The week that was (7 July 2016)

- Last week, in Paris, L’ami Jean was one of nine restaurants that opened its doors and invited a stranger to cook for the evening, the stranger was a chef, he was also a refugee. “In a country where the dominant narrative is that refugees live off the state and are a burden on the society, and where French cuisine dominates the food scene, the project offers a small but striking counter narrative, showing that refugees can bring skills and are more than willing to work.” Cooking is a call to act. I love it. 
- Magnus seems to think so too. This week The Long Read looked at Magnus (“His food is not popular, exactly – it has been deemed important cultural material”) and his restaurant (“… Fäviken is at the vanguard of restaurants whose food is also talked about as an expression of moral values. This comes, in part, from Nilsson’s commitment to regional and local sourcing”). They look beyond the fine dining, to his food for the masses via his charcuterie business, his hot dog van and his solution for a natural soft serve (“The best way of pushing [the world] in a direction that you want is to make the change yourself rather than go to food conferences and make little statements that people don’t really care about.”) Ouch.
But where the article really pushed my buttons was the references and discussion around that place where food and art interact - “One of the premises that has elevated Nilsson’s work to international acclaim is that food is art and therefore deserving of painstaking care, auteurship, intellectualisation, and occasional worship. To some, this truth seems evident, but it is hardly a given – for hundreds of years, food had no such place in culture.”
They looked to this opinion piece written by former NY Times critic William Deresiewicz, who created a stir in 2012 when he argued that while food had moved into the realm of art, it was not art. “Both begin by addressing the senses, but that is where food stops. It is not narrative or representational, does not organize and express emotion. An apple is not a story, even if we can tell a story about it. A curry is not an idea, even if its creation is the result of one … A good risotto is a fine thing, but it isn’t going to give you insight into other people, allow you to see the world in a new way, or force you to take an inventory of your soul.” Hmm. 

Unsuprisingly, he got slammed. You only have to read the L'ami Jean story above, (or anything by Massimo et. al.) to know why. However, it was well-written and thought provoking. So too, was his response to the outcry: "People clearly take this food stuff very personally ... which only strengthens my conviction that it has become a kind of new religion. People believe in food, the way they used to believe in art. The question is why … food is always unique. You have to be there, have to be present, have to be in contact with the thing itself. You have, in other words, to be here now. If the purpose of religion is to bring us into relationship with reality, perhaps it’s no surprise that food is our religion today.” He has a warning for the future too: "Churches, dogmas, heresies, schisms, senescence: you have all this to look forward to." Indeed. 
- There is no question food can be in art, and this week The Archibald finalists were announced with two chefs among them: Annie Smithers was painted by Daniel Butterworth, while George Calombaris was painted by Betina Fauvel-Ogden – his portrait winning the packing room prize.  I also really loved this painting by Athena Xenakis Levendi of the Fratelli boys – which is, ladies and gents, the trifecta – food, art and a good cause! #keepsydneyopen