So what comes first – the chicken or the egg?

Do food manufacturers develop new food ideas, or do consumer demands for trends in the way we eat, drive research and development?

Before we explore, firstly a serious note – Feeney attended one of the biggest and most informative chefs seminars in Europe in the autumn of 2017, which brought together dozens of the world’s most influential chefs many of them Michelin starred to share their opinions and experience of what’s happening in the world of food, hospitality and food production.

Anyone who knows Feeney will know he just loves to learn, share ideas and take inspiration from others in the food industry – just like a sponge soaking up ideas and getting fired up by the latest innovations and developments. On this occasion, Feeney left the event (early in fact!) after feeling despondent with the totally one-sided view and opinions of the very people who as a rule inspire him.

Perhaps the organisers and key speakers of this particular event may have found it more helpful to take some time to understand the development and research processes of global food retailers and large-scale food producers. Many of the key industry leaders are constantly working towards increasing offerings and choices, driven by consumer demands for a more relaxed but “home-grown” and “locally sourced” approach to eating habits of modern families. Innovation and developing new ideas enables us to find new solutions to address dietary requirements; trends and aspirations within our means and budget. There isn’t just one solution but a multitude and it’s about the direction not the destination. Chefs have to be part of the solution during every stage of the journey and not just the endpoint.

As a Father and a chef, of course, Feeney does encourage healthy eating with his family, cooks with his children and is an advocate of using the very best quality locally sourced meat and produce. However, his kids still do get the odd trip to the “golden arches” or a bargain bucket from the colonial as a treat. Didn’t we all enjoy a bottle of full sugar coke out of a glass bottle with a straw and a bag of crisps at the pub on the way back from a family day out when we were kids? None of us were looking at the fat content or calorie content then – it just tasted good!

What we are not saying here is go out and eat fast food, only cook convenience foods and to hell with it – we are saying take a look at the innovation, research and development by chefs like Feeney and other fantastic development chefs working in global food organisations. These are the chefs who are working hard to make convenience food healthier, safer and more nutritious than it’s ever been before.

The facts are modern lifestyles and how we bring up our families has changed drastically over the last 30 years. During the education process children are no longer taught to cook, rarely parents have the option to be “stay at home Mums and Dads” and our working weeks are longer, we commute further to work and our stress levels are higher! It would have been unheard of when we were growing up a generation ago not to eat dinner together as a family sat at the kitchen table. How many of you reading this can honestly say they never eat their tea on the sofa in front of the TV?

Yes, we are becoming more health conscious, which seems a contradiction in terms when the obesity levels have never been so high! The facts are we all need to make informed decisions about what we eat, how we eat and whom we chose to share our time eating with.

It’s a fact and there’s no getting away from it, millions of people rely on processed and convenience foods as part of their daily diet – this isn’t going to change no matter how much preaching event organisers at this particular conference do. Perhaps as research for their next event they should invest some time and spend a few days with some of our development chefs and global food manufacturers and equipment innovators to see how much scientific research, development and money is being spent on making sure a healthier, safe and higher quality food is being produced. Rant over!

So we’ve been on the road with chef Feeney again and this trip took us to Holland. John’s “day job” as development chef for Griffith Foods along with equipment innovator GEA invited guests from food retailers, manufacturers and industry experts to experience first hand the technology and innovation they use to develop new equipment which takes small-scale cooking methods to global scale production.

During the day delegates from some of the biggest names in food retail were blown away with cooking techniques using innovative equipment including live demonstrations of the worlds longest oven the GEA Cookstar. This particular piece of equipment has been developed to be able to produce perfect coated chicken for the home and retail market without the need of adding additional oil or deep frying before serving. The innovative coating system – ‘Never Fry’ developed by Griffith Foods has taken on board the demand for a healthier range of convenience food for the snacking market and ready to cook foods at home. This state of the art piece of engineering also has the ability to sous-vide, roast, steam and smoke too. Delegates were given an insight as to how Griffith Food coating system and process married up with the state of the art equipment from GEA.

We never stop learning and never stop innovating, times change so does how we live so sometimes we have to hatch the egg before the chicken has even laid it! So what does come first the chicken or the egg?