Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Just Sayin': Polemic with Anthony Bourdain

From Anthony Bourdain's latest book, The Nasty Bits:

“Let's be honest. Let's be really, painfully honest: Who is

Who is the backbone of the American restaurant business? Whose sudden departure could shut down nearly every good restaurant, nightclub, and banquet facility in every major city in the country? Whose sweat and toil allows annoyingly well-known white-boy chefs like me to go around the country flogging books, appearing on TV, writing obnoxious magazine articles, and baiting their peers? Who, pound for pound, are the best French and Italian cooks in New York?

If you're a chef, manager, or owner, you know the answer: Mexicans, Ecuadorans. Salvadoran guys (and women) from south of the border....

There is no deception more hypocritical, more nauseating, more willfully self-deluding that the industry-approved image of ‘the chef.’ We all know who is doing the heavy lifting, who’s making that nice risotto with white truffles and porcini mushrooms, the pan-seared hamachi with sauce vièrge [sic], the ravioli of beef cheeks with sage and sauce madère…We know, to our eternal shame, who is more likely to show up every day, dig in, do the right thing, cook conscientiously, endure without complaint: our perennially unrecognized coworkers from Mexico, Ecuador, and points south. The ones you don’t see hurling around catchphrases on the TV Food Network, or grinning witlessly at the camera after the latest freebie for the Beard House[….]

Lately, things have changed...a little. The off-the-books, below-minimum-wage illegal has to some extent disappeared from view, at least in the good restaurants I worked in. The strata of Latino labor has enlarged to include sauté, grill, and even sous-chef positions. But you don’t see too many chefs of French or Italian or even ‘New American’ restaurants with a last name like Hernandez or Perez or Garcia. Owners, it seems, still shrink from having a mestizo-looking chef swanning about the dining room of their two- or three-star French eatery—even if the candidate richly deserves the job[….]

I’d go on, more than happy to open the next can of worms—the How come I don’t see many African Americans in good restaurant kitchens? question—but I’ll leave that to another, more reasoned advocate, hopefully one with better answers than I have.”

Let the hate mail begin.


Ms. Place said...

I like it when you're passionate about a subject, Charlus. Your reasoning is so clear. Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Hate mail? Why? You're only quoting something that Bourdain said...which also happens to be very true.

Anonymous said...

In defence of latinos, actually they're pretty good cooks. My personal rule is if I ever see whiteboy cooks in a buffet restaurant, I head straight for the door and back to my car.