Bourdain Tempers Criticism of Alice Waters, Feedbag Piles It On

Photo: Getty Images, Patrick McMullan

Gothamist has asked Anthony Bourdain to further explain his harsh words about the doyenne of dining, which they’re now dubbing Alice Watersgate. His response:

“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.”

It seems Bourdain is bound to bury the hatchet with Waters (they’ll continue the dialogue on May 14 at the Connecticut Forum), but the Feedbag has another bone to pick with her, over a series of benefits that she threw in D.C. They were described as “small dinners of no more than 25 people and simple, homey menus — not ‘restaurant food’ — made from local meat and produce,” but according to the ’bag, they were anything but.

Waters’ “small” “homey” dinners got turned into 100- and 200-person events; she invited celebrity chefs from all over the country to cook these so-called non-restaurant-food meals; and the chefs (some of them) shipped in their own hometown meats and veggies.

Here’s a heads-up for the future, Dan Barber — it’s not “local” or “seasonal” if you have to put it on a plane. (I’m reminded of the time a Slow Fooder told me she was going to a brandad tasting to support local salt cod artisans from Spain; we were in Boston at the time.) And we hate to be the first to tell you, Alice, but flying twelve different chefs from around the nation into DC, when you’ve got some perfectly nice ones in town already, might defeat the purpose of your enviro-rants.

Oh, snap. Maybe Feedbag writer Stephanie Shih should replace Ace of Cakes’ “Duff” Goldman on that panel with Bourdain and Waters — now that would be a lively discussion.

Bourdain Talks Alice Waters [Gothamist]

Alice Waters to the Rescue … or Not [Feedbag]

Bourdain Tempers Criticism of Alice Waters, Feedbag Piles It On