Thursday, September 21, 2006

But what about the food?

So, Fifteen Melbourne has just been launched. Young Jamie has been entertaining locals by playing his drums on stage, filling a sizable theatre while his mate Toby has dug in for the hard work of stopping some scrubby youths from poisoning the Melbourne glitterati. The Victorian foodblog world is abuzz.

But I don’t get it.

All reviews I have read of the flagship London Fifteen is that the food is both average and overpriced. Now all of a sudden we have 1,000s of people waiting on hold, attempting to make a precious reservation through one of the “friendly booking agents” on the recently released 1300 number. They are happy to wait weeks or in some cases months, for a seat at an unproven restaurant. Not just that, food cooked up by work experience kids putting their sticky fingers into the mash. This is just so not Melbourne.

This is a city where a frothy latte is the death of a cafe. Where the Golden Arches failed to make a go of a restaurant on Lygon Street. Where even preschoolers can critique a babychino.

Here’s a tip. Save some time and money and check out the student catering from William Angliss. Ok, so you won’t bump into the face that launched a thousand cookbooks (and faux Essex accents), but you are still supporting young people trying to find their way in a tough industry.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the idea of Fifteen. The apprentices are barely employable under normal circumstances. I doubt they'd be the sort of prospective students the likes of William Anglis would accent.

Give Fifteen a break. By the way, it is not owned by Jamie Oliver - but it probably pays Oliver a royalty fee for using his name. It is in fact owned by Melburnians, including Oliver's chef buddy Puddock (?). There's a reason it is expensive - a large portion of its income goes towards training next year's batch of unemployables.

3:18 pm  
Blogger Ed Charles said...

I was going to Fifteen but then the idea of booking weeks in advance and TV cameras made me lose interest. They could charge nromal prices at Fifteen and just plough all the profits back into the scheme.

Funnily enough we just went to a degustation meal at the catering college at Footscray. Five glasses of wine and five courses 50 bucks and no bloody TV cameras. it was brilliant.

4:59 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Hello anonymous, I'm sorry you've taken offence. The reality is this country has less glitzy and equally as worthy schemes which don't seem to need to charge the big bucks. For example, with asylum seekers starting a catering business

Yes the Fifteen concept is 'worthy', but I strongly suspect a lot of the profits are diverted into administration etc and comparatively little over all goes into training. You also have to keep in mind the reality TV aspect, where some very vulnerable individuals can be exploited in the name of entertainment. As Ed also voiced, the money made from the program alone would likely fund the cost of training.

But getting back to basics - is the food up to Melbourne standards and is the fussy public going to spend their dining dollars there if it follows suit in the (lack of) value for money stakes?

5:32 pm  
Anonymous kitchen hand said...

The thrust of your argument is absolutely right. Apprentice and trade-based training - in all kinds of occupations - has been severely downgraded by governments over many years. It is ironic that its apparent 'renaissance' - which is nothing of the sort - is little more than a media event that people follow like a bunch of sheep.

7:29 pm  
Blogger AY said...

In saying all that you have said, you ignore the most salient aspect of Fifteen - its marketing prowess.

Yes, there are plenty of others silently doing their bit for the community and the disadvantaged. But they do not get enough funding simply because people (in this digital/media-obsessed age), do not feel any affinity with the programs.

That's where Fifteen is different. Yes, it costs a lot to market, funds that would otherwise be better used on the training per se. But don't take their central altruistic value away. Through Fifteen's popularity in the UK, Jamie Oliver was able to garner at least 2B pounds from the British government for his subsequent venture into the school lunch crisis.

Fifteen is doing a bloody good job. If they need to be a media whore to get their point across, so be it.

You're no better for criticising them.

9:04 am  
Blogger AY said...

Look, I am sorry for the previous rude outburst.

But, the fact of the matter is, Fifteen Melbourne will probably improve community awareness and support.

If the prices are too high, the fundamental theories of economics will set Fifteen Melbourne right. They, like anyone else, can't ask for something others don't voluntarily want to pay for.

9:40 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I love people who apologise for outbursts :)

I'm not knocking the whole Oliver bandwagon, in fact I thought his work with school dinners was inspiring and fantastic use of his media leverage.

