How fitting that Anthony Bourdain’s controversial interview with DCist, in which Bourdain called organic food proponent Alice Waters’ agenda “very Khmer Rouge,” took place in our nation’s capital. Welcome to Alice Watersgate, a brewing chef on chef scandal that (potentially) has the unexpected benefit of bringing ideas about our country’s food policy to a much wider audience.
Judging from the DCist interview, general timing seems to be part of Bourdain’s overall gripe: “We're all in the middle of a recession,” he told interviewer Jamie R. Liu, while complaining about the priciness and preachiness seemingly inherent to going green, “like we're all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market.” Last November, Waters wrote a much-publicized open letter to the newly minted President Elect offering advisory services on choosing a new White House chef. It turned out that the old White House chef had a lot to offer.
But yesterday, an unusual comment was added to our original Waters/Bourdain story: “See Anthony and Alice continue the conversation LIVE! Anthony Bourdain will be appearing with Alice Waters AND Duff Goldman May 14, 2009 at The Connecticut Forum.” With a potential celeb chef horn-locking on the horizon, we decided to contact the man himself and ask for further clarification about his Alice Waters criticisms; his full response below:
“I don't have any burning issue with Alice Waters, a restaurateur and visionary whose accomplishments clearly dwarf my own, so I doubt it. In a perfect, candy-colored world, I'd like to eat most of what she'd like to see us eat. I feed my daughter mostly organic food whenever possible—and greatly admire what Dan Barber is doing. My comments were a heartfelt reaction to her wildly hubristic letter to the (then) president-elect, a document whose tone, timing and content I found distasteful—particularly coming from someone who hadn't even bothered to vote in the four previous elections. True, I am suspicious of wealthy suburbanites who preach “back to the soil” philosophies—as if most—or even many—could start digging subsistence gardens in their back yards or afford expensive organic or locavore lifestyles. But Chez Panisse was inarguably a cradle of the food revolution. I respect Alice Waters’ enormous contribution to changing the way we eat and cook today. No one can take that away from her. No one should try. I intend to treat her with the respect she rightly deserves. She says some stupid shit sometimes—and she is certainly free to call “bullshit” on me when I do the same. I might, in the spirit of good fun, point out that following even my own not particularly distinguished career in kitchens—most of it in view of the “Choking Victim” sign, I DO, at least, know the Heimlich maneuver.”So there you have it. Tickets for the May 14 Connecticut Forum event featuring Anthony Bourdain and Alice Waters in conversation—with Ace of Cakes’ teddy bear baker “Duff” Goldman onstage as well, and perhaps playing the role of hapless bystander—go on sale next Friday, January 30.