Up | March 02, 2013
>>> chris hayes here with tom colicchio chef and executive direct of the "place at the table." we're talking about the role that food kind of plays in our culture. i want to play this clip from portlandia that satirizes the obsession with food. take a look.
>> if you have any questions about the menu, please let me know .
>> i guess i do have a question about the chicken if you can tell us about it.
>> the chicken is a heritage breed. woodland raised chicken that's been fed a diet of sheep's milk, soy and hazelnuts.
>> this is local?
>> yes, absolutely.
>> what if you just wanted to -- and it's local?
>> it is.
>> is that usda organic or portland organic --
>> hazelnut is a local?
>> how big is the area that the chickens are able to roam free.
>> here is the chicken you'll be enjoying tonight.
>> absolutely --
>> his name was colin.
>> i think that's funny. at one level, right, there's a level of critique of the current industrial food system that says we have this huge directory of farms, subsidies, lots of cheap calories, corn gets in everything because we're subsidizing corn. the reaction it to create something that's local farm to table. but that can sometimes feel like fetish to shtick do you feel that way?
>> it's like what is the middle path of knowing the name of your chicken in a restaurant you eat in brooklyn, than nothing but canned goods and sugary sodas.
>> there's definitely a middle road . the middle road , a lot has to do with education. it was interesting i was reading from mika brzezinski 's book "obsessed." and talking about how culturally taught to eat, but he didn't know any other way. but there is a middle ground . i'm not suggesting that organics is the way to fixing the food system. we're suggests it's a way to subsidize fruits vegetables. not organic, but that would be great. to teach food how to prepare feed, how to cook it and nod the fetish side of what kind of air the chicken is breathing. it's kind of over the top .
>> right. and i think the school system is the sort of the place to do that, right? there's a connection with what you're saying the way we fund a school system 's food and what quality of food they're going to get.
>> you sort of hope some of that fetishness, the over the top , i want to know where things come from. filters down to parents to say, let's start with our kids. it's okay for the 20-something hipster to go to brooklyn to get that. but what about teaching our kids a little bit of that. not that it needs to be so over the top . i think that's where it begins. there's a lot of programs to get fresh produce and local produce into schools. although it is being met with -- a lot of school systems don't want to do it because they don't have kitchens. he would rather mass produce food. it's cheaper.
>> but it's expensive -- and this gets to something else about cooking , right? you said the average household spends five hours like cooking . i even see in my own life, as you go through and your jobs get more demanding and you have kids, the amount of time -- it's easy to start cutting corners on cooking . and what's happened i think is very interesting we cook less and think about food more. those two things are happening at the same time. in some ways, i spend the hour i could cooking watching " top chef ."
>> you can cook and watch at the same time.
>> how do we get that back?
>> it's interesting, i find i'm cooking more now that i have children, 2-year-old and 3-year-old at home. i'm home at that 5:30, 6:00 slot cooking for them. the time i spend in the kitchen i can get things done a lot faster than the average person. i think we've moved away from cooking . you can watch food programs all day long.
>> all day long.
>> but people are actually cooking less. it's paradox. i think it started when we took home-ec out of schools. we're not teaching anymore. the whole generation that learned how to cook, they're not passing that down anymore. from parent to parent.
>> you interrupt that chain. " top chef " i want to talk about for a second. i love the show. there's something about why it works so well. what is it -- this is a real fan-based question, why doesn't it work like that? somebody who does television for a living. the structure of it really would year in and year out?
>> that structure is something that we're always messing with. sometimes we mess with it too much. we're constantly tinkering with it. we figured out early on, the big problem eye were a food show, you can't taste it. fashion shows you can see it. other shows you relate to it. we needed to have a serious honest conversation about that dish, about what it tastes like about the technique involved. about the certainly style that that chef had to sort of get people to understand that food is more than just a recipe on a plate.
>> i think what's interesting about the show, it's actually more of a food criticism show than a cooking show , right?
>> the emphasis is actually on developing a vocabulary for people that aren't used to doing this. the same way that people who, you know, are art critics , you know, develop a vocabulary to talk about a sculpture. you guys have this vocabulary that the viewers learn.
>> i love when someone is in a restaurant, you actually hear the vocabulary. it's kind of funny. yeah, but not only that, it's -- it's a mentoring -- at least from what i'm judging, i'm trying to sort of give an insight to sort of help them. it's really great. we're not allowed to interact with the contestants during the shooting unless we're on camera. afterwards, i get letters and notes saying thanks for the feedback. because it changed the way i'm doing things. i'm thinking a little differently about food.
>> do you think it changes -- it's funny the way fashions will come and go in restaurants. every restaurant now has brussels sprouts . you cannot go anywhere without brussels sprouts , right? five years ago, nobody was serving brussels sprouts . do you think that shows like " top chef " acts as accelerants to spreading that?
>> yes, gastronomy which has faded away. we that this man who really knew what he was doing. he became the poster boy . and people who have been sort of practici practicing av vanguard cook. the chefs definitely follow trends but it gets amplified through the show.
>> i'm glad we're talking about restaurants because one of the most remarkable facts about how americans eat is how much more they eat out than 20, 3040 years ago. eating out is a much bigger part of people's lives and that's up and down the social hierarchy . even people that don't make a lot of money are eating out more, probably because people have less time to work.
>> to be clear, if you have food stamps , you cannot use that to eat out.
>> absolutely. i want to talk about the industry that you're in. the restaurant industry, there are workers who make that food, clean those kitchens, they're visible because they're in the kitchen. i want to talk about what industry looks like, particularly because it's an industry that's producing more jobs than any other industry. i want to talk about that future and bring in some other guests right after this break.