Australians Love Asian Foods! So Why Don’t Asian Cuisines Win As Many Awards As, Say, Italian?
From spice-laden noodle soups to dried and fried catfish, Asian food seems to linger in every Australian neighbourhood corner.
Everywhere you look, people are clamouring for a taste of the latest delicious dishes from Asia, even though we have a variety of different cuisines to choose from in this incredible country.
Yet, despite an overwhelming adoration of Asian food, if you were to flip through a high-end guidebook for local restaurants in Melbourne, you’d probably wonder where half of the pages had gone!
It seems that the decision-makers throughout Australia are still painting the picture that the most popular cuisines in the country are those from a European background, with Asian culinary options taking a back seat.
So, what’s going on?
Why Aren’t the Food Awards Going to Asia?
Every year, some of the most prominent food publications in Australia, like The Australian Good Food Guide and Gourmet Traveller, announce their Chef of the Year. These awards recognise the creativity and commitment of these culinary specialists annually. Yet, every year since 2013, the award has gone to a Chef of European descent or one who specialises in European culinary traditions.
Although Asian restaurants have received recognition by leading publications over the years, 48% of those locations had Caucasian head chefs, and 60% had Caucasian owners. If you consider Japanese restaurants in Australia (a more widely accepted part of Asian cuisine in Australia), the awards consist of 71% European owners, and 56% European head chefs.
When it comes to food industry awards, it seems as though Australia curries favour with European cuisine, and particularly the food of Italy. Italian chefs and restaurants win more prizes year-on-year than establishments that serve food from all the Asian countries.
What’s more, among Asian cuisines, there’s a visible hierarchy. Of the 150 restaurants listed in both preeminent food guides that feature an Asian theme, only eleven come from sub-continental cuisines, and almost a third of the listings are Japanese.
Interestingly, if you’re looking for cheap eats, instead of best eats, then Asian cuisines begin to dominate.
The issue may stem from the fact that European citizens dominate Australian food media. Of the 111 listed GT and GFG reviewers, approximately 80% are white. Additionally, Australians of Europeans descent hold all the senior positions for these review publications.
Time for a Change?
So, is it time for a flavour change? It does seem that way!
In Australia, generations of young people are now growing up with exposure to more diverse cuisines than ever before. When we go out these days, we spend more time eating in Asian restaurants or ordering Asian takeout and thus, getting used to the traditionally spicy flavours and unique ingredients.
Even on social media, we have begun to embrace Australian chefs like Thai-Australian Marion Grasby, who specialises in Thai and other Asian cuisines. She showcases simple but tasty versions of traditional Asian dishes and has garnered a loyal following of on 1.5 million followers Facebook and 583,000 subscribers on YouTube.
Eventually, the trend shows, Aussies that become chefs will start to introduce more Asian cuisine into various culinary environments.
As we continue to embrace the delights of exotic eating as a country, more people are beginning to balk at the lists of all-white restaurants that dominate Good Food Guides. We’re starting to see more ethnic groups fighting for Asian cuisine to get the respect and attention that it deserves.
Change is on the horizon; we need to keep filling our plates with new flavours to help the culinary landscape evolve for good.