Chefs and the (other) "F" word
January 26th, 2011
04:30 PM ET
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Jennifer Wolfe is the Supervising Producer of the CNN Entertainment Unit. She previously reported on the outing of Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbila.

A good friend of mine from Atlanta is a former pastry chef turned attorney. Clancy and I frequently talk food. We also cook together and when it comes to the culture of the restaurant kitchen, I lean on her for guidance. As a hardened veteran, Clancy doesn’t blush at colorful language, so I was a bit surprised when she blanched at the “F” word.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because chefs HATE foodies!” she said emphatically.

I thought that was a pretty strong assertion, “Really? Chefs hate foodies?”

It hadn’t occurred to me that two groups, so passionate about food could be so diametrically opposed and it made me wonder whether my definition of "foodie" was accurate.

According to Merriam-Webster, a foodie is “a person having an avid interest in the latest food fads” - which sounds fairly benign to me.

I asked Clancy to elaborate on what so strongly aggravates her about foodies. She explained, "Many seem to have the 'Emperor's New Clothes' syndrome. Whatever the current trend says is fabulous MUST be fabulous!”

She continued, “Foodies will flat-out drop some cash on the worst pile of crap if they saw it on 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives' or if Bobby Flay threw it down. They have no real opinion of their own.”

Are foodies really self-important mindless drones subject to the herd mentality?

They are if you believe Jason Sheehan of Seattle Weekly who refers to foodies as “coup-counting, lock-jawed, cake-eating, nose-in-the-air dimwits who, with sticks planted firmly in their flabby asses will make their weekly cruise out to the hottest addresses in town, get weak little culinary boners over year-dead trends, focused-grouped Frog-humping menus and anyone doing New American comfort food or French-Asian fusion in million-dollar spaces.”

I decided to conduct an informal non-scientific, geographically diverse poll of chefs and restaurateurs from Seattle, Los Angeles, Boston, New Orleans and Atlanta to get their thoughts.

Suzanne Goin, the chef /owner of Lucques, AOC and Tavern in Los Angeles had a mixed reaction to the phenomenon. Said she, “To me it’s never negative, it’s kind of done, that term - can you just calm down and eat your food and like it and not have to be a foodie? But that’s me being the jaded food professional. It’s better than people not caring about food.”

But Ron Eyester, executive chef and owner of Rosebud in Atlanta, (whose alter-ego The Angry Chef may be familiar to Eatocracy readers) thinks “The whole idea of the foodie has gotten out of control and it borders on being elitist.”

What especially bothers Eyester is people who come in “with a preconceived notion of what a dish is going to taste like. You admire their enthusiasm towards coming in to eat, but they’re sometimes more excited about it than you are, to a point where it’s way overzealous.” Eyester cautiously adds that this frenzy seems to go hand in hand with the foodies who like to “Yelp” or review restaurants religiously.

Goin admits she doesn’t even read Yelp anymore because “It’s hard (and) what people don’t understand is it’s a very personal endeavor. Sometimes people say the wildest craziest things and it’s hurtful to people who are working 15 hours a day to make it happen.”

Foodies are a touchy topic for more than just chefs. A Seattle sommelier and restaurateur (who wished not to be identified) added “Waiters hate foodies, but then waiters hate everyone.”

"Hate" is a word that seems to be tossed around quite a bit, when foodies are mentioned.

The owner (also not wishing to be identified) of a well-reviewed New Orleans craft cocktail bar and restaurant believes foodies fall into two simple camps: “Haters and those who really get into it.”

He particularly dislikes the customers who come into his business and try to play stump the bartender. “Every now and then here’s one person who looks deep into the annals of cocktail history, or maybe has a cocktail that their local bartender made up and they’re like 'Do you know how to make this?' Then you don’t know what you’re doing. No, we know what we’re doing, but I’m not a f***ing computer.”

Eyester laughs, “The foodie feels empowered by their passion for food, which creates a false bravado of how knowledgeable they think they are about food. The ironic part is they’re simply being spoon fed something from a food personality: 'Well I saw something on the Food Network, and why don’t you have it?'”

“Well because we try to cook seasonably and that jacka** was probably in California.”

It’s arrogance that seems to stir the professionals’ pot the most, but to be fair, not all foodies are equally annoying.

“I can’t really speak for all chefs, but on the whole there are different types of foodies and most are tolerable,” offers one highly regarded Boston chef at a boutique hotel.

He has point; as in any group, there’s a small percentage of fanatics who generally ruin it for the rest.

