Much depends on dinner in this clear and compelling review of the restaurant industry by freelance writer Corey Mintz.
A former cook and restaurant critic, Mintz examines recent changes in the way we eat, many of these trends being sparked by the pandemic, while considering what might ?? and should ?? come next. ?? My quest is nothing less than figuring out how to eat restaurant food and not be a dump **, ?? he writes.
A former Torontonian now living in Winnipeg, Mintz is passionate about restaurants and the unique intoxication of a room full of strangers who eat, drink, laugh and flirt. But he also believes the food industry needs to change, and he demonstrates why and how in thematic chapters that combine thoughtful analysis, in-depth research and compelling arguments.
Many restaurants will not survive the? Throat hit? of the COVID pandemic, and those who emerge from this ordeal will either be ?? very expensive or very cheap, ?? suggests one of the book’s experts. Yet Mintz remains cautiously optimistic about the future of food, seeing this massive reset not just an opportunity but an obligation to create “a new normal that is a better normal.”
Mintz begins with the pandemic-relevant issue of third-party delivery systems, which help restaurants reach more consumers, but often defraud companies that operate on very slim margins.
It examines the culture of the restaurant’s workplace, which can combine a weirdly militaristic hierarchy ?? the traditional kitchen brigade ?? system has roots in the organization of the French army ?? with a pirate sense that kitchens operate outside the established rules. Add toxic brotherhood attitudes and the deification of “difficult”? rock star chefs, and you have workplaces rife with abuse and addiction. ?? Hospitality beats mining for the highest addiction rate of any professional field, ?? Mintz points out.
Mintz also examines the problems of unpaid or underpaid workforce in restaurants, systematic wage theft, and the problematic issue of tipping rather than paying living wages, a practice that has historical ties to the oppression during the Reconstruction era of black restaurant workers and railway porters.
It explores the new information ecosystem around food, including consumers thirsty for the latest âIt Spotâ trend? and paid influencers who take Instagram-ready photos of the latest food fad. (Charcoal Ice Cream! Donut Burgers!)
Other chapters deal with the vitality of immigrant restaurants, the growing pervasiveness of franchises, and the environmental devastation and exploitation of workers seen in the food production system.
Mintz’s writing is sometimes marked by abrupt transitions and sudden changes in tone, but that’s partly because he covers so much material. It may be specifically about the restaurant business, but this discussion inevitably brings up some big social, political, economic and ethical ideas.
For example, the concentration of cool restaurants along a pedestrianized street isn’t just happening, Mintz points out, but is the result of decades of city planning policies that help create liveable cities.
Work practices in the food industry are linked to the spread of the odd-job economy, the growing reliance on unpaid interns and an entire generation facing precarious employment, suggests Mintz.
And speaking of the foodie’s attention economy, Mintz also discusses the growing media consolidation, declining local coverage, shrinking news budgets needed for in-depth investigative reporting, and the dangerous amalgamation of the press and public relations.
Looking at our future through the lens of food, Mintz describes some serious issues but also suggests practical solutions for consumers. Read The next supper and you will find yourself looking at your next delivery order in a whole new way.
One of Alison Gillmor’s first jobs was as a restaurant dishwasher.
A student at the University of Winnipeg and later at York University in Toronto, Alison Gillmor considered becoming an art historian. She eventually caught the journalism bug when she started out as a visual arts critic for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.
Read the full biography