Tag Archives: Rants

The Charismatic Chef

I am surprised that chefs do not regularly take curtain calls. After a final spoonful of (chocolate bacon) panna cotta that jiggles like Lucia di Lammermoor’s “Il dolce suono,” diners should bravo the chef into postprandial ecstasy; when polishing off a plate of hormone-free lamb-balls, the modern eater must rise and applaud. The charismatic chef deserves, no, demands praise. His food is an extension of his irresistible and indefinable and authentic personality.

Reading Zachary Woolfe’s piece in the Sunday Times, “A Gift From the Musical Gods,” I was impressed by how well his commentary on classical music charisma describes the economy of fine dining. Today, there are two types of successful chefs: the skilled technician, operating behind the scenes, and the celebrity chef mogul industry giant whose magnetism gives electric motion to a personal brand. If there is a Mary Callas of American cooking, it is Thomas Keller, a man whose “Oysters and Pearls” would send a dining room into bivalvular orgy—mouths open to receive Chef Keller’s winsome and terribly genuine “Zen and the Art of Fine Dining” philosophy, anuses expelling a continuous stream of savory tapioca pudding. And if there is a Christian Tetzlaff, Mr. Woolfe’s example of the “technically flawless” but uncharismatic musician, it is Eli Kaimeh, Thomas Keller’s chef de cuisine at Per Se. Continue reading

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Filed under Theory and Criticism

Being Josh Ozersky

There’s a tiny door in Community Food & Juice that takes you inside Josh Ozersky. You see the world through Josh Ozersky’s eyes, and then after about 15 minutes, you’re spit out onto a ditch on the side of the New Jersey turnpike.

“This is another example of the artisanal version being worse than the ShopRite Bakeshop version. Well, I’m very disappointed in myself and in my inability to appreciate good things.” Josh Ozersky takes mincing bites from a “Dough” doughnut, grimacing in disgust. Safely removed from the owner’s gaze, Ozersky samples each variety and, like a petulant child force-fed broccoli, bemoans his not-so-sweet desserts. “It should be sweet,” Ozersky says. “Life is too short for savory doughnuts.” Famous for effusively praising certain chefs and products, Ozersky  rarely meets a food he does not like.

Dough, a bakery in Bed-Stuy  serving fancified doughnut flavors like hibiscus and “real” chocolate (no cocoa powder here), applies an artisanal ethos to simple breakfast fare. Ozersky does not lament that ethos per se, but instead criticizes its consequence: an unpleasant doughnut.  Ozersky describes the problem of hipsterfied and fancified food well—oftentimes, it just doesn’t taste good. Although I enjoy a Doughnut Plant creation as much as the next easily impressed sweet tooth, I appreciate the doughnut’s humbler forms, too. Like Ozersky, I’d rather eat a tasty doughnut than a doughnut with pedigree any day.

In his poem “All-Nite Donuts,” Albert Goldbarth writes:

A customer’s blowing
smoke rings almost

heavy as the dough o’s rising
out of the vat of grease.

Outside, the whores are whistling
their one note, lips thick

donuts strawberry-glazed.

The artisanal doughnut feels deeply ironic—a perverse distortion of an American symbol. Whereas doughnuts once represented the seedy, too-sweet commodification of American life, now artisanal bakers viscerally reject that formulation. Of course, the artisanal doughnut embodies a bourgeois ethic, a mode of consumption that signals class separation. Dough is a product and producer of gentrification in Bed-Stuy and its wares emblematize class categories. An affordable and deviously unhealthy food made unaffordable—the violence of exclusion seems unavoidable. In an attempt to escape a sordid aesthetic, Dough reifies the latent divide between “have” and “have not.” To be bourgeois is to eat an artisanal doughnut; and the transformation of the doughnut from ShopRite to the imperative “eat right” extracts class from everyday consumption.

Oh Columbia student, do not think that the artisanal doughnut’s violence is limited to the outer boroughs. In Morningside Heights, a restaurant perpetuates this code of bourgeois consumption with gleeful fervor. This restaurant is also, in my opinion, the worst restaurant in Morningside Heights: Community Food & Juice. Continue reading

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Filed under Columbia University, New York City, Restaurants, Theory and Criticism

The Problem with Restaurant Criticism

Restaurant criticism leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  Continue reading


Filed under Miscellaneous, Theory and Criticism

Collecting the Restaurant: A Critique of “Foodie-ism”

Who knew that Baudrillard hated foodies?

More precisely, Jean Baudrillard, intellectual celebrity, dead Frenchman, and “radical thinker,” hated collectors. Finding that they “invariably have something impoverished and inhuman about them” (The System of Objects 114), Baudrillard launches an extensive critique of collecting based on his “system of objects” theory and a psychoanalytic grab bag. As I will argue that foodies engage in the active collecting of restaurants and dining experiences, by the transitive property of philosophy, foodies must have something impoverished and inhuman about them. Yes, I read Baudrillard for fun. On my vacations. What that indicates about my personal richness and humanity remains inconclusive. Continue reading

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Filed under Miscellaneous, Restaurants

Culinary Self-Righteousness: Overcooked Arguments

Wednesday, Josh Ozersky tweeted: “The next time you think we’ve how far we’ve come read this:http://www.slate.com/id/2256610/ And Slate wasn’t ashamed to run it! 2:53 PM Jun 16th via web” (I’ve made the link active for your convenience.)

Reading this tweet, I immediately considered what heinous content Slate might have published. An advocacy of factory farms perhaps? A polemic against sustainable fishing?  Praise for high fructose corn syrup, dangerous food additives, fast food, obesity, and all that “foodies” (I hate that word) consider wrong with America? To misquote King Lear, No, no, no, no, no, and no. Slate‘s article, “Shoe-Leather Reporting,” explains the “history of well-done meat in America.” Continue reading


Filed under Miscellaneous

Comfort Food Is Fake

Comfort food is a sham.

I like matzo brei as much as the next guy, and expect me to reach for that last chocolate chip cookie. But when comfort food becomes depersonalized and taken to absurd extremes, count me out of the Luther Burger party.

Not to rain on the collective bacon grease macaroni and cheese hot dog parade, but the majority of so-called “comfort food” served in New York City and across the country exists merely to deceive. In fact, the next haute fried chicken leg or blackberry pie shake you consume will bamboozle your senses and confound your memory. Yes, comfort food usually tastes indulgently delicious, if cardiovascular assault. Yet, delude yourself no longer: you’re not eating comfort food, no matter how full and “whole” it makes you feel. Continue reading


Filed under Dining Suggestions, Miscellaneous

Salty Desserts: Sweets that Make You Sweat

Done with exams and left to wander the city endlessly, I made my way from the Guggenheim down to Momofuku Milk Bar. I first encountered David Chang’s funky fusion concept at Noodle Bar back in 2008, where I enjoyed a blueberry and smoked peach soft serve. Having successfully avoided all David Chang ventures this year (aside from a talk he gave with Eric Ripert on Buddhism), I decided this morning that a visit to his East Village dessert spot wouldn’t hurt me. Debate surrounds Milk Bar, specifically regarding the treats’ general greasiness and salt content: some worship the total disregard for nutrition (and safety?) while others proclaim the products nearly inedible.  I figured that after a 15 mile run on Sunday and around 13 miles of walking today, my 19 year old arteries could handle a cookie with an ingredient list including butter at #1 and yes, those are potato chips. Continue reading


Filed under Recipes, Restaurants