Even my friend Clancy concedes, “Foodies keep our doors open and the money flowing. And it's for that reason that our smiles fade and our eyes roll when we walk back into the kitchen after our presence was commanded by the foodies at Table 42. They are a necessary evil.”

For the record, Team Eatocracy doesn't consider themselves "foodies." One's a food freak. One's a "restaurantie" per Alan Richman. They try to be as non-obnoxious about it as they can possibly manage.

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soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. jennifer stewart

    i left the culinary art's world because of foodies simple i wanted to become a simple chef and enjoy cooking but when i saw the culinary art's world i was like i'm done they make me so annoyed at whole food's that i now shop at my regular grocery store man what a total relief and i love it so much no one there is a foodie so yeah i f*cking hate them

    December 22, 2012 at 2:39 am | Reply
  2. catspek

    There's just something annoying about the term 'foodie' and mostly because they are largely rather unsophisticated, underexposed, picky eaters more than anything else. Have an interest in food? Great, no harm there. But spare everyone your tale of finding the most exquisite $47 balsamic vinegar and why the grocery store alternative is inedible. Your preferences don't actually matter to anyone other than yourself. There IS an elitism among self-titled foodies because more often than not, they're just snobbish eaters, not real food enthusiasts.

    February 16, 2011 at 11:44 am | Reply
  3. Warren Geitner

    Great article! gfmniujrhgbj

    February 16, 2011 at 11:40 am | Reply
  4. Caitlin Zaino

    I wrote a response to this article, "In defense of the F word." You can see it here: http://www.theurbangrocer.com/2011/02/09/in-defense-of-the-f-word/

    February 9, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  5. Tassadar

    This article is making people feel really bad lol. Every other post details someone trying to convince themselves that they arent not a foodie. Fail.

    February 7, 2011 at 3:29 pm | Reply
  6. KF

    Foodie = Yuppie. I prefer the term Epicure.

    January 31, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Reply
  7. Justin

    I would liken the term foodie to the word creative - it becomes ten times more annoying and pretentious when you use it to describe yourself. Having said that, not all customers are foodies, but most foodies are customers.

    January 29, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  8. Laura

    I guess I don't understand what the brouhaha is about. I love good food. I love to try new foods and eat my favorites. I especially love locally-grown food eaten at the height of the season. I love cooking and experimenting in the kitchen and picking unusual and intriguing menu items at restaurants.

    So I guess that makes me a foodie. But I have never been, nor will I ever be, a condescending, demanding, unforgiving snob. I'm not quite sure how or when "foodie" became equated with snobbery, but the association is wholly unfair.

    (And, btw, I don't watch the Food Network - nothing is more boring than watching people cook if you don't get to sample what they're making. Also, those people always have a cadre of behind-the-scenes prep chefs which makes the whole "you can do this at home" gimmick a little unfair.)

    January 28, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Reply
  9. Jenn

    I think you should have looked up the meaning of "foodie" in more than one dictionary. Though obviously you did use a reputable dictionary, Merridiam-Webster is the only dictionary I found defining a foodie as someone who has an interest "in the latest food fads". Everywhere else you look it is simply defined as "a person who loves food and is very interested in different types of food" wether eating it, shopping or preparing it. I call myself a foodie but I could care less about the latest trends, and what others think I should eat. I'll eat what I want to eat, when I want to eat it.
    Perhaps Chefs shouldn't be so negative towards those of us who enjoy good food and who in essence pay their bills and for their lifestyle!

    January 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm | Reply
    • Jenn

      (sorry accidently hit post before finishing) That being said it doesn't give anyone the right to be ignorant self-important ignorant asses in a restaurant or food shop.

      January 28, 2011 at 5:40 pm | Reply
  10. Jersey Girl

    I love food...eating it, cooking it, watching it on TV, I read cook books like novels. Sadly, my honey heard the word "foodie" once and referrs to me as one all the time...it makes me cringe. I just like food; "foodie" sounds so lame.

    I love eating at the greasiest dinners - the 1st DDD featured a place in my neighborhood and its the best damn grease you'll ever eat LOL so I would be open to going to someplace featured based on the first show.

    I love fine dining...Roubichon, Guy Savoy, French Laundry, per se...been there, done that and loved them all. I love every type of dining in betweeen.

    Yes, I will complain (usually just to my table) if the food is not cooked properly. And, yea there are certain things that are proper: like pasta should be salted and al dente...if your capatelli is mushy GUESS WHAT chef you DID prepare it wrong at least according to anyone who has ever actually been Italian; I dont need to go to CIA or hear scott conant say it every 3 minutes on FN to know that, I have a grandmother who taught me at 3.

