Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chefs at the Bookstore

Last night Woody and I met up at Barnes & Noble in Union Square for a discussion and book signing - David Chang with Peter Meehan and Anthony Bourdain. Yep, this was the second time we had seen Chang & Bourdain in as many months (we saw them at the New York Food & Wine Festival)!

Woody became a Bourdain fan watching "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel and then I got hooked. We have only been to Chang's Momofuku Milk Bar & Bakery since his other restaurants are pretty difficult to get into. Peter Meehan is a food critic and was the co-author of Chang's new cookbook - the reason for the discussion and signing.

They seemed to have a great time on stage - but that might have to do with the fact that they're friends and also the bottles of beer. It was interesting hearing them speak about the state of food and restaurants in our culture today. Chang believes that as a whole, the US restaurant scene needs desperately to push the envelope more, that they are too safe. He doesn't believe that it means chefs need to be using more chemistry, maybe what's new is something that's pretty simple, but whatever it is, he feels pretty strongly that our restaurant culture lags behind many other cities and countries. He also is pretty adamant that our street food culture needs major help. I thought this was a bit odd, personally, because over the past few years there has been an explosion of food trucks and specialty food carts. But, apparently it is extremely difficult to get the permits needed (not just in NYC) to open a food cart and then there is are the turf wars to deal with! He and Bourdain agree that we are hindering the street food scene both due to our culture and government and that we need to look to places like Singapore for examples.

They all agreed that good food should be easily accessible for everyone. Good food shouldn't be reserved for expensive, black tie, reservation only restaurants. We should all be able to truly enjoy fantastic food in the most unusual and unlikely places. I agree with this! I have found several restaurants that have fantastic (as far as I'm concerned) food that doesn't cost a months salary. But, there aren't that many places like that. Is it because the best quality food costs too much that it forces high prices or because of overhead costs for some restaurants, or because the restaurant industry generally accepts that the best food should be in the most expensive restaurants?

At both events, Chang talked about his desire for real Mexican food in New York City. None of the sour cream, tortilla chips, chimichangas. Real Mexican food. It seems odd to me that there aren't real Mexican restaurants in this city. Another question - why is that? What is stopping them? There must be some in this city, so do they just keep it to themselves so they can keep it real and not be infiltrated by the masses?

One thing they all warned about is that being a chef is not glamorous. Shows like Top Chef, the Food Network, and the celebrity status that many chefs have achieved make it look like a fantastic world, when in fact it is hard, difficult and you have to pay your dues for little to no money. They want new talent to come up and want to nurture the talent, but also say you have to be pretty insane to get into it.

This has been the PG rated review of the event last night. If you know much about either Bourdain or Chang, you know that they like to curse quite a bit. They definitely are entertaining, thought provoking and interesting. Hopefully we'll be able to go to one of Bourdain's restaurants soon.

I just want to take a quick second to thank everyone who commented on my post yesterday. Thank you for being inspired by what I've been through this year. I think it's quite odd because while it has been pretty difficult at some times, I really don't think it's anything that extraordinary. There are so many people who get through things that are so much more challenging and go on to do so much more. I just hope that I can use this experience as a reminder to enjoy life and not take it, or anyone, for granted. Thank you so much for your kind words!!


ChocolateAddict said...

Love Anthony Bourdain! I agree with their philosophy, thanks for sharing!

Lindsey @ EatReadRun said...

I just found your blog and wanted to say hello. I am a fellow NYC-based blogger and runner. Your story and positive attitude are truly inspirational. Best of luck with everything.