by Ed Halmagyi


I could never work for a bureaucracy. It’s not the order, structure or conformity that bothers me. It’s not the predictability, paperwork or even the time cards.

No, the reason I could never work for a bureaucracy is the acronyms. To be the PA of the EA of the CEO, trying to manage a WIP for the MIS is just enough to make my brain melt.

So to all you middle managers, I tip my hat…or is that TMH?

However, you may be surprised to learn that in the kitchen we have our own kinds of shorthand and slang. All too often you’ll find the KP in the mire with a full nelson of scrapers while the narky sous is busting for a dosing of his shallows. (Translation: the pot washer is faced with a rather large stack of dirty dishes that is getting larger not smaller, while the second in charge of the kitchen is particularly upset that his stocks of clean low-rise soup bowls have not yet been re-filled.)

But of all the slang that came form the restaurant game, none bothered me more than the term ‘Mod-Oz’. Talk about a cop out! It’s kind of like all the chefs who used the term ‘rustic’ to describe their food, simply because they lacked the skill or perseverance to cook to a higher standard. True ‘rustic’ is elegantly simple, not just the consolation prize.

Like rustic, Mod-Oz was used as an excuse for chefs of various pedigrees to avoid turning their concentration to perfecting actual technique, instead insisting that being different was enough. This is a terrible state of affairs – creativity will never trump excellence, no matter how weird you try to be.

But as with all great tales, the ending has been a little unexpected, at least it has for me. As I espoused my theory to a close recently, he explained that to understand casual dining in Australia is to come to grips with a slightly different term – Med-Oz.

It’s our own little Australian take on the vastly different and uniquely-exciting flavours of the Mediterranean.

The Australian interpretation of Med foods has been cumulative and a little eccentric. Just as the waves of migrants came to become Aussies, so to did their cuisines and flavours wash up on our shores. Where they may not have seen the value in cultural blending, In Australia it has become the backbone of our cooking.

A little Italian pasta with some Spanish sausage, French pickles and Lebanese spices anyone? Too right, pass me a fork!

If you want a taste of what Med-Oz has to offer, click here.