    I got a bit angry reading this hatard of 'foodies' as I'm pretty sure we're the ones keeping you in business. As 'foodies,' most of us would never choose to go to a chain restaraunt and would always choose a place with a chef or a stellar short order cook to make an actual creative meal for us...unlike most American's who consider the Olive Garden fine Italian dining.

    January 28, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Reply
  11. Shelly

    I've proudly called myself a foodie – I had no idea it has become such a negative term. I love good food and I love shows about food. It gives me a chance to hear about places I'd never be aware of otherwise. Same reason I love Saveur. I'm never rude in restaurants. Sigh, can't we all just get along? I love to eat and cooks love to cook.

    January 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  12. Peg

    I love food, love cooking, and love exploring new cuisine... but the clique-thing and the pure toxic certitude makes foodie-culture pretty repulsive. I'd just as soon have a good diner classic made with canned mushroom soup, without the side order of food-righteousness, rather than go hunting for Elite Eats accompanied by clueless whinge and often poorly educated whine. "Good food" isn't dogmatic, it's serendipitous.

    January 28, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Reply
  13. marti

    as a former cook, i can definitely verify that 'foodie' is used SOLELY as a form of derision in professional kitchens. You can almost see chefs spitting when they say it. could this "exposé" be the end of the word?

    January 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Reply
  14. DeepDish

    Not all 'foodies' are alike and like myself and my pals, are loathe to be labeled as such. Nit one of us would step into a place lauded by Dinets Driveins & Guy Fee-eddy Dives, simply because we are looking for the creative, the original and chefs that are really passionate about their craft. Sounds snobby, but it isn't. Labels in this case are too all-consuming. No pun...

    January 28, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Reply
  15. Wilson

    A foodie (one who is passionate about food) pisses me off when they "skeedaddle" right past time honored cooking and right into whats new and hip. Molecular gastronomy (< foodie term) please die, in a fiery painful death.

    January 28, 2011 at 1:15 pm | Reply
    • marti

      hmmm. rereading comments and have to point out that the term molecular gastronomy developed faster and separately from that of 'foodie'. For some people, especially those here in Northern Spain, molecular gastronomy is more of a movement, analogous to Nouvelle Vague cinema, than a trendy term.
      not saying i don't value traditional food, even more than molecular gastronomy, just want to break the perceived link between the two.

      February 1, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  16. Kimberley

    This seems a little extreme. I live in San Francisco, and most of the people I know are passionate about food in some capacity – some of them are home cooks, some of them are industry professionals. Their passion isn't driven by trends or fads. Many of these people refer to themselves as foodies. I don't like the word itself but am called that so frequently (because I run a food blog, not because I follow trends) that I just let it slide. There's no reason to get so huffy about it.

    January 28, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  17. Kane

    Labels and overthinking! I like food, I like going to new restaurants, I love cooking. There are always people who are pretensious and annoying in any situation. People may call me a foodie so according to some article, chefs must hate me, that's great, thanks. I'll try to change who I am, so that I'm not wrapped up in a giant label.

    January 28, 2011 at 11:07 am | Reply
  18. Newsshark

    Anyone who even watches Diners, Drive Ins and Dives is not a foodie.

    January 28, 2011 at 11:02 am | Reply
    • AleeD

      I respectfully disagree. Guy is entertaining to many in all walks of life ..... foodies or otherwise. Just because the show is on Food Network and people find it entertaining, doesn't make them any less or more a foodie. Regardless of the label you slap on anyone, few people are so 1-dimensional that they can't find something entertaining in a non-foodie TV show.

      January 28, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Reply
  19. Judith Klinger

    "Foodie" is a marketing code word, just like organic and sustainable and locavore. Lazy websites, bloggers, food forum types seized on the word for its cute-ness. Makes me GAK. Just like the word veggie does. On nom nom. Or protein when you mean a piece of meat. It was cool and trendy, for about a minute, now it's overused and silly.

    January 28, 2011 at 10:30 am | Reply
  20. crestonbakingcompany

    There is a real sense of people that just jump on whatever bandwagon is out there. The one food show I actually watch is Top Chef, and you can see a real distinction there between chefs that are truly creative and want to put delicious food on the plate and those chefs that just use whatever high-fashion ingredients are currently in vogue. See: yuzu everything, foams, etc.

