Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"They are chefs cooking dinner for very, very rich people."

Yesterday, a group of top chefs (René Redzepi, Ferran Adriá, Heston Blumenthal, etc) released an "open letter" to future chefs, talking about "nature's gifts" and serving as a "important bridge to other cultures"... among other things. Jay Rayner unloads:
Yes, of course good chefs ought to be serious about their ingredients. Yes they have a responsibility to source stuff ethically. But they also need to remember that they aren't secular saints. They are chefs cooking dinner for very, very rich people.

Just before it closed a couple of months back El Bulli flogged the entire restaurant for a night to a champagne company, who flew in some of their invited guests on a private jet, before helicoptering them in to dinner. (You also might enjoy Adrià's advert for Estrella beer; ah, how humanity sighed with pleasure at that one). Likewise, guests have regularly come to eat at Blumenthal's Fat Duck by helicopter (they tend to land on the cricket pitch at the end of the village of Bray). Huge brigades of cooks are involved in the preparation of the world's very best ingredients, often sourced from some distance away. A single meal at one of these restaurants will leave a carbon footprint an elephant could sleep in. All of which is fine. It is what it is. It's an expression of the market for gastronomic luxury. There are lots of things it isn't, among them, a prescription for world peace.
I agree that the world's food an environmental problems will not be solved by where some future René Redzepi forages for pine needles, but tend to err on the side of raising awareness. Rayner's argument shares a lot with anti-environmentalists who think that if you've ever flown on a plane you aren't allowed to comment on CO2 emissions, but on the other hand the "open letter" is pretty nauseating so I guess it deserves to be made fun of. Couldn't they have just done some bullet points about local sourcing and called it a day?