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Chef Dave
The New Food Lover's Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst



from the

Replace butter with Flax Seed meal. Try a 2:1 ratio of flax to butter.


News and Views

Archived Article #7:

SYSCO=SOYLENT?                August 10

Have you ever seen the movie, Soylent Green?  It's one of my favorites.  It was even on a couple weeks ago!  It takes place in  New York City in the year 2022.  Basically the population has grown to 40 million and real food is scarce due to pollution and the greenhouse effect.  They also discovered oceans were dying, their last supply of food.  (Sound familiar?)  The Soylent Corporation manufactures and distributes food wafers in several colors.  Soylent Green is the favorite.  It is, unbeknownst to the consumer, made from people.

Sysco started right here in Houston.  They boast they have 69 distribution centers throughout the U.S., Alaska and parts of Canada.  They service approximately 270,000 food service establishments.  They sell everything many food service operations could want, from canned and dry foods, to produce, seafood, meat and mops and brooms.  How convenient you say?  Well, they sell convenience.

Smaller "Mom & Pop" restaurants don't have the purchasing advantages of larger places.  They are usually forced to buy all their products from a large vendor like Sysco because they can't meet the minimum purchase requirements needed to get the smaller vendors into their places.  Instead of being able to buy exactly what they want from a few small vendors, they are basically forced to "settle" for what a larger vendor has to offer.  This is what Sysco loves.  The strategy is great. 

I have never been a fan, or customer, of Sysco.  I prefer to deal with the smaller vendors like local company, Jake's Fine Foods.   Many Sysco salesmen have called on me through the years when I've been a chef in restaurants here in Houston.  I've never had any desire to use them.  Like Wal-Mart, Sysco has gone into small town America and either bought up or put out of business, the small local companies.  I've even seen them in my hometown of Brattleboro, Vt., a town of 12,000.

Sysco, like other food service distributors, have had their share of problems, like when Ninfa's owed them over a million dollars.  You can be sure that they used that debt to manipulate  them into being the main distributor they use.  I even remember a  scandal over bid rigging at the Pasadena ISD years ago, in which they were involved.

To me, they are a good part of what's wrong with the food service industry.  They offer a wide variety of already prepared & pre-portioned food that takes no talent or knowledge to "cook" (re-heat).  I suppose they are gearing up for the restaurant of the future that will be using robots to work in the kitchen with basically heat and eat food.  There was a robot being demonstrated at the Texas Restaurant Association's Food Show that was in town in June at the George R. Brown Convention Center.  It's coming!

As an example of the food lameness that's possible, the Houston Art Car Klub! was invited to the Polo Club last year where they told us we would be fed and wined.  Since my wife drives an art car, we were invited.  Nothing can get an art car to a function like the offer of food and drink!  Anyway, upon arrival I noticed the Palm Restaurant signage in the tented food area.  I watched in disbelief as the "cooks" (I use that term loosely) opened Sysco boxes and loaded the food into cold chafing dishes.  Then they lit them and stood around waiting for the food to become hot.  This, by the way, is a direct health department violation.  Hot chafing dishes will keep hot food at a constant temperature, but were not designed to heat food.  The food was mediocre at best, and far from being hot.  For free, one shouldn't complain, but I expect more from a restaurant of the Palm's stature.  I doubt they serve any of that stuff in their restaurants! 

I think you could train a monkey to be a cook using Sysco products.  It's generic food for generic people.  With little flavor and no talent needed to prepare it, it's the ideal food for a large sector of the population that is satisfied with mediocre food.  I'm aware of a restaurant here in Houston that buys frozen prepared food, removes the disposable pan, puts it in his own pans, heats it and sells it for homemade.   I suppose many people just don't know the difference.

Frozen food will never be as good as fresh food and I wish people would learn to appreciate more of what it takes to be a good cook, or chef.  Sure you can get a bad meal in any good restaurant, but when everything is running right that shouldn't happen.  If it does, send it back.  A good restaurant will make it right.   

So, why do I compare Sysco to the Soylent Company?  I believe that in the coming years when our farmlands and water supplies are further contaminated from pollution, our food will be manufactured instead of grown.  With the continued worldwide  growth of the Sysco corporation they will be poised to be the dominant player in the future of determining what we eat.  Imagine the convenience of just opening a package and not having to cook anything.  You can see that sort of thing in the grocery stores already like the precooked pasta dishes on the shelves in the dry food section of the grocery stores.  Soylent type products are actually already available in the guise of astronaut or campers food.  Think about it, of course this is just my opinion.


Chef Dave