reality, no one starts a business without knowing they are potentially getting a slice of the proverbial pie.
It is no secret that the people most drawn to hospitality are those with emotional problems, social dysfunctions and tendencies to party hard and fast all the time. But, it is in the rare moments (that are usually captured by a feelingsy lisped man from the UK) that these social retards (and I also refer to myself here) feel a sense of accomplishment from completing a menial and lacklusture task, that the “normal” people sigh and accept that even rage-filled speed freaks with a penchant for hedonism with too much of a disposable income can be savants, too. Without religion, everyone is special.
To create a point of difference, the mind wanders, expands and looks at appropriating ideas that have been created in other spaces. The business-minded look at bringing the sense of urgency and exclusivity through the notion of a temporary space and a pop-up is born. To me, pop-up is the macaron, is the tapas, is the bar-dining, is the new black, is the old black. However, a couple of weeks ago, a couple of friends of mine decided to be renagades and create something entirely illegal, without licence and spread it through Facebook. For the first time in months, I was interested in writing about a dining experience because there were no bookings, no care of allergies, no menu and a complete lack of organisiation.
Chaos can be a beautiful thing.
The meat was all from one of the last remaining butchers (the way that you can define an old-school butcher) in Melbourne and the prices varied from evening to evening. The food came from what they felt like cooking and who gives a fuck if they accidentally charged you for someone elses bottle of wine? You’re sitting in someone’s home kitchen, watching them sweat while downing #fakePeronis and watching them realise that the industry is a real bitch.
I would also like to let you know that I actually waited 5 hours to dine one night, so all you whiney bitches complaining about the double Chin, you signed up for it, so suck it up, Princess.
The food varied from simple to the more considered. I got the impression that the further into the week the boys got, the more frantic they became, and therefore simpler the food was. It does not count it to be any less tasty, but when you’re hearing stories where they capped the covers for the night because they ran out of tomatoes from the garden, the experience is so unprofessional it is special.
Dishes varied from eye fillet (done rare, and there is nothing you can say about it, dickhole) with a green peppercorn and cream sauce with potato gratin, to Roman-style tripe (sorry, photos look like third-trimester abortions), to lamb shanks salt-baked in vine leaves to the carpaccio pictured above. With the resrictions of running out of a home kitchen, the food was pared back, lacking in pretention and became the expressions of the boys themselves, rather than their delusions of grandeur.
Admitting you don’t have enough food isn’t a crime; trying to make it seem that it was intended and you’re an asshole for being a greedy cunt is.
Friends were called in to make desserts because running a day-to-day menu with entree, main and dessert is a big task and photographers turned into dish pigs. Girlfriends and sisters became hosts and waiters, and god bless them for not numbering every seat in the house.
Admittedly, though, darkness fell through some lack of organisation, thinking about their lack of overheads, hearing about the number of covers they had done per night, their terrible tracking system and the fact that their food costs were so low due to the provenance of their produce.
In theory, I should have loved it, but by principal I had to question the motivations.
Love vs money or love=money?
In another example, with slightly more legality, less organisation and only a handful of blocks away, The Burrito Van opens its pop-up in Odessa Gallery after a couple return from their drunken Southern Californian adventure.
At $6 a taco and $10 a burrito, my face already whinces and I hear @expat_erin screaming “AIDS” from the other side of the street. If you don’t already know, she’s my Southern Californian, honorary Mexican friend who makes a meanest Mexican this side of the equator.
The above taco came from The Burrito Van. Their lack of organisation extended to taking an order from someone also named Jess who was just before me and not asking me (the second Jess) for a last name or assigning me with a number. Maths was also not their strong point.
With no option to add the condiments myself, I was forced to have my fish taco (yes, I also bought it for the vagina reference) with chipotle mayo and guacamole. Their special of the day was ground beef with mushrooms. @expat_erin’s immediate response was, “What the fucking fuck, there are no mushrooms in Mexico unless it comes from a turd because it is the moisest place in that motherfucking desert. Mushrooms have no place in Mexican food.”
I didn’t take a photo of the burrito because it was wolfed down so quickly by the person next to me. To be honest, it looked like the flaccid penis of that guy from film class that you had pity-sex with because they looked like they were going to kill themselves after the screening of the noir film. I’m no expert on burritos, but Erin claims that they should be as thick as your thigh and you should “still be chewing on that shit four days later.”
I left this gallery hole damning this Mexican pop-up fad to be serving AIDSRITTOS before bidding my friends farewell who left to top up on burgers.
The difference between these two experiences is that the motivations of profit is more extreme and transparent in the latter experience (especially when the cost of both experiences are only a couple of dollars difference). Without claiming to be anything or making promises, creativity didn’t put the diner at the ass-end of the deal at the week-long revolving-menu pop-up. The idea of profit in the under-dog Australian mentality of what our society is built on makes us feel as if we, as a body of convicts and run-aways, have sold out to The Man. It is as if saying that if you are turning a profit, creativity is no longer yours and you have surrendered your soul to “the other.”
Not to open up Pandora’s box, but with simple desires and motivations to live a more comfortable life, perhaps profit only becomes a dirty word when you consider the lack of integrity that the original idea was built on and the level of transparency in the business.