Thoughts For Food

Insights into the Mind of a Culinary School Student

Food Bites: Bourdain vs. Deen

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The whole situation between Paula Deen and Anthony Bourdain, at least in the culinary world, has made quite a splash. Everywhere I go on campus these days, it’s all anyone seems to be talking about, even after a week has passed since the NYTimes article detailing this feud was published. You can check out said article here.

In the article, Op-Ed writer Frank Bruni blasted Bourdain for berating the “Belle of Comfort Food,” Paula Deen in a recent interview. Bourdain said that Paula Deen was a menace for making a nation of already obese people, even more unhealthy by showing them how to prepare fattening and unhealthy food. Bourdain went so far as to say that Paula was making it OK for Americans to eat more of the food that was already killing them. Strong words, to be sure. Paula took some shots of her own. When asked by the NY Post about Bourdain’s comments, she said that not everybody could afford to eat a $70 steak or drink a $360 glass of wine every week. She cited her and her friends as those who “cook for regular families who worry about feeding their kids and paying the bills,” essentially highlighting Bourdain’s culinary elitism as the source for his harsh words.

So, who exactly is at fault? Who is right? Who is wrong? Answer: they both are, although one does have more of a point than the other, in my own opinion. Regardless, this argument may very well give the food industry a much needed push to better create a healthy America, and hopefully before companies that manufacture artificial limbs become members of the Fortune 500.

First, let’s look at Anthony Bourdain. Talented chef, food-writer and host of the Travel Channel’s “No Reservations,” is no saint by any means. He has an unrivaled talent of saying exactly what he thinks about a particular dish or restaurant. He never chooses his words and always lays on the expletives when voicing his opinions. Off-putting to some, to be sure, but he is a chef after all. It’s what he’s used to and probably doesn’t want to change. And let’s face facts, what he said is completely true. America is growing day by day. Growing WIDER, that is. Obesity levels have skyrocketed in this country over recent years and it looks like they’re only getting higher. Bourdain was right in highlighting a major problem plaguing this country and equally right in pointing out one of the plausible causes, albeit in his own “eloquent” manner. Paula’s dishes aren’t the most heart-healthy foods out there. They’re Southern Comfort Food, a food group known for using as much oil as the BP Oil Spill. They most definitely are a major contributor to the rising obesity rates in the country, there is no denying that fact. Bourdain’s sharp wit is not focused solely on the supposed culinary lower class, as Paula Deen thinks. Bourdain has taken shots at other culinary big-wigs, such as Alice Waters, and even Deen’s fellow Food Network stars: Sandra Lee and the infamous Rachel Ray. You could say that Bourdain is an equal opportunity critic.

On the flip-side, is Paula Deen. The Southern Darling that has graced our TV sets since 2002 and since then, has been showing Americans how easy it is to prepare all the deep-fried Southern delights that people call Comfort Food. Let’s not debunk Paula’s talent here. She is a talented writer, as evidenced by her string of well-selling cookbooks. She is very helpful for showing the “common” American how easy it is to prepare delicious food, quickly. And she is a very nice person.She does indeed have a point for defending herself against Bourdain’s onslaught of harsh words and criticism. She is right is saying that not all Americans can afford the expensive, fine dining options that Bourdain and other food critics espouse. For many Americans, it’s simply an impossibility, so they must search for an alternative.

So, who ultimately has the better point here? Personally, I’m going to have to with Anthony Bourdain, and not just because I’m attending his alma mater. Don’t get me wrong, they both have excellent points here. However, Bourdain’s point of an increasingly obese America holds a tad bit more water. It’s a serious matter concerning all Americans, not just those “average” Americans that Paula Deen holds in her “voice of the people” status. And speaking of status, shouldn’t Paula Deen be using her status as a TV personality to spread the message of better eating, instead of sharing the fattening recipes? Many other of her fellow Food Network stars have made the same public pitch, chefs or no. Bottom line: be a part of the solution, not the problem. Instead, Paula has teamed herself up with food company Smithfield Foods, a company who is known to be in violation of laws pertaining to small farmers, animal rights and other environmental environmental violations. Good job there, Paula.

Neither Paula nor Bourdain are saints of saviors, let me make that clear. Do I agree with Bourdain in this case? Yes, because his point makes more sense to me. Not taking anything away from Deen’s point, but, I digress. This whole incident does serve one major bit of good though: it may push the issue of healthy eating into the spotlight where it needs to be. Hopefully it can get there soon. Cases of obesity in America have tripled since the early 90s and is only expected to get worse in the coming years. We’re in need of some major change and having the Queen of Comfort Food stepping back a bit, my not be such a bad idea.

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Author: NJ_Chef

A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and aspiring food-writer. 28-year old chef, blogger, eSports fan, gamer, jack-of-all-trades and master of none.

3 thoughts on “Food Bites: Bourdain vs. Deen

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