Published by PublicAffairs Setting: Canada and United States
on November 16, 2021
Genres: Food, Nonfiction
A searing expose of the restaurant industry, and a path to a better, safer, happier meal.
In the years before the pandemic, the restaurant business was booming. Americans spent more than half of their annual food budgets dining out. In a generation, chefs had gone from behind-the-scenes laborers to TV stars. The arrival of Uber Eats, DoorDash, and other meal delivery apps was overtaking home cooking.
Beneath all that growth lurked serious problems. Many of the best restaurants in the world employed unpaid cooks. Meal delivery apps were putting restaurants out of business. And all that dining out meant dramatically less healthy diets. The industry may have been booming, but it also desperately needed to change.
Then, along came COVID-19. From the farm to the street-side patio, from the sweaty kitchen to the swarm of delivery vehicles buzzing about our cities, everything about the restaurant business is changing, for better or worse. The Next Supper tells this story and offers clear and essential advice for what and how to eat to ensure the well-being of cooks and waitstaff, not to mention our bodies and the environment. The Next Supper reminds us that breaking bread is an essential human activity and charts a path to preserving the joy of eating out in a turbulent era.
Corey Mintz is a former restaurant cook turned restaurant critic/food journalist who lived in Toronto. This book examines many different aspects of the food business to see ways in which it can be made more equitable for the people who are involved. Did the pandemic that threatened to destroy restaurants actually open up some ways to make things better? Will anything change?
I learned a lot about the economics of how restaurants work. Many of the most popular restaurants “encourage” cooking staff to come in hours before they are allowed to clock in for pay. A lot use a system of unpaid internships to fill their kitchens. Tipping culture can lead to inequities between front of house staff and cooks. Many large chains encourage too many locations to open in order to keep their numbers up.
He looks at the labor situations in the places that produce vegetables and how large purchasers like restaurant chains can make a difference (and which ones are refusing to help out).
He talks a lot about how delivery apps are bad for most restaurants. I was listening to this while really wanting to order Indian food one day. I made myself go pick it up instead of using DoorDash. I was salty about that. Convenience is fun if you don’t know how it is helping to drive restaurants into insolvency.
I did find the author to be a bit clueless on several issues though. He lived in Toronto where there were 6000 restaurants before COVID. He didn’t have a car. He walked to specialty shops in his neighborhood for food.
Here are some of the insights that he had that will be absolutely obvious to anyone who lives anywhere else:
- You don’t need to only go to the newest chef-driven restaurants even if that is what is all over your Instagram feed. (I’m not sure that’s actually what most people’s Instagram consists of.)
- If you find a restaurant you like, you can go there more than once to support it.
- There are immigrant-owned restaurants in the suburbs. They can be good – even if they tend to be located in strip malls.
- Most people shop at large grocery stores and buy enough food for 1-2 weeks at a time.
Bless his heart. He did move to Winnipeg while writing this book. He got his first car and now has to shop in grocery stores. He’s trying to adapt but he’s finding it hard.
I really did enjoy this book even if I had to side it a few times for his cluelessness to how to other 90% of the U.S. and Canada lives.