I’ve been wanting to add a section on food news, stuff about celebrity chefs and food fame, but I’m way not cool enough. So to ensure the kind of quality you’ve grown to expect from FoodMayhem, we’ve added a new writer, Sheng C, who is cool enough. He’s a “taste bud” (a friend who’s taste we trust) and we are so excited to have a new dimension on our site. Enjoy, mangia, and let us know what you think!

– Forward by Jessica

One thing that has caught my attention recently is the amount of press that “slow food” revolutionary Chef Alice Waters Alice Waters (of Chez Panisse fame) has been getting. Last week, Maureen Dowd wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times, mentioning the chef’s goal to have her first television show in which she highlights the basics of day-to-day home cooking.

In March, Waters was profiled on 60 Minutes, where she was portrayed as a “steamroller” who played a critical role in bringing the locavore movement to the level of popularity that it has reached today. She also has made substantial progress in improving the quality of food in schools by incorporating the development of edible gardens into the curriculum of Berkeley’s public schools, and she was one of the first people to dream up the idea of an organic edible garden at the White House, which the Obamas recently installed, as an example of healthful eating for Americans.

As outspoken as she has been on these issues, it’s natural for her to have some enemies. One of them is none other than Mr. No Reservations himself, Anthony Bourdain. I stumbled across a DCist interview with Bourdain a few months ago, in which he goes on the offensive against Waters:

“I’ll tell you. Alice Waters annoys the living [expletive] out of me. We’re all in the middle of a recession, like we’re all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There’s something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic. I mean I’m not crazy about our obsession with corn or ethanol and all that, but I’m a little uncomfortable with legislating good eating habits. I’m suspicious of orthodoxy, the kind of orthodoxy when it comes to what you put in your mouth. I’m a little reluctant to admit that maybe Americans are too stupid to figure out that the food we’re eating is killing us. But I don’t know if it’s time to send out special squads to close all the McDonald’s. My libertarian side is at odds with my revulsion at what we as a country have done to ourselves physically with what we’ve chosen to eat and our fast food culture. I’m really divided on that issue.”

Chef Anthony Bourdain

After reading this, I too felt a bit divided. In one corner, you have Waters, who has done so much to improve the way we eat over the past quarter century. In the other, you have Bourdain, a personal food hero of mine, someone who is known to stir the pot with his acerbic, often irreverent commentary on food celebrities ranging from Rachel Ray to Emeril. He is probably right, in that if Alice Waters had her way entirely, her vision of a food utopia with everyone, rich or poor, eating organic, locally grown, sustainable meats and produce, with no McDonald’s in sight, is unrealistic and would probably be forced on many unwilling McDonald’s-loving Americans.

On the other hand, considering the kind of uphill battle she is up against – enormous agro-businesses with huge amounts of lobbying power, factory farms still producing the bulk of our meats, and a recession that is making it difficult for even well-heeled families to make healthful, often pricier food purchases – it’s not likely that her food utopia will be realized any time soon. That being said, don’t we want someone like Waters to champion these values during these times? As she said in her 60 Minutes interview, when pressed on her being labeled as self-righteous or elitist, “I feel that good food should be a right and not a privilege and it needs to be without pesticides and herbicides. And everybody deserves this food. And that’s not elitist.” As much as I respect and admire Bourdain for his thoughts on the food industry, in this case, I think he needs to realize that Waters’ “orthodoxy” is actually not a threat to his libertarian values, and we need more people like her to continue to push for a better way of eating for everyone. Your thoughts?

posted by Sheng at 04:06 PM Filed under Celebrities. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.