A panel of experts convened at NYU's Fales Library late this afternoon to discuss "How Food and Food Writing Have Changed America." The moderator was restaurant consultant Clark Wolf, and the panel included (shown above from left to right) - Michael Batterberry (founder of Food and Wine magazine), David Kamp (author of The United States of Arugula), Ann Bramson (legendary cookbook editor), and Jonathan Gold (Pulitzer Prize winner and food critic of our sister publication, L.A. Weekly). Not shown, caterer and organic farmer Liz Neumark.
Wolf began by dropping a bombshell: "I want to tell you that Gael Greene has just been fired at New York magazine." An audible groan emanated from the audience.
In turn, each panel member expounded on his or her perspective on the topic. Batterberry recounted how he'd been encouraged by James Beard to found Food and Wine 30
years ago, at a time when chefs had gradually been turning from domestic servants into professionals. Kamp noted that, while movies and literature are now inferior to what they were 30 years ago, the food that we eat is much better. Bramson described some of her early cookbook projects, and noted how illustrations were once considered wimpy in cookbooks, but now the extensively illustrated cookbook is the norm. Neumark noted that she was catering the 100th anniversary party for the Plaza Hotel, emphasizing food made within 100 miles, and that 100 years ago, the food was also mainly from within 100 miles, except the caviar. Gold differentiated between ethnic restaurants in L.A. and those in New York, observing that the customer base of L.A. places tends to be people of the same ethnicity. In N.Y., ethnic restaurants are more likely to be frequented by a broad range of diners - and I think he meant foodies. He also said that ethnic restaurants tended to be much better than upscale trendy restaurants in L.A.
Afterwards, a discussion ensued inspired by questions from the audience. A general disapproval of blogs was espoused, and one panel member predicted that blogs would soon be edited. Maybe just trying to be controversial, Kamp reviled chowhound.com and egullet.com, calling them "insular," but then praised Josh Ozersky and his new blog, http://www.the-feedbag.com/. Taking her turn, Neumark flamed the Food Network, pointing out that children watched it all the time ("I want to be like Rachel Ray," one girl had told her.), and that it never featured shows that taught nutrition.
The afternoon ended with free wine, cheese, and pickles.