However, I don't get the feeling that everyone is hurrying down to Fifteen to support young people who have been disadvantaged - but perhaps I could stand outside and do a poll to get some hard data on it.

I've not been following the TV program, so I haven't bought into the hype. As I said before, I tend to think that the vulnerable are exploited by reality television. I wonder how those who don't make it will feel when they realise the whole country now knows they have had a drug problem, been abused or whatever else has been revealed. Or if someone is shown to have anger management issues, will it be the final nail in their coffin to never become employable?

But the point I keep making is - will the proof be in the pudding (and entree and main)? Because when it comes down to it - Melbourne is a foodie place.

5:36 pm  
Blogger mellie said...

Oooh...I have mixed feelings about your post AOF. Are you taking the very Australian attitude of pulling down tall poppies?

Fact of the matter is if Tobie doesn't maintain a high standard of food at a reasonable price, the dining public will cease to patronise his establishment. Melbournites have and always will be discerning.

That being said we have to at least give it a fair go and not tear it down just because it comes attached to a reality TV show. If that means waiting half an hour on a booking line, making an advance reservation and then trying it out before making assumptions, so be it.

I guess I just take my hat off to the juggernaut that aims to pull a finger out of the proverbial underprivledged arse.

I do agree on one point, that being the depiction of a couple of kids with "anger management issues." What happens to them now they have been branded "too troubled" by even the shows standards? Hmm.

Anyway. I have a booking in a couple of weeks time, and I very much look forward to seeing what they come up with. When it concerns food, I'm always up for a new experience :-)

7:13 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you AOF, and have had similar conversations with friends prior to your post. I suspect that a few months after the media buzz has died down, you will find that "Fifteens" fundamentals of quality and price will just not cut it for Melbourne.
On a positive note;
1. Some Entertainment is delivered.
2. Some kids get an amazing opportunity.
3. Some C-Grade celebs and socialites get a chance to be on TV.

For value and to support trainee chefs in Melbourne, give me William Angliss or VUT anytime.

9:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

look, i love jamie oliver's work.
however, there has been a lot of hype about this restaurant. melburnians are definitely v v discerning about where they eat so if fifteen starts charging high prices for average food, it won't last long, no matter who it's attached to. i understand the income goes towards training but.. i'm not sure how long this would hold up in a place like melbourne- where people have so much other choice.

if you want to support disadvantaged people by supporting their restaurants- go to the moroccan soup bar on st george's rd, fitzroy, where female refugees cook, serve and smile. not to mention the food is FABULOUS and the atmosphere is gorgeous. i suggest getting there at 6pm to line up, otherwise be prepared for a 30 min ++ wait.

there are others around... if you care to look for them.

anyways.. that's my two cents!

7:38 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Totally agree anon about the moroccan soup bar. I did a review on it at

7:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am fifteen years old. i watched fifteen melbourne right from the beginnig. i found it inspiring to watch and it made me want to dort myself out as well. allot of crap has gone on lately in my life with school, home, etc, but after watching jamie's show, it made me thin about what i really want in life. it made me get off my backside and start from scratch. although i live 1000km away from melbourne, i wanted to try fifteen for myself (booked in for next friday!!!). i also thought that while i was down there i could get some work exsperiense in a restaurant, too. there was one problem... MONEY!!! I had two months to save up $1000 which would pay for lunch, accom, travel, etc. i got a pmflet run twice a week and you know what.. i am leaving next wednesday with $1000 in my bank. it was hard work to earn all that money, but if you strive for what you want, you will get there in the end! also, AOF, I don't like the way you talk down about the trainees at fifteen in your first post. it might not be intentional, but its not veyr nice. those guys should be congratulated for turning there lifes around and inspiring kids like myself to do something with there lives.

10:52 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Anon - what you say is very fair and I take that on board. (Assuming that it was a genuine post).

8:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i just got back from melbourne. fifteen was awsome!!!!! i loved it. the food was great, the service was great and gues what? im booking in again to go back in april. cant wate but i gues i better start saving again lol.
work was amazing!!! i had so much fun. who knew chefs were so crazy. im sure i will fit in well!!!
weh i was there i also got to catch up for a drink with one of the trainees. to heer wat they go thru and how much hard work that went into makin something of this opp. is so inspiring!!!
and yes, aof, i was genuine! lol.

9:15 pm  

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