UGH! These guys.
I apologize if you have clicked through this link and now you have used one of your 10 free monthly New York Times articles (actually I am not sorry, buy a subscription!). However, I read this today and I believe there are some things to be said. Things to be said by me.
Now, let me please start by saying that I have immense respect for both Thomas Keller and Andoni Luis Aduriz. I believe Keller to be an inspiration for being able to create a range of restaurants, from the accessible (if not cheap) Ad Hoc and Bouchon Bakery, to the impenetrably exclusive French Laundry and Per Se that are all great. I am less familiar with Aduriz, but from what I know of his restaurant Mugaritz, he excels at balancing humor and sophistication with deliciousness and comfort.
You can imagine, then, my disappointment when these shining stars of the international culinary community were featured this week in the New York Times proudly proclaiming that they should have no responsibility to serve local, sustainable foods or give a thought to their carbon footprint. The key to saving our imperiled planet is government oversight, they said! They are artists who feed next to no one, so how could what they do have any impact?
Well, guys, as a wise Dude once said, you’re not wrong, you’re just assholes.
First, it’s true: the restaurants of Thomas Keller and Andoni Aduriz feed VERY few people in the global sense. And their restaurants’ purchases will likely have little to nothing to do with the temperature of the planet in the long run. But part of what you do when you open outposts across the country (As Keller has) and publish cookbooks (now they both have) is create a place for yourself in the conversation. People who listen to people talk about food (like me) listen to THEM.
As someone who works with producers, I know first hand that a restaurant’s standing order, even a small one, can sustain a farm, and thus someone’s livelihood. If care is taken in choosing a farm whose production methods are sustainable (in that they preserve and improve their land, rather than deplete it) the impact goes far beyond the farm and benefits the local community and the environment. These are not relationships to be taken lightly, or to make light of.
Because of this, I wonder how Aduriz can believe that “The job of a restaurant is to make the gap tighter between our experience and their context,” and yet quickly assert, according to the article, “that such an attempt is an overarching goal, not a day-to-day task.” It seems to me inarguable that eating food, regardless of it’s end product, is intrinsically linked to the land that produced it. How, then, does Mr Aduriz believe that he will achieve that goal if not by everyday choices?
I would much rather hear these men brag about how great their food is than denounce the idea that chefs shouldn’t have to be aware or responsible for the consequences of their purchases. WE ALL DO! Not all the time, and I understand that not everyone has the luxury. But food is an incredibly powerful social and cultural force, and one with the power affect the health of people, animals and our planet. Chefs like Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Dan Barber of Blue Hill have never been accused of lackluster taste or creativity because they choose to support sustainable local farms, and to use their influence to increase the availability of healthful food to urban areas or to educate the public about sustainable farming practices.
I hope to see those trends continue, and that we celebrate those that are doing something, rather than the ones, like these assholes, who claim that it is too limiting, too inconsequential to do anything.