Food is an incredibly complicated topic, and sadly the solutions to the problems around food are not always realistic. For every solution, there seems to be a counteracting issue that complicates it. Take for example fast food. Do I think McDonald’s is terrible food and we shouldn’t be buying mass produced chicken products, yes absolutely! But on the same hand, who the fuck am I to tell a single parent who lives on $50 a week that they can’t take their kids to McDonald's. People don’t always have a choice because food isn’t always accessible. And that’s only the discussion around developed countries.
One of the biggest challenges today is the snobbery that has come out of the organic farming trend. And again, there are two sides to this story. I think that in Canada you can go out and get some of the best produce in the world if you know where to look. Our accessibility to produce and cultures is amazing. But one the other hand, you pay for that quality, because the labels or menus that we read have created an elitism that isn’t necessary.
As a chef, it’s your fucking job to find quality products and make them for your clients. By advertising every single food item on your menu it’s like giving yourself a pat on the back to say “well look how good I am!” But at the end of the day, NO! That’s your job! This constant flaunting only creates this snobbery towards a certain way of farming, and forces prices up. In turn, it creates a certain class of people who can afford these foods, and forces people who do not have those sorts of incomes to buy food that isn’t as well cared for. It’s not about affording foie gras or truffles. But it’s about affording chicken and carrots that are farmed properly. We’ve pushed these basic needs into a specific social class. I mean sure that carrot from that ‘speciality farm’ is delicious, but it’s still just a carrot. There is this weird elitism happening with food, and if you don’t have access to it, it’s hard to fix anything.
Everyone talks shit about it but it’s extremely important. The value of knowing where and who is producing your food. At the end of the day food is about care. It’s not about being vegetarian or vegan, or anything like that, it’s about caring. Caring for where our food comes from and how it impacts all of us and everything around us. What we can do is educate ourselves and care about the people who are closest to us, and hope that that little nucleus of people we care for, in my case my 400 seat restaurant, does their part in caring about their food and spreading it to the nucleus of people they care for. And that’s really what I enjoy about food. It’s this community of care that is all tied together, and how we are all linked through it.
Paul Benallick - Former Head Chef at Cluny Bistro