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Leather Storrs: How TV Influences our Changing Food Culture

Thursday, July 02, 2015


Bam! “Kick it up a notch”! Remember that guy? He used to be public enemy No. 1 for serious chefs. Emeril Lagasse represented the dumbing down, the chumpification, of our industry.

But that guy ain’t nothing compared to THAT Guy… Fieri.

He’s a monster. A culinary Godzilla, frying everything in his path, intent on smashing things together and covering them with cheese!

Now there’s an enemy worth worrying about. He must be stopped! He is going to crumble our reputation like bacon bits!

Or maybe not.

Hating on Fieri is easier than poopooing the ‘Couv or finding a fixie.

Look chef, we get it. You make your own kimchi, grow food on your roof and your kid’s got a cleaver tattoo. You’ve worked hard to draw a clean, straight line between the source of your food and the mismatched plates on which you serve it.

You are part of the movement in our profession that features thoughtful, better educated, politically active people who are intent on showcasing their region with sustainable products and artisan techniques.

The Power of Food TV 

Bully for you! But how, exactly, do you think we got from Emeril, who is an old guard, white coat, big restaurant kind of guy, to where we are now, with DIY, chef-driven houses piloted by tatted, cheese-making philosopher/butchers?  

Food TV, that’s how. And old Guy, with his heavy metal bro shtick is the tsunami of food TV. He’s Nascar. Red State. He’s accessible. He’s fun.   

“A rising tide lifts all boats.” The increase in attention, interest and knowledge about food, due mostly to armchair chefs, is good for all of us!

The food network helps customers learn the lingo of cuisine and it makes them interested in chefs. It makes people willing to try funky stuff and validates the increased cost of artisan items. It pays for us to go to food festivals in awful places like Hawaii and Aspen and it gets our names out there so people will buy our books.

Guy didn’t make that happen, but he sure helped. Alton Brown is nerdy. And effete. And a little snooty. Can you see him signing some woman's breasts with a sharpie? 

There is a lot of dirt between here and Brooklyn, and the majority of it is planted with corn and soybeans.

The rest of the country couldn’t (and doesn’t want to) live like we do in the Northwest. Eating fussy and organic is time consuming and expensive and the only garden most folks want is the Olive one. But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t changing. Walmart sells organic food, Applebee’s is freshing up their menu and the first lady is pushing sustainability and seasonality in schools.

Guy knows you think he’s an ass, and that’s OK - turn off the TV. But realize (and hope) that some kid in Topeka is going to be spurred on to learn more about food than what she sees on “Guy+Rachel=Calories!” Understand that America’s love affair with seasonal, hand-made food is in its infancy.

We’re gonna kiss some frogs on the way, but then… let’s cook em. 

Leather Storrs is an Oregon native who has served 20 years in professional kitchens. He owns a piece of two area restaurants: Noble rot and nobleoni at Oregon College of Art and Craft, where he yells and waves arms. He quietly admits to having been a newspaper critic in Austin, Texas and Portland.   


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