How can you determine quality in…food?

Understanding ‘quality’ is as much to do with information provided, as it is a sensory issue, and journalist, Iain Robertson, looks at several aspects of the attribute.

One of the great delights of a multi-cultural society is the enormous range of foodstuffs that have become available to the consumer. It is a situation that has been aided and abetted for much of the past forty years, with easier and less costly access to distant locations, for those wanting to explore. However, we all need to eat to survive and the move towards the untraditional menu in the UK started truly with immigrant workers.

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While fish and chips has been substituted as the nation’s favourite meal by chicken curry with rice, it is anyone’s guess as to how long it will take for the Chinese variation on the theme to overtake the Indian type, population force majeure notwithstanding. In the meantime, pizza, paella, doner kebab and even sushi are all experiencing higher levels of recognition in the UK. The problem is, how can you tell what is best, in each classification, unless you have finely tuned taste buds and an Escoffier palate?

Naturally dining-out is an experiential thing. However, that experience allows the diner to ascertain, with a fair degree of precision, what tastes, textures and consistencies, however novel they might be, meet with personal desires. The quality aspect lies in there, because if it becomes distasteful, the desire to consume it is reduced significantly, even though innate curiosity might lead to another tasting session at another restaurant, in another location.

Consistency of delivery is vital. While some particularly creative chefs might believe that blending gin with fabric conditioner might create a taste sensation like no other, it is the variations on a theme that will make steak and chips taste markedly better on a plate at one’s familiar local pub, than a month of Sunday lunches partaken at The Ritz. Yet, introduce the combination of a recognised master-chef, at a classy eating establishment and the resultant meal (with associated high-end price tag) might make your stomach think that it had died and gone to heaven.

The psychological effect can be substantial, because you have been ‘trained’, by television and other media exposures, into having high expectations satisfied before you even commence the meal. I was as unimpressed by Chef Ramsay’s Ritz efforts, as I was Jamie Oliver’s ‘15’ endeavours, as a restaurant local to my Lincolnshire abode had produced far better steak pie and blade of beef respectively than either of the ‘big names’ had managed to.

The bottom-line for excellence and high quality lies with personal tastes, which I accept can alter with mood, attitude of staff, table presence and location, among a host of other interference factors. However, a common aspect lies in the traditions. If you order steak and chips, you expect steak and chips…or chicken curry but not if you had not ordered it in the first place. Meeting standards is what quality assurance is all about.

Whether it be the teensiest component in a fine timepiece, or the sliver of aluminium alloy trim that surrounds a car’s gearlever, or the amount of filling in a custard cream biscuit, or the way that a widget is installed within a beer can, it is the parameters of quality control arising from an assured quality ethos that will guarantee customer satisfaction. Get any of them wrong and a reputation can be lost far easier than it is earned, which is the primary reason for ISQA to remain proud of its near-fanatical stance on quality. It has too much to lose otherwise and that would leave a nasty taste in the mouth.

‘Make Quality Count!’

4 comments to “How can you determine quality in…food?”

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