This week’s best food-focused reads weren’t all long, but they are all full of delicious words and passages. They’re best enjoyed on a leisurely afternoon with a cup of coffee or tea. Wonder how one of America’s premiere chefs felt about getting panned in a review? Read Gabe Ulla’s profile of Thomas Keller. Curious about what’s behind Guy Fieri’s spiky blond facade? Check out Esquire’s piece on one of America’s most notorious television personalities. And whatever you do, don’t miss Jamie Lauren Keiles’s (obsessive, brilliant) tale about trying Coca-Cola for the first time or Tejal Rao’s elegant piece on food cravings and memory.
The New York Times Magazine
When I cooked at a restaurant 30 miles south of San Francisco, I drove home after plating the last dessert order and scrubbing down the counters with soapy water. It was after midnight by then, and my neighborhood pizza place was closed, and everything else was, too. I showered in the time it took a pot of rice to cook on the stove, mixed in some butter, salted peanuts, whatever herbs I had and brown sugar. It was a sad little dinner, but for a long time it was mine.
Town & Country
Six months after Wells's review, Keller tells me he has a strong sense that the critic wasn't out for blood. "Maybe we were complacent," he says. "I learned that, maybe, as a team we were a little bit too arrogant, our egos too exposed." Despite his winking cuisine and insistence on pleasing every guest, Keller has sometimes—as have other chefs of his caliber—been accused of pedantry. Wells, for one, claimed that "servers sometimes give you the feeling that you work for them, and your job is to feel lucky to receive whatever you get."
"I was pretty driven with what I wanted to do," Fieri tells me. His dad, his hero, helped him lay out his plan at an early age. Fieri never wanted to be Thomas Keller or Daniel Boulud. "I wanted to work in corporate restaurants," he says, repeating something I've heard him say proudly a thousand times in various interviews. But it's a line that speaks volumes about Fieri's personality: He had a plan this entire time. Fieri's food is not an art, but a craft—practiced with care but not pretension. And yet he takes every plate piled high with burgers and fries as seriously as you might an entry in the Bocuse d'Or. Simple food—diverse American Food, in all styles, made by Americans—is Fieri's rallying cry and religion.
It’s a sugar cone, in the shape of a taco, filled with light vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate with nuts on top. It’s the Choco Taco.
But where did this highly engineered dessert come from?
If you’re looking for evidence of mass commonality, it doesn’t come cheaper or more convenient than Coke. It’s consumed around 1.9 billion times per day, and distributed everywhere except North Korea and Cuba (for now). Through Coke we all have something in common — Liz Taylor knows it, the president knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it. I, on the other hand, can only trust and speculate. I’ve never had a Coke in my life.
All over the country, Indian communities that were forcefully divorced from their traditional foodways have suffered from poverty, colonialism, and a lack of fresh food for the better part of a century. In the Plains in the late 1800s, the U.S. Army hunted tens of millions of bison to the point of extinction, specifically to defeat the region’s tribes. In the Northwest, salmon were diminished because of man-made dams along the rivers. In Minnesota, cultivated cranberry marshes and rice beds were maliciously drowned to free up land for logging, forcing Indians to relocate to the White Earth Reservation. By killing the food—from coast to coast—the government defeated Native Americans.
How did the chef kiss come to be the unofficial seal of approval for good shit online and also the sarcastic repudiator of bad shit? The Wikipedia contributor/Vox explainer answer is that the kiss originated as an actual Italian hand gesture used to signify "al bacio," meaning "delicious" or, more literally, "as good as a kiss."
I opened Al Pastor because I was honestly scared of becoming irrelevant. And I know that sounds crazy, but it’s different now. Staying within the dialogue is tricky. You see your contemporaries opening a restaurant every six months and I’d be lying if I said you don’t start to get a little panicky. So we opened the bar and we said, "Okay, we’ll sell alcohol." And the alcohol will pay the rent and it will allow us to figure out how to get our masa game together. And figure out how to grind corn. And that’s why we did that. We also did it because we had some really good people that we didn’t want to lose. But we had some new good people coming in. So where the hell do you put them all? And that’s actually probably the biggest reason we’re opening the fourth one. We’re actually going, "Okay, well, if we’re never going to close, or if we’re going to stay in New York City and we’re really going to have staying power — how are we going to do that?"