Thursday, June 28, 2007

Opinions Galore -- Around the Food World

It seems like today I ran across an unusual number of posts that give all of us foodies a little, well, food for thought. There are no clear answers to some of these controversies and by their nature, many will inspire wildly different views, but I thought I'd share them here. Questions to ponder.

The Sad Saga of Patrick Atkins: Agree or disagree, this post from Advance Indiana has put me right off Atkins Cheesecake. If you have gay friends in committed relationships, you'll understand what I mean. The sickening too-close-to-home story underlines why unmarried couples should go to the trouble -- and expense -- of preparing the right legal documents to protect themselves. It's heartbreaking enough for one partner in a couple to be hospitalized or incapacitated without an intolerant parent in the mix. I'm not big with the boycotts, nor am I anti-Christian, but this sort of thing makes me want to find another place for desserts.

Suing over Restaurant Concepts: So, here's the deal. A chef in NYC (Rebecca Charles) bases her restaurant, Pearl, on a restaurant in the San Francisco Bay Area, Swan Oyster Depot. Both are rough knockoffs of your traditional New England fresh shellfish stand. But then Rebecca's trusted sous chef of six years, Ed McFarland, leaves and 3 months later opens his own restaurant a mile away, Ed's Oyster Bar, which -- in Rebecca's opinion -- is *just* like Pearl. Admittedly, it's similar. But is it worth a lawsuit? Pearl isn't a franchise. And there's no patent on the New England oyster shack. But is the design, menu, and even interior look and feel intellectual property? Serious Eats has great coverage the lawsuit filed yesterday. Plus Ed Levine's look at both places today.

The New Responsible Food Writing? Kate Hopkins has an interesting take on Christopher Shea's article New Grub Street from the Columbia Journalism Review. Covering the ongoing public debate between Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, and John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, it also looks at the broader issue: What can happen when positive disagreements and debate go public. My gripe with The Omnivore's Dilemma isn't unlike Mackey's. It's difficult to make a blanket condemnation of an entire industry. Pollan, in my opinion, writes for an audience he knows will buy his arguments hook, line, and sinker. The book comes off as a one-sided rant without the actual data to back it up. The CJR looks at the broader picture and offers an analysis -- the short of which is that we the readers need to continue to ask questions.

Bourdain Rants on Hell's Kitchen: Bourdain, in another terrific rant at Ruhlman's blog, sums up *exactly* the problem with Ramsey's show Hell's Kitchen. I agree with him completely about how great Ramsey can be on TV and how lovely his other shows are. But he should be embarrassed by the horrible car crash (that, granted, I can't stop watching) called Hell's Kitchen. Where do they find these contestants? It's especially awful compared to the quality of candidates on this season's Top Chef. (Jean Georges' executive sous chef from NY and the exec chef from Abacus in Dallas can't compare to the retirement home chef who started on Hell's Kitchen -- and he lasted two episodes! The best chef on the show is a short order cook!) Tony, we love you. Please do a Ramsey intervention!


Anonymous said...

Wow, i buy atkins desserts all the time. They are wonderful. But never, never again. Mrs Atkins sounds like a downright evil B*tch.

Anonymous said...

I've never tried Atkins desserts, but always meant to...until now. I'm completely disgusted by their lack of compassion. Hopefully, the Atkins will realize the error of their ways or at the very least be treated in the same horrible way they treat others.

Brian D. said...

The Atkins case is a classic example of how all unmarried but commited couples (straight and gay) can and should protect themselves with a few simple legal documents. General and Medical Powers of Attorney along with putting both names on joint assets (cars, houses, retirement accounts, etc) will protect unmarried partners when something goes wrong.

Concerning the Pearl vs Ed's lawsuit: yes the look, feel, and design of a place can be protected by the concept of Trade Dress. I don't practice Intellectual Property law (loved the class though); however, based on the quick read of the other articles I say Rebecca Charles has valid legal claim (at least initially).

Anonymous said...

IndyStar article on prayer at Atkins plants, practically placing the halo right on Mrs. Atkins' head. I feel bad for Christians who don't live as hypocrites; they're tarnished by this woman.

braingirl said...

I saw that. Barf. What a cheesy fluff piece designed to make her look like such a Christain saint.

I'm glad to see a few posters in the comments are at least getting some of the fact outs -- reporting that the Star should have done.

Wouldn't it have been great if the reporter asked the questions she should have asked? I'm guessing the PR interview would have been over and the Star wouldn't have had such a lovely fluff piece.

GeePee said...

In the post Suing over Restaurant Concepts, you mention that both restaurants (Oyster cafe) are knock offs of the traditional New England fresh shellfish stand. I would hope you weren't referring the the Swan Oyster Depot as a knock-off. At 94 plus years old, it hardly can be considered a knock off.

Last March when I sat down to enjoy a dozen West Coast oysters, a big hunk of crusty sour dough with local butter, and an Anchor Steam, I didn't notice anything particularly 'New England-y' about my lunch.