The Top Food Feuds

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AND THE WINNER IS? Bourdain drops points on Waters and Deen, picking up a victory only with Lee, who’s seemingly indefensible. Gael Greene called critics of Waters—a thinly veiled reference to Bourdain—“toxic misogynists.” He eventually relented, and, on his blog, imagined running into her and issuing a mumbled apology. Lee’s Kwanzaa Cake video became even more of a viral YouTube sensation after Bourdain’s musings. Deen responded that Bourdain needed to “get a life” and noted her charitable contributions, while critics pointed out the hypocrisy of praising haute chefs’ fried chicken while slamming Paula Deen’s.


COMBATANTS: David Chang, Momofuku Chef/Owner Extraordinaire vs. The City of San Francisco (Like, All of It)

THE CHANG PRIMER: David Chang made a fast name for himself with his tiny, East Village noodle bar that’s expanded into the four-time James Beard Award–winning mini-empire it is today; early on, he also made himself quickly synonymous with being as punk rock as a wildly successful chef/owner could be while still maintaining an air of likability. No reservations at his restaurants, for anybody. Rock music, on blast, all the time. Putting foie gras on the menu every night at every restaurant he owned when vegan activists protested outside one of them and then donating proceeds from the dishes’ sales to hunger charities City Harvest and the Food Bank for New York City.

THE WORDS: At the 2009 New York Food & Wine Festival, in a panel discussion entitled “I Call Bullshit!” Chang noted: “F--kin’ every restaurant in San Francisco is just serving figs on a plate. Do something with your food.”

FALLOUT: Needless to say, the words gained decent traction in food circles: Chefs responded on blogs and The New York Times filed an entire report of San Francisco chefs’ responses to Chang’s slight. A little over a week later, the Asia Society in San Francisco canceled a book signing of Chang’s then unreleased Momofuku cookbook.

AND THE WINNER IS? David Chang. His final words on the matter? “I would never open a place in San Francisco,” according to an interview in SF Weekly’s blog. Reminder: This is a man who has a picture of the racket-smashing ’80s tennis star John McEnroe above one of his bars. His cookbook was a best seller. He’s since opened more restaurants. And who doesn’t want what they can’t have? Also, nobody from San Francisco cooked up anything even remotely funny in response, at least in comparison to Chang’s dis.


COMBATANTS: Award-Winning Chef Santi Santamaría vs. Molecular Gastronomy God Ferran Adrià

THE TITANS: Santamaría, who unexpectedly passed away in February, held a total of seven Michelin stars for his world-renowned Mediterranean cooking at four restaurants, and was the first Catalan chef to receive three stars (in 1994 for El Racó de Can Fabes in Sant Celoni, Spain). Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli was widely understood to be the best restaurant in the world until he shut it down earlier this year to work on other projects.

THE SKIRMISH: In 2007 Santamaría told a convention of chefs in Madrid that there’s little pride to be had in his once-friend Adrià’s smoke-and-mirrors cooking, noting that “cooks should not be preoccupied with creating sculptures,” labeling Adrià’s acolytes a “gang of imposters” who cooked for “snobs” and rallying against Adrià use of chemicals as a “public health risk.” Adrià fired back, calling Santamaría’s claim “ridiculous” and bemoaning the reputational harm Santamaría may have caused Spanish chefs, but mostly let others do much of the talking for him: A European chefs’ association issued a statement condemning Santamaría’s vitriol; another chef accused Santamaría of jealousy.

AND THE WINNER IS? Adrià. For one thing, when El Bulli closed, every food writer in the world wanted a ticket, and every single one of them who went to one of the restaurant’s final meals regarded it with some degree of otherworldliness. For another, when Santamaría died, Adrià took the high road, noting: “Everyone knows of our differences and many know of our prior friendship… His death has come as a very great shock. It’s a sad day for me personally and for Spanish cuisine.”

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