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Friday 9 December 2016

Calorie counts on menus would reveal secret of fine dining ... lots of butter

Lep Vardakar
Lep Vardakar

Three months ago, Leo Varadkar floated his idea of having restaurants publish calorie counts on their menus, which he quite reasonably describes as "a very simple but effective way of encouraging people to choose a healthier option".

It's a plan which should be welcomed even more following the revelation by the World Health Organisation that Ireland is on course to become the most obese nation in Europe. By 2030, the report suggests that 89pc of us will be either overweight or obese, adding that: "Policies to reverse this trend are urgently needed ... Governments must do more to restrict unhealthy food marketing and make healthy food more affordable."

Far from supporting the campaign, however, Irish chefs are up in arms. Ross Lewis added his voice to the opposition, stating that "they are almost like the water charges to our industry. What you are really going to be doing is stifling any kind of creativity because people won't change menus. It's just really stupid.

"I'm not at all saying that there isn't an issue there that needs to be addressed, but I don't think the answer to that problem lies in putting calories on a menu in a restaurant like this."

What he means by "restaurants like this", of course, is his own Michelin-starred Chapter One, implying perhaps that obesity is not a major problem amongst his clientele. He may well be right, but the problem is that if you introduce calorie counts for fast-food restaurants, where do you draw the line between restaurants that "encourage creativity", rather than stuff your face with junk?

Just maybe, the finer dining establishments don't want you to know one of the secrets of those powerful, nuanced flavours that they get from their dishes, lest they get reflected on a calorie counter. Because in case you didn't know, it's lashings of full fat, artery-clogging butter...

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