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Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Does Selling Out Mean for a Chef?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 15, 2012 at 8:17 AM

Richie Nakano. - GIL RIEGO JR.
  • Gil Riego Jr.
  • Richie Nakano.

It is beyond debate that Rocco DiSpirito has sold out, but what about Mario Batali? Thomas Keller? Chris Cosentino? When you get some TV time or film an American Express ad, are you destroying your credibility -- and with whom?

Yesterday, on, Hapa Ramen's Richie Nakano wrote about growing up a trash-talking, purity-minded line cook -- maintaining, in his words, "a generational stance on cooking that was a strange mix of punk ethos and military discipline." 

Then a housewares manufacturer offered Nakano money to be photographed for an ad campaign. He had a baby. He took the money. Then he had to figure out what the consequences meant:

Back in San Francisco, I ran into a chef I know at a market one day and told him what I'd done. His judgment was quick: "Sellout!" But other chefs--guys who are also dads--they understood. Corporate chefs get to spend evenings home with their kids, make a better life for their families. Shit, with that money I was going to be able to pay off my bill and put some away for the restaurant I'm planning to open. Selling out is always a calculation, a weighing of benefit against cost.

It's a great piece. Go read it.

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Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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