A Gastronomic Quest - My Exodus to Ireland (Part 1) "Awakenings"
My story begins long before this account.. However, I’m going to bring you back to a time a place Twenty-One months ago, in a Sunny suburban town of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida - The City of Sunrise. It was Monday, the 24th of August 2009, on a rainy and drizzly morning... It was around 7am and the thunder was clapping outside yet it was 90ºF = 32ºC and definitely NOT a beach day!!
I just got finished pulling an “all nighter” editing footage of my latest commercial and watching MSNBC news... It was my thing... I was forever connected to the TV in someway, shape or form... Perhaps that’s why I got into the field of video & film production...
As I was making the final cuts and touches on this car commercial, it hit me like a sack of bricks... Seemed as if I was just marking time... After-all, I was living paycheck to paycheck.. Pumping out commercials, documentaries, filming events... Whatever job came my way I took... I was literally pimping and prostituting myself as the lowest bidder....
For you see with the technological boom, everyone and their mother with a handi-cam and computer thought they were Federico Fellini! The Irony of it all is most of them would make Ed Wood look like Martin Scorsese...
The video production community in South Florida began to crumble as less experienced producers started underselling and under bidding their colleagues!! Businesses that I had long standing relationships with were no longer concerned about the quality of the production of their commercials, but only the cost.
This ended up in their own regret with their cheap ad campaigns, of course... After-all, you get what you pay for! But the damage was done and these novice production companies had generated enough income to update their equipment.
Solely relying on the technological advances of the advanced equipment they acquired to market themselves as professional film producers, the creativity was gone. Hence the birth of “cookie cutter” commercials! Every TV advert began to look the same! It was a sad sad time. Needless to say this hurt us financially!
I, Myself refused to run with the crowd producing standard format type commercials that were void of substance and creativity! Local commercials were in short, sterile and ineffective! And with the economy in disarray businesses were simply too short sighted to see this.
Thankfully, the season for Video production was coming to a close. It was time for me to put away the camera and clapper board and dawn my Chef Coat! Tourist season was approaching and it was time to take on my second calling...
Florida’s primary source of income and industry is tourism! and of course with tourism comes dining out! So from about September to April I would work as a restaurant and dining consultant!
Self-employed as an Executive Chef & independent contractor it was in my duties and responsibilities to inspect and assess local restaurants and dining establishments that were on the verge of failing. I would find their weaknesses and consult on keys to improve their patronage before and during the tourist season!
I would also assist new restauranteurs who were familiar with the hospitality industry, but not so familiar in the kitchen create and develop eye catching menu’s, recipes and cuisines that would generate “buzz” and bring in the tourists and locals alike!
Not that I didn’t love my work at this time, I truly did... However, during my inspections and assessments of restaurants in current operation it wasn’t hard to see why most of them would close their doors in less than 2 years. Now I won’t go into the details of the how’s and why’s that they were failing. And Although I hate to admit it; some deservingly merited their own fall. I’ll leave it to your own imagination as to why these establishments would fail.
Some couldn’t see past their own pride to realize the errors of their ways, and couldn’t accept objective criticism and creative change! They were stuck in their ways. Like Fashion, Make-up, Clothing and Architecture; Food and restaurants have trends, fads, and styles. “You have to be fluid and move with the ebb and flow of the times”, I’d say... Some would listen... Others wouldn’t.
No matter who these people were, it would always sadden me to see a local business shut their doors and vacate. Empty store fronts are a curse and pox to other businesses in the immediate vicinity. It was heart breaking to see my efforts and words go unheeded; especially when it resulted in the ultimate failure and closure of a business. But you cannot force the hand of the stubborn and to those who would say, “We’ve always done it this way!” Well my friends, always doesn’t equivocate always right! I would try and jest, and say, “listen... When in doubt, the Bryce is Right... “ Those of you who are games show fans will get that joke...
I would forever try to motivate those good restauranteurs in despair, those who knew and understood something needed to be done, and that Change was indeed a necessary element to survive in South Florida! Trends Die! And there’s a delicate balance to the continuity of food, recipes, cuisines and menus. There’s a wisdom to knowing the art of the time to change. Ultimately, don’t fall victim to habit and redundancy. Know what to keep; know what to change and most importantly know when to “86” it! But to these good men and women of South Florida, I would forever preach... “Stay the course! Never Quit; Never Die! Adapt, Overcome, and Improvise!” And I’m proud to report that these people are still in business today!
But you know what? You can only work with what you’re given, and there’s only so much you can do with the tools, people and ingredients handed to you!!
When in Florida - finding the best of fresh and local you stick to tropical seafood, local veg & fruits... Beyond that, there’s not much going on in the fresh and local department!
When it comes to the country as a whole, the United States, our potential holds no boundaries! Sadly America doesn’t live up to their abilities in food production! It doesn’t start at the restaurant level. The fault lies with the producers and the bottom number! It’s all about quantity, output and profit! Now, I do indeed promote capitalism and of course I believe every good business is entitled to high marginal gains, but not at the sacrifice of quality!!
Again... I found myself in a cookie cutter, fast food, short cut industry that has lost it’s spirit, care, quality control and creativity!
The parallels of my two professions going to the crapper were uncanny and so disheartening!! To me it was The Universe sending a message... For what happened to our traditions of fine attention to detail and the over-all joy of creating something amazing?
I’m currently working with a Market here in Ireland who’s website’s first line on their home page says it all! Quoting, George Bernard Shaw, it reads: “There is no love sincerer, than the love of food”.
The sincerity was gone... There was no love, and this created such a void in my spirit... But what it did create was an awakening! It was time to go... And for now my friends it’s time for me to go, as well...
I’ll be back soon... Until then...
Chef Bryce Collins
Image Credit- http://www.ntscblog.com/2005/10/food-of-ireland.html