    January 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  21. Alix in SJ

    I consider myself a foodie, but not in the way that the chefs are being snide about. I love food. I love going to a restaurant and telling a chef to feed me. I don't keep up on the latest trends, froo froo or otherwise. I just love the synergy there can be between a chef doing what they love and creating a product that I like to eat!

    January 27, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Reply
    • Alix in SJ

      Whoops, and I should note that that's "telling them to feed me" as in doing the tasting menu: I don't know what I'm going to get, but I'm betting on it being something the chef *wants* to make, and I'm sure whatever it is, it'll be fantastic!

      January 27, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Reply
  22. JBJingles@EG

    Until this article, I didn't really know the definition of a foodie, which I am not. I just love food, love to cook, love to watch food shows, and love to experiment in the kitchen...and I have a kitchen gadget fetish! Luckily, I have plenty of space for all my toys.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Reply
    • Evil Grin

      Sadly, most foodies I've met claim to have all this knowledge about food, but tend to just hit on buzz words and buzz techniques, then use them all the time and act like that is special knowledge or something. They may not even really cook themselves, just go to tons of restaurants and critique food. So annoying.

      January 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Reply
    • AleeD

      Maybe I missed it, but I still don't feel like I understand what a "foodie" is from reading this article. It sounds like a foodie is a "food groupie" who has gained a little knowledge from watching the Food Network (or cooking shows), interprets whatever is said on the show as some kind of "cooking gospel" and tries to show off that knowledge in the form of an elitest snob when dining out. "If it's on TV, it HAS to be true, right?" ;)

      How far off the mark am I?

      January 28, 2011 at 10:52 am | Reply
      • Jerv@AleeD

        You are actually spot on from my point of view.

        January 28, 2011 at 11:00 am | Reply
      • Wilson

        Sounds spot on to me.

        January 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm | Reply
  23. Evil Grin

    Finally, Chef Eyester, something we can agree on. I hate foodies too. At least I hate people who proudly proclaim that they are foodies. They do border on elitists, and they will go out of their way to get a pricey meal at a place featured on TV or in a magazine, and still think they are ahead of the game finding a gem that no one else knows about.

    I don't, however, hate the people who fit the definition of foodie but don't bother with the labels or the elitism. The people who genuinely love food, seek out interesting local places and don't mind recommending them to you. As long as they don't take you to one of their interesting places, sit you down and proceed to instruct you on exactly how to order, what to order and what tastes good. (They don't make that right here. They use a 1/4 teaspoon more olive oil than they should. You can taste it, it's awful.)

    January 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm | Reply
    • Cecil

      Evil Grin (They don't make that right here. They use a 1/4 teaspoon more olive oil than they should. You can taste it, it's awful.) Soooo Funny!!! I am a cooking instructor, past restaurant owner/chef, wine rep. There are many levels of passion in food and cooking, but the subject right now of 'evil foodie' is a sub-set that occurs in so many things. Art, style, 'health', all have their sad types that play 'stump the teacher' to try to take an otherwise unimportant existence up a tiny notch by assailing someone they know is better than themselves. It is too bad that this is being assigned to 'foodie' because it is a fun term. Please, don't go to 'foodophile' or any other thing – just enjoy food and dining. BTW – 'Triple D' is great for those of us who like to keep trying new things – even if I won't do what some of the featured diners will, I still get a tiny spark of ideas to try. No one gets ahead by tearing someone down.

      February 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  24. jdmchef

    Not all foodies are douchebags. It just seems that way.

    January 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm | Reply
    • MikeyLikesIt

      BAAAAAAAM!

      January 28, 2011 at 11:57 am | Reply
  25. SixDegrees

    Faddists of all sorts are shallow and annoying. Foodie-ism is long overdue for a counter-movement to put it in it's place, some sort of culinary grunge or anti-Foodie uprising to smack down Foodies' smug pretentiousness, someone to grab them by the scruff of their neck and rub their noses in an open-face Big Mac.

    January 27, 2011 at 3:18 am | Reply
  26. Ronn k.

    I agree whole heartily, and it's sad that there are services like Yelp that facilitate a place for whiny complaining customers to advertise their nasty opinions with the goal of killing someone elses' business. Its ridiculous and that's why i think there is a huge lawsuit against yelp right now. Check out thereviewbuster.com for information about reputation management and help for negative reviews

    January 27, 2011 at 2:11 am | Reply
    • SixDegrees

      I partly agree, but a share of the problem lies with Yelp readers, who take posts at face value. Individual posts are often meaningless or even malicious; what matters is the overall trend. If a large number of posters have similar negative experiences, it's likely that reflects reality, rather than someone just having a bad day. It's also important to keep in mind that negative reviews will always tend to dominate, simply because people who've had a bad restaurant experience are MUCH more motivated to post about it than those who've had a moderate or even an excellent meal. A lot of Yelp consumers seem to forget these simple truths.

