I had been seriously considering the changing of my moniker from the “Frugal Foodie” to the “Gonzo Gourmand.” For several years, there has been a lot of discussion online and in print about the term “foodies” becoming a slur. The same goes for the term “celebrity chef.” At first, I viewed it like Anthony Bourdain‘s “Kitchen Confidential” Les Halles crew calling the outer boroughs and NJ patrons the “bridge and tunnel crowd.” Not so much being disdainful, but rather a time-tested categorization for a certain type of patron with a predictable set of preferences.
I assumed that the majority of people casting these aspersions were wealthy culinary elitist snobs. I could easily understand why some people in the industry were inwardly bristling at self-proclaimed “foodies” who thought they knew it all because they watched the Food Network, Bravo’s Top Chef, or bought all the best home kitchen equipment at Macy’s. Heck, these people make me wince! The vast majority of people in the industry are truly appreciative of the booming interest in great food and the spotlight shining more on the “back of house” more than the “front of house” staff.
But still, I see the word “foodie” is quietly becoming a condescending slur for uninformed food faddists or celebrity chef chasers who rely on mass market branding and expensive prices as a measure of quality. And no, it’s not some snobbish pronouncement by the upper echelon of the wealthy culinary elite. If anything, it’s the exasperated sigh of sweaty, sleep-deprived chefs in the trenches without a TV show, book tour, or chain of restaurants. At the mere utterance of the word “foodie,” I’ve seen industry people make eye contact with each other and roll their eyes. But don’t get offended. What I had at first perceived as a sardonic smirk and dismissive air, should have been more accurately interpreted as a grimace of exasperated resignation.
Really great food is tirelessly being crafted by passionate, hard-working chefs in small neighborhood restaurants all over this country. And keep in mind that many of them do it out of love for their craft, and not for the money. U.S. Dept. of Labor statistics show that the median wage for a head cook or chef in May 2010 was less than $41,000 per year.* Let that be a warning to teens who think they are going into the culinary field for the big bucks.
Like in professional sports, reaching that top percentage of income earners takes a lot of extraordinary work and dedication. Wolfgang Puck and Mario Batali did not rise to culinary heights by going from culinary school to a TV show competition. Unless you are prepared to totally commit to long nights, weekends and holidays, then I wouldn’t sign up for one of those culinary programs to rack up a debt of up to $70,000. Especially when most entry-level jobs will run $10 – $15 per hour!
So, to distance myself from the foodie herd, I have coined the term “Gonzo Gourmands.” I don’t mean “gourmand” in a gluttonous sense, but to mean someone who has a hearty interest in food. And as much as for the alliteration, I added “gonzo” to mean an adventurous person, or someone who is not shy in their appreciation for all kinds of food. Gonzo Gourmands are not squeamish about their food being attached to bones or having a face. If anything, they are even interested in the breed and quality of life of the animal before it came to the dinner table. Gonzo Gourmands are frugal, but not necessarily cheap. Meaning they are against waste, they advocate nose-to-tail eating, and strive to find use or recycle all food.
I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gonzo-Gourmands-Social-Media/101724446541356