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May 19, 2010 07:15 AM

"Marijuana Fuels a New Kitchen Culture"

In today's NY Times:

I have to say that I was entirely puzzled by this piece. What is it about? At first, I thought it was outing chefs who smoke marijuana or chefs who did it in the kitchen or chefs who cook food for stoners. Huh?

I like several of the restaurants mentioned, but my preferences have nothing to do with the topic of this article.

Seems like a waste of valuable space (it was the lead story in today's Dining section).

Also, "In the 1980s, cocaine helped fuel the frenetic open kitchens and boisterous dining rooms that were the incubators of celebrity chef culture."


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  1. If you read the piece, why are you puzzled? The point of the article is pretty clearly summed up in this quote:

    “There has been an entire strata of restaurants created by chefs to feed other chefs,” Mr. Bourdain said. “These are restaurants created specially for the tastes of the slightly stoned, slightly drunk chef after work.” As examples of places serving that kind of food, he offered some of David Chang’s restaurants; Au Pied du Cochon in Montreal, with its poutine of foie gras; Crif Dogs in the East Village, which makes a deep-fried cheese steak hot dog; and, in fact, the entire genre of mutant-hot-dog stands.

    I thought it was a fine addition to the dining section, and I'd much rather read about how chefs get their ideas than yet another article about amateur hog butchers or Alice Waters.

    7 Replies
    1. re: small h

      I'm puzzled because I read the piece, the focus of which eluded me.

      And statements like the one you pointed out and the one I referenced in my post seem random. I'm willing to at least consider that "in the 1980s, cocaine helped fuel the frenetic open kitchens and boisterous dining rooms that were the incubators of celebrity chef culture," but where's the proof of that?

      I'm with you on your last para!

      1. re: gloriousfood

        <but where's the proof of that?>

        There has been so very much written about this that I hardly know where to begin. Ok, I know where to begin. Open Bill Buford's book, Heat. Turn to page 7. I also have anecdotal evidence from people I actually know, but that's between me, them, and the lamp post.

        1. re: small h

          Thanks, small h. Wished the writer could have been helpful as you in connecting the missing links for me.

          1. re: gloriousfood

            You can go to the Diner's Journal comment section and vent your frustrations - everyone else does! But I did like the article. I'm sure it will be criticized for the usual reasons - the NYT is trying too hard to be hip, why so interested in celebrity chefs, etc. - as well as the ambiguity that bothered you.

          2. re: small h

            From page 91 of California Dish by Jeremiah Tower, "It was cocaine that became the fuel for the energy that changed the way America dines..."

            And describing Chez Panisse's 3rd birthday in 1974, "The night was a huge success, premiering three new trends:individual pizza, the freedom to use any topping one wanted, and the drug that made all the long hours possible, then impossible, in the kitchen."

            1. re: small h

              re: anecdotal evidence. Yes. Anyone who worked in a kitchen in the 80s could verify this. Simply being able to work the hours required was a challenge for many. Not super creative, though IMO.

              Me, I'd much rather have stoner food than tweaked out coke food (aka NO food).

              1. re: yumyum

                Agreed. I worked in a kitchen in the 1990s, and those who'd been there a while used to reminisce about the crazy coke-fueled atmosphere there in the 80s. By the 1990s, they were happy with a few beers or some wine after work (and a bit of pot, though I don't remember it so much on premises as at afterwork parties).

        2. You definitely need a serious case of the munchies to finish anything at "Au Pied de Cochon"...

          3 Replies
          1. re: Voidsinger

            Is it bad? I was in Montreal recently and considered going there, but the menu didn't appeal to me. That said, I think any kind of poutine qualifies as stoner food.

            1. re: small h

              Oh no, on the contrary! One of the most fun culinary experiences I've had. It's not pretentious, it's not ultra high-end, it doesn't take itself too seriously. it's just a unique, fun place to eat at. Surprisingly affordable too.

              The thing is that they serve a LOT of food, and most all of it is accompagnied with a slab of foie gras, enriched with thick and heavy sauces and reductions ("montee au beurre" is the rule, not the exception). But if you're ever in Montreal, I don't think there's another restaurant that I would call a "not miss".

              1. re: Voidsinger

                Oh, I see. I don't eat meat, so I don't think it was the place for me. But I know it has a stellar reputation, and if I'm there again, I'll certainly give it another look. Thanks for the info!

          2. This piece was total fluff and didn't really contribute to my understanding of food. Okay, chefs are human... some drink, some snort, some smoke. Uh. Yea.... An awful lot of space in my morning paper for nothing remarkable.

            12 Replies
            1. re: smtucker

              I didn't see the story as about relaxation/recreation, but that some restaurant dishes are going in the direction of what a teenage stoner would want to eat.

              1. re: Up With Olives

                not teenage stoners. that's the point. adults, with talent and skills, who enjoy marijuana as adults.

                1. re: thew

                  Yup. And why not? Alcohol, an addictive drug, is ensconced in wine, why not flavor enhancing Mary Jane?

                  1. re: Passadumkeg

                    Well, you know, the 30,000+ drug-cartel-related murders in Mexico, for one, paid for by your friendly neighborhood pot dealer...

                    1. re: LauraGrace

                      Good reason to legalize pot. The same thing happened during the Great Depression with prohibition, Al Capone and the gangs of Chicago. Once they turned back prohibition and the black market was no longer profitable, the violence and terror went way, way down.

                      1. re: LauraGrace

                        LG, home grown, see gardening section.

                        1. re: LauraGrace

                          most pot in america today is domestic.

                          note that no one is shooting each other over tobacco, and since prohibition was repealed there havent been too many people gunned down in alcohol trade. availability and a low profit motive stop crime

                          1. re: thew

                            You are right that "most" is, though DEA estimates can only verify that the amount is over 50%. That leaves room for a substantial proportion still being grown abroad.

                            All that being said, I don't think the violence in Mexico in the most recent years is due to marijuana, but rather from the movement of cocaine and to a lesser extent meth. I'm not letting marijuana off the hook for Mexico, since there is evidence that drug kingpins have devastated rural indigenous villages in their push to take over lands and turn them into marijuana growers. But pot is far from Mexico's biggest problem.

                            1. re: Cachetes

                              the DEA and others have a vested interest in pumping up the threat from across the border, and downplaying just how much is grown domestically, so i would expect that figure to be lowballed. Over the last 15 years so much farming has moved indoors, in apartments and houses that i'm sure they have no way to know for sure

                              1. re: thew

                                Yes, you are likely right. And like you also said, pot is not the drug behind the big numbers of deaths. A movie you might be interested in if you are interested in the impact of drug production in Mexico is "Voices of the Sierra Tarahumara". It's a bit dated now, though problems there continue from what I've heard. Interesting interpretation of how drugs can help turn longstanding local conflicts much more violent (much in the same way it affected Colombia).

                                Decriminalization, at a minimum, would help.

                  2. this is not news. it is an old story. what is interesting is that marijuana is again becoming more acceptable, if a piece like this can run in the times.

                    and - it's always fueled my kitchen at home, too

                    1 Reply
                    1. This is funny and appropo. When MJ is legalized this Nov in California, things are going to get fun, particularly in Oaksterdam and the Bay Area with the food scene. It's going to be fun and it's going to get wacky and wild.

                      Side note: considering how much Bourdain and Chang has slammed CA, I find their comments even funnier. Indeed, CA is America's produce basket and dang...MJ is the state's largest cash crop.