I don’t normally talk about the competition, but with Gizzy food week kicking off tomorrow I thought I’d throw in a few cents worth on the great local foodies we should all celebrate this week.
Having been on the Gisborne hospitality scene for over 15 years, we know what it takes to stay above water in a tough industry, compounded by the unique challenges of our limited population, seasonal swings and provincial economic fortunes.
Often when I talk to customers and friends about eating out around the country and around the world, I hear enthusiasm for the latest food trends or ingredients that haven’t quite reached our corner of New Zealand. I hear of the dashing waiter who was taller, darker and handsomer or of the architectural interior of the smart new place, funded by a celebrity owner.
All these things are true and real and I enjoy them as much as anybody but are they any more than a holiday fling? By comparison, our local eateries, who serve you day in and day out for the rest of the year are a much more monogamous relationship. Anybody who’s been married for a while knows things are different in a long term relatonship, you may come to take the good for granted and focus on the flaws. Just be sure that the Ponsonby resident probably sees our empty parking spaces in a different light
At Frank and Albie’s we often discuss the tension between ‘healthy eating’, the wholefood movement and the public demand for buttery, sugary baking. Last year we reduced the butter and sugar in our Brioche recipe and which was met with outrage and dissatisfaction, so we put the butter back.
Being a place that sells hand-made sandwiches and fresh salad, we sometimes get labelled as a ‘healthy’ place. That has never been the primary aim for Frank and Albie’s. We’re just here to keep you sustained through the working week, but because we make our own food and because we do it everyday, we don’t need preservatives, additives or flavour enhancers, we use the ingredients you’d use at home including cream, butter, sugar, oil, flour (contains gluten!). Does that make it healthy? Answer, sometimes but you’ve got to make your own call.
Reading the Gisborne Herald challenge to go junk free in June struck a chord. The Cancer society challenge to quit your own choice of ‘junk’ for a month is a great way to start a conversation around the foods we choose to eat (or sell) so we bounced some words around the kitchen and came up with the idea to ask people to forego their Frank and Albie’s Brioche and to donate that money to the Junk Free June fund instead. To help nudge people in the right direction we’re going to reduce by half our brioche bake each day in June. If all those unbaked brioche convert to donations, they would amount to more than the total money raise in the district for last year’s Junk free June. We’ll also back the challenge by donating the cost of the unused ingredients for every ‘unmade’ brioche.
We’re not saying that brioche is junk food, but asking the question “do you really need that treat more than the Cancer Society needs your money?”
If you’ve been in to our Ballance Street store this week you’ll have noticed we’ve moved our coffee machine and we’re liking the result.
Making coffee for the public is hard work and often thankless. The expectation from some customers can be so intense that staff are driven to tears. I’ve never hidden that our staff mean more to us than our customers so to see the effects of stress and pressure on successive skilled, hard working, dedicated people has become too much. We’ve flipped the machine to face the wall so that we can safely ignore the dagger eyes and concentrate on the coffee. They are working on it and you’ll get your coffee when it’s ready.
You can spend a few minutes watching that process in action. You’ll hear the grinder, see the tamp, the extraction and the split second when great extraction becomes over extraction. Count the moves, multiply by hundreds of time per day and you’ll see how hard those barista are working.
Having removed the physical barrier of the machine, you can converse face to face as equals. You’re busy when you’re working and so are they. If you’re a socially well adjusted human you’ll see when they’re ready to talk, to hand you your coffee with a smile and to appreciate that you chose to entrust your coffee to them. You’ll also appreciate that they might have plenty of other things to do and today, ‘cheers’ might be all you’re going to get.
The barista is not your slave, they are your friend. Step up and collect your coffee.