Please allow me to quote Lila Byock writing in the New Yorker, May 17th issue, p. 20, in the "Tables for Two" feature in which she reviews the new ABC Kitchen, a restaurant inside the renown furniture store :
Jean-Georges Vongerichten's latest venture (his second this year) marks the chef's debut on the crowded farm-to-table scene. On a rough-hewn table, a shrine to greenmarket produce is lit like a Vermeer. There's a rooftop garden, mismatched china, and waiters wearing thrift-store plaid. It's enough to make you think you're in Brooklyn. But while the vegetables are organic, the atmosphere is canned - a seductive advertisement for the boho-chic appliances sold at ABC Carpet and Home. The menu, printed with soy-based ink, boasts of "bread baskets handcrafted by the indigenous Mapuche people of Patagonia" and "spices that represent the stories of our global diversity."This is where we are, folks. The farm-to-table movement, to use the given terminology, is a fantastically positive development for our nation. Because of this movement, thinking about where our food comes from is common in all social strata, not just among the granola-fed hippies. And we need to think about it because a lot of what is sold as 'food' you simply would not feed your children if you really knew what it was made of. This movement is real, and the money is talking too. Swaths of people are willing to pay a farmer at a market more money for meat and produce than they would pay at a grocery store. They want the quality, and they sometimes believe in the cause. There are rooftop farms in Greenpoint, butchers in Williamsburg, and everyone is a beekeeper. And for years now, any hip new NYC restaurant knows and can proudly recite the provenance of everything it serves, from salt to lettuces to pork chops.
I think this is great! I'm a healthier person now that I buy exclusively antibiotic-free, hormone free meat and milk that comes from grass-fed antibiotic-free, hormone free cows. And local fruit and vegetables - I know the farmer, Bill Maxwell, and he's a solid guy whose hands are dirty and he warns me what I have to wash before giving to my kids (his strawberries) and what I don't need to worry about. Imagine how much healthier our nation as a whole would be if everyone's eating habits conformed only a bit towards the principles of this farm-to-table movement.
Still, there is something that just rubs me the wrong way about JGV opening a restaurant devoted to this trend, and apparently doing it in a kitschy way, hitting all of the right buttons, getting in on the act. For me it feels cheap, like he and his business planners are using everyone who worked 10 lean years tending barely profitable organic vegetable farms, or 15 lean years tending herds of lovingly raised goats. His restaurant couldn't exist if it weren't for those people. And something about the way he is presenting this ABC place stinks of bull$#*} to me.
I should be glad that this thing has taken hold with the likes of JGV, right? Or is this simply another calculated means of making money, and in the process cheapening the values of the message being delivered?