FERN’s Friday Feed: The decline of the ‘chef-auteur’

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

The fall of the great chef

The New York Times

“For decades, the chef has been cast as the star at the center of the kitchen. In the same way the auteur theory in film frames the director as the author of a movie’s creative vision, the chef has been considered entirely responsible for the restaurant’s success,” writes Tejal Rao. “But the power of the chef-auteur as an idea is fading, and as restaurant workers organize and speak up about abusive workplaces, toxic bosses and inequities in pay and benefits, it’s clear that the restaurant industry has to change.”

How to reform the meat industry

The New Republic

“The current pandemic underscores that broader argument for a new system of meat production and distribution,” writes Ted Genoways. “Droving nearly six billion animals, some two-thirds of the total number of livestock slaughtered in the United States each year, onto the kill floors of barely 100 meatpacking plants owned by just six companies not only creates an impassable bottleneck; it has also produced a potential national security threat should our food supply chain experience a sustained disruption.”

The champagne market is going flat


“For months, lockdown put the cork on weddings, dining out, parties and international travel — all key sales components for the French luxury wine marketed for decades as a sparkling must at any celebration,” writes Thomas Adamson. “Producers in France’s eastern Champagne region, headquarters of the global industry, say they’ve lost an estimated 1.7 billion euros ($2 billion) in sales for this year, as turnover fell by a third — a hammering unmatched in living memory, and worse than the Great Depression.”

An epic journey across Japan to find pizza toast


“Pizza toast is what you’re imagining: the concept of using toast to make something like pizza. A fat slab of white bread, some tomato sauce, cheese, maybe some onions and green peppers. After that it’s up to the chef. It is a hug produced in a toaster oven,” writes Craig Mod. “It’s also a sort of netherworld food that the Japanese don’t think about and visitors to Japan have assessed — if at all — with a mere tilt of the head … It is a food that squeezes joy from very little. Simple ingredients, simple preparation. A meal that transcends economic circumstance.”

A polarizing, but omnipresent, fermented dish


“Nattō is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. It has an ammonia-like smell and mucus-like consistency that makes it polarising, even among people who grow up with it,” writes Erika Hobart. Yet its popularity persists, in part due to its health benefits. “The Japanese have long hailed nattō as a superfood and believe that consumption is linked to improved blood flow and reduced risk of stroke – factors that are particularly appealing in a country that is home to one of the world’s oldest populations.”