      January 27, 2011 at 3:23 am | Reply
    • Erin

      Maybe it's just my area but I have found that yelp reviews are usually overly nice. Almost every review I've read about places I'm interested in have been very positive. To the point that the reviews make a local tavern sound like a 5-star restaurant. Some of the negative comments I read usually refer to poor service or a special circumstance. I agree with SixDegrees that people who have a negative experience are more likely to review but people that have an overwhelmingly positive experience are also motivated to talk up the restaurant. It's really the "meh" experiences that don't motivate reviews.

      January 27, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  27. Holly

    I am a food blogger and lover, but not a foodie. I think there are a massive amount of those that are like me. I don't think I know more than a professional, but culinarily right or wrong, I know when I like something, and when I don't. That said, it doesn't mean I'm right or wrong. It just means I have my own opinion. I would hope that I always share that in an honest, and respectful way to all involved. I would hope to be treated the same way. I know there have been times I've had to try something and didn't like it. Just because it's not my thing, doesn't mean it isn't good. I always try to represent my views in a way that describes what something was like, then how I felt about it. Without those who are more experienced – my foodie friends and the pros at places I visit, I know I wouldn't be brave and try new things. I think there is a lot of frustration on both sides. I wish everyone would chill and find a place of, if not respect, tolerance and realize we are all human, entitled to how we feel and not claim such one-ups-manship. Bottom line. We all have to eat. No one has a monopoly on taste.

    January 27, 2011 at 1:46 am | Reply
  28. Lila

    I love good food as much as the next person, but I would never label myself with an asinine, pretentious term like "foodie". It just sounds ridiculous.

    January 26, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Reply
  29. foodtser

    That's great, Renee ... But you kind of missed the point ......

    January 26, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  30. Renee

    I love food. The experience of trying new things is something I very much enjoy. I explore different cuisines from all over the world. There is so much I haven't tried yet and can't wait to discover new, delicious dishes. I helped put together the "International Taste Fest" last year in my neighborhood that celebrated the diverse people living in our neighborhood and we asked people to bring a dish from their heritage for everyone to taste. So I celebrate and enjoy food. This is why I consider myself a foodie and I do not think it is a bad thing.

    January 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm | Reply
  31. wendy

    i had an acquaintance that did this a few times... note the use of the word 'had'.

    “Every now and then here’s one person who looks deep into the annals of cocktail history, or maybe has a cocktail that their local bartender made up and they’re like 'Do you know how to make this?' Then you don’t know what you’re doing. No, we know what we’re doing, but I’m not a f***ing computer.”

    January 26, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Reply
    • CoffeeGal

      I was a barista throughout high school/college and people would do this alllll the time. "You don't know how to make a shy skinny upside down extra wet vanilla cappuccino w/whip?" Took all forms of self control to not correct some of the special people and tell them the real name of their drinks...

      January 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm | Reply
      • E55

        Coffee Gal has a good point. Often the foodie culture is aided and abetted by the establishments themselves. Case in point: Starbuck's. "Grande", "Tall", "Vente"? Really?? I refuse to succumb to that marketing gambit. When I go to Starbuck's, I rdder a small or a medium or a large – and I tell them why I order that way.

        January 28, 2011 at 8:11 am | Reply
  32. Truth

    Chef Eyesore has a point on this one...Anyone who is self-important is annoying. Really annoying.

    January 26, 2011 at 5:07 pm | Reply
  33. Amanda

    I like to cook, I like to eat good food, but I could care less about food trends and the only time I get "litte food boners" is when a chef that has prepared a fabulous meal actually comes out and talks to customers (on their own). It's nice to feel appreciated when you pay quite a bit of money for a meal.

    January 26, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Reply
  34. Tazer

    "get weak little culinary boners over year-dead trends, focused-grouped Frog-humping menus"

    ..................................HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAA!!!!!!!!

    January 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Reply
    • MicheleG

      I NEED a "LIKE" button, I really do!

      January 26, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Reply
  35. Jdizzle McHammerpants

    i>..............But Ron Eyester, executive chef and owner of Rosebud in Atlanta, (whose alter-ego The Angry Chef may be familiar to Eatocracy readers).............

    You mean the alter-ego "Chef Eyesore" Truth bestowed?

    January 26, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Reply

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