“Once upon a time, if you were a chef, your greatest ambition was to own a restaurant. Now that's just a stepping stone to the true goal of global fame."
--The Tastemakers: Why We're Crazy for Cupcakes but Fed Up with Fondue by David Sax
Last month, I Ranted about Lazy Food Writers, who write mostly about current trends rather than spending the time and effort to write something more original. As I said, this is the easy route, penning shallow articles which are eminently forgettable. I called on these food writers to up their game, to start writing more original articles and not just chasing trends. Unfortunately, they are not alone in the food industry. There are Chefs too who take the easy route of chasing trends rather than seeking to be original.
On Facebook, in response to my Lazy Food Writer article, Chef/Owner Charles Draghi of Erbaluce asked for me to next address Lazy Chefs. He referred to those: "Chefs who are content to copy the latest culinary trends, and then reap all of the attendant media coverage and hype from it, instead of working their medium and coming up with their own creative and unique "voice?" Chefs who do more swanning than cooking, and who get whip-lash looking for the next photo-op?" As I had been reading The Tastemakers at the time, I had been considering writing something on chefs. Chef Draghi's comments help inspire this latest post.
In many respects, lazy food writing has contributed to the rise of lazy chefs. When food trends get the most publicity and visibility, then some chefs decide the easiest way to promote themselves is to follow those trends. When food writers want to write about the newest cronut clone, then some chefs will create one, desirous of the publicity. I have received far more press releases about chefs and the latest trends than I have about chefs doing something truly original, or following their own muse. And the massive media attention now devoted to cooking and chefs, from television to magazines, has exacerbated the situation.
The restaurant business is competitive and it is understandable why some chefs choose to follow the trends. It helps keep their restaurant in the front page of the news, bringing them publicity they might not have otherwise received. However, that is due largely to lazy food writers who choose to primarily write about trends. A chef will get far more attention for the latest twist on the Cronut than a different version of a bread pudding. It is a vicious circle which needs to be broken. Chefs and restaurants with their own unique voice, who don't follow the trends, deserve much more press coverage. They deserve to be noticed for what they do. They should be embraced for choosing to follow their own voice.
I'll give you some examples of chefs and restaurants who I believe are not slaves to trends, who follow their own unique culinary path and are worthy of more attention from food writers. Consider Chef/Owner Anthony Caturano of Prezza, Chef/Owner Deborah Hansen of Taberna de Haro, Chef/Co-owner Chris Chung of AKA Bistro, and yes, Chef/Owner Charles Draghi of Erbaluce. These places might find their way onto Best Of lists, but otherwise they often fly under the media radar. When is the last time you recall reading an article about these chefs and restaurants? Let food writers shine their lights more often on these chefs and restaurants. Don't let the chefs who just follow trends get all of the press.
Chefs, stop being a slave to trends and blaze your own path. However, we also need food writers who are willing to cover those chefs who don't promote the newest trends and fads. Those more original chefs deserve encouragement. The laziness can be conquered.