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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Does San Francisco's Food Culture Owe Its Richness to Tech Money?

Posted By on Tue, Jul 26, 2011 at 7:30 AM

Steve Jobs can't get into Flour + Water, but is Apple money the reason it's so good?
  • Steve Jobs can't get into Flour + Water, but is Apple money the reason it's so good?

In 7x7 Magazine this week, Sara Deseran has an thought-provoking article about the links between San Francisco's vibrant tech industry and our vibrant restaurant industry. As one venture capitalist she interviews argues, tech millionaires are the silent patrons who fund the culinary arts:

Look at the rise of Florence. During the Renaissance, you had the combination of wealthy patrons and artists. The wealthy patrons allowed the artists to take risks that they'd never have been able to take if they weren't provided for. ... And it's no different today in San Francisco, where food has crossed over into an artistic experience. Chefs and bartenders here consider themselves artists.
Deseran's argument, which encompasses Jamie Oliver, Twittering diners who feed the national food media, and Google cafeterias, doesn't completely explain the current flowering of the food scene. For all its tech money, Silicon Valley's restaurant scene is a shadow of San Francisco's. The tourist industry, which brought in 15.9 million people and $8.3 billion last year, contributes as much to that success.

And as someone who reviewed restaurants in Seattle -- which isn't

hurting for tech money, but whose restaurant scene is smaller and more

varied in quality than SF's -- it's hard to underestimate the effect of

something non-monetary: You could call it experience, or perhaps

momentum. San Francisco's 150-year-old food obsession has fostered the

training of generations of chefs who have passed along their collective

expertise to thousands and thousands of cooks. Our kitchens are now run

by the equivalent of Harvard and Cal faculty, and thanks to the Ivy

League education they give their staff, food here is exponentially better than it was 20 years

ago.

Still, Deseran's right: For all SF food lovers like to talk up ethics and

aesthetics, the other thing that fuels our collective passion is wealth.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.
Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman

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