Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bruni, Bourdain and Deen...Name Dropping 101

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words Frank Bruni? Do you think NY Times? Do you think famous past food critic of the aforementioned paper? How about someone who eats at the finest restaurants from New York City to Pollenzo, Italy? What if I told you that he called someone out for being a culinary elitist? I know why he did it and I’ll tell you why later. For the moment I’d like to pose a question to you Mr. Bruni…Isn’t calling Anthony Bourdain an elitist just a pot calling the kettle black? (Click on Mr. Bruni in the next sentence for the story)

In an article Mr. Bruni wrote last August he decided to call out Anthony Bourdain as being a culinary elitist.  In the article he also managed to praise Mr. Bourdain saying he liked his show. He praised Paula Deen and then in the same article ran her into the ground as an elitist as well. He followed that up with more of the same with regards to Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray. Mr. Bruni Have you ever had your cake and ate it too? Let me put it another way…Have an opinion and stick to it! People who walk on top of fences will one day impale themselves, and nobody wants to see a Bruni-pop pictured on the front page of the New York Times.

Let’s start off by defining “culinary elitist”. Culinary: “Of or For Cooking.” So this is about someone who cooks? Seems simple enough. Now the word- Elitism: “Belief of a person, deserving of favored treatment by virtue of their perceived superiority” with regards I guess to cooking? I’m sure Mr. Bruni that what you meant to say was perhaps gastronomer elitism, rather than culinary as what we’re talking about here are people eating and not cooking. I’m no journalist as I’ve only been doing this for a couple of months, but it seems to me that in your line of work proper word usage might be a useful and even valuable skill.

I’ve been wrong before so let’s go on the assumption that you really did mean to say “culinary elitist.” If we were to take all the aforementioned people from paragraph two then I’d say yes…Anthony Bourdain is a culinary elitist and rightfully so. I think someone with a culinary background like that of Mr. Bourdain probably would entitle him to some special treatment amongst his peers, as he has made his bones in a tough field. I’ll bet if he showed up at Le Bernardin Chef Ripert would stuff him like a Thanksgiving turkey out of respect…and not out of fear…Like say, when an asshole food critic shows up at a restaurant’s doorstep and looking to see if a paper clip got picked up from your last trip to the bathroom.

Don’t get me wrong Mr. Bruni, a good food review is important and some people care about them… like restaurant owners and chefs hoping to maintain their way of life… but I digress. If what we are really talking about is “gastronomer elitism,” then you’re probably correct again. I believe firmly that someone who has eaten everything from wild hare at El Bulli in Spain to Pig’s ass in Namibia probably does entitle Mr. Bourdain to some special treatment…even if that special treatment is several rounds of antibiotics and anti-diarrhea medicine.

Look Mr. Bruni, let’s cut to the chase…The reason you wrote this article was to name drop in such a way that it would only partly offend the unwilling participants, sell some copy… and make you look semi-hard edged for taking on some pretty big names in the industry while championing a cause. I think you’re wrong for not having the backbone to pick a side or subject and sticking with it.

Instead, you took shots at everybody and played the ends against the middle. Like some kind of five year old puppet master playing in his room and making the T-Rex rip Barbie’s head off. So if this means you’re going to unfriend me on Facebook or block me on Twitter, then so be it. I’m sure you haven’t been clutching your phone praying I would direct message you to meet for tea anyway.

Let me spell out what I think “taking a side” means and feel free to use this the next time your writing some heart felt piece on food deserts, which is what you somehow wrong headedly tried to do with this piece. First off Paula Deen is a shill, a huckster and a rube. At the time of your story you couldn’t have known about her getting paid for pushing a drug for a disease she has all but promoted, so I’ll cut you slack on that. But you did know she wasn’t out promoting a smart and balanced diet. Her outrage was more of a PR spin than anything.

I’ll concede she is a smart woman with her aw shucks… “My friend’s and I cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills.” This was the quote you used to make her look silly, and in the next sentence justified her rant against Mr. Bourdain. Whose side are you on? That’s right…nobody’s and besides that, not even your own.

You proceed to go off on a rant describing the real reason people are fat is because there isn’t enough healthy, fresh and affordable food in low income and even middle income neighborhoods. I’m from a lower middle class family and grew up ten miles from anything that resembled a grocery store. I somehow managed to stay reasonably healthy despite not having a government program that told me to stay healthy.

I knew kids who lived in the shadows of those grocery stores who were fat and DECIDED to go eat at McDonald’s and the like, rather than eat healthy. Do you know what the difference between the thin kids and the fat kids were Mr. Bruni? Parents who cared enough to allow or not allow kids to eat crap.

Parents that thought it was important enough to drive ten miles for good food and not just give their kids five bucks (which back then could buy you your bodyweight in McD’s food.) to head to the local fast food joint. You can’t cure laziness and irresponsibility with every last cent of Joe public’s tax dollars, or shaking every human on earth down for their last dollar. This isn’t made any more possible just because you come up with some make believe words like food desert.

As for the other folks in your story Mr. Bruni, they were just unaware participants in a name dropping contest of which you were the only player, but for the record I’ll say something you’re too scared to… Rachael and Sandra…Their food sucks and as far as I’m concerned so do their shows. They are the final step of the dumbing down of what was once a pretty good network. You said “They’re champions of downscale cooking that’s usually more affordable and easier to master…”

What a crock, what they are doing sir, is justifying obesity by hawking cream of fill in the blank soup or kwanza cake to an ever growing audience! It’s ever growing because they’re basing their shows around the lowest common denominator…poor to middle class families with obesity problems and an ample amount of time, and the proclivity to watch TV.

Mr. Bruni you know how I know you’re full of crap with this “story”… because of the throw away paragraph you wrote about how Deen’s fans can afford mesclun but elect to eat fat, and in the next sentence say the exact same thing about gourmands with their fancy restaurants…then end it by mentioning the restaurant Mr. Bourdain hasn’t worked at in quite some time. That my friend was just an ax to grind, and you got to grind it on the back of the person you got to name drop once again…Tres Douchey Monsieur!

You name dropped some pretty heavy culinary talent with the likes of David Chang and Andrew Carmellini…why? Oh that’s right, so you could draw a parallel between when they fry chicken it’s wonderful and when Paula Deen does it we all balk. The reason we all balk sir is because served up alongside the fried chicken is maybe some deep fried butter, or Krispy Kreme bread pudding. At either of the two previously mentioned chef’s restaurants they are giving you tastes of these items such as pork belly, on plates by the mouthful… not on platters by the pound.

I know I’m late to the party on this Mr. Bruni as you wrote this article last year, but I’m afraid I don’t run in the same circles as you so my apologies. My top five restaurants are mostly within the US and not six time zones away in Italy or Scotland, so it’s hard for me to see you as anything but a gastronomy elitist.

Yes it’s true you’ve eaten a choco-taco from an actual ice cream truck and kudos to you for finding such inner strength to do so. Please cut Anthony Bourdain some slack. I believe that after eating all the crap he has eaten over the years, and drank enough booze to pickle all of our collective livers combined… he deserves a little more respect than what you showed him. You apologize to him, and I’ll pretend I didn’t write this…then we can all go for a choco-taco together.


  1. Stand your ground,Brother!If I try and behave,can I go with you guys and have a Choco Taco too?

    1. Of course you can...someone is going to have to carry the shotgun to protect us from all those packs of wild cows after BLAH frees them all!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks for reading Tupper! Hope this doesn't mean I'm off his Christmas list this year...