Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Adventures Of Stealth Goat Pt. 1

Barista: Here's your latte, Mr. Johnson.

Man: I'm not Mr. Johnson at all. I'm...

[Rips off man costume]

Stealth Goat: STEALTH GOAT!

All: [gasp]

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Death of the Celebrity Chef

Here in America, the celebrity chef is a relatively new phenomenon. And, as so frequently happens, we are screwing it up incredibly badly. Rather than have it be about the quality of a chef's cooking, here it is more about who can get their face put on the greatest number of items readily available at Target™. As does most of our celebrity-worshiping culture, this treads a fine line between wasteful and completely ridiculous. These people are elevated more for how they look in half-hour segments than for how their food tastes, and this has created a television food culture that is somewhere between nauseating and embarrassing.

This is not to say that putting chefs on television is some sort of quixotic endeavor. Julia's ghost would probably turn all my rouxs to ash for even suggesting it. But rather, that we as a country are doing it wrong. In fact, the two best food shows currently on television are actually run by food personalities rather than chefs. I speak here of Anthony Bourdain and Alton Brown. Bourdain cane up through the ranks as a chef, though he has since left the profession for a lifestyle that he would probably call significantly easier and more opulent. Brown attended culinary school for the purpose of creating a tv show, and spent years making the wonderful Good Eats, a show which has now sadly ended, leaving Food Network with exactly zero shows worth watching. Most of the chefs we have running things on the magic box these days are more of the Guy Fieri "Watch me indiscriminately shovel things into the hole in my fat face while yelling vacuous catchphrases" school of television. There is an air of condescension that you do not get with Bourdain and Brown, who do not seem to feel the same contempt for the audience's collective iq that seems to accompany most other food-related programming. Which brings us to the current nexus of the problem: Paula Deen.

This is a fairly old story by this point, so forgive me for the rehash I am about to go into. Paula Deen has become of of Food Network's biggest stars by pandering to her audience with a big ol' Southern accent that has become more exaggerated and cartoonish over the years. She cooks good ol' down home food, which she seems to define as massive portions of fatty, sugary food drowned in butter. She is a wonderfully succinct symbol for most of what is wrong with the American diet, a woman whose recipes are the best possible solution for the Social Security crisis.

Yes, that is exactly what it looks like

So when the news came out recently that this symbol of ridiculous American excess has diabetes, it was somewhere between obvious and not at all surprising. If you spend years foisting what she has on the general populace, there are obviously going to be severe and painful health issues. If you can look at the above image and not understand the ramifications, well, I'm going to file that under natural selection. No, the surprising part was that she was diagnosed with diabetes years ago and has been hiding it, so as not to hurt her business. That's pretty slimy stuff right there. So why the change of heart? Well, it had been a long-running rumor that she had diabetes, so it was probably going to come out sooner or later. So why not put the story out there to pre-empt a messy revelation, as well as try to put your own spin on the matter? That's not how it happened.

No, in the end the Butter Queen made public that she was afflicted with the only possible endpoint for her own cooking because she signed a multi-million dollar deal with a drug company to promote their diabetes drug Victoza®. Part of the deal for her getting these millions was making her condition public. That is borderline despicable. But it gets better: Victoza® causes thyroid cancer in lab rats. Don't you go to hell for this sort of thing? Immediately after the announcement Deen's publicist, a job which requires you check your soul at the door, quit over moral issues with what Deen was doing. Making her the only person involved in any aspect of this mess who has a conscience.

In Bourdain's book Medium Raw, there's a scene where the author overhears two celebrity chefs discussing a potential endorsement deal for a new product. Not once is there any mention of the quality or usefulness of the item. Rather, the only aspect of it that is talked about is what the company is willing to pay the chef, and what the chefs are willing to put their name on a product they clearly have no intention of ever using for. This is where we stand. The entire celebrity chef culture has gone past the tipping point, and is currently striding the line between self-parody and actual destructive institution seemingly hell-bent in actively hurting us. Welcome to America, circa 2012. We're doing it wrong.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Signs You Work Back Of House In A Restaurant #1

When you pick up something hot that burns your hand, you find someplace safe to set it down rather than dropping it.