New Article — Crisis Caring: Chef Foundations, Branding, and Responsibility in Foodscapes

Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on how chefs and restaurants have been mobilized to respond. Remember all the calls to “eat out and support local restaurants” (and tip well) as many were struggling to make it? In New Orleans, I watched as Chef José Andrés’ non-profit World Central Kitchen started sponsoring the meals being delivered to elders in the city. What was going on? I interviewed dozens of chefs about how they decide to show their “care” in times of crises and disaster. What drives their engagement or activism? Why have so many launched non profit foundations? Why have others NOT started formal NGOs?

Christine Barnes and Ben Schrager put together a great issue of Food, Culture and Society on the topic of precarious foodscapes where I got the opportunity to write about all of this — celebrity chef humanitarianism and their responses to (ongoing) crises.

Read on for more about branding, hyper-masculine/macho restaurant culture, precarious labor in the restaurant industry, and how all these things impact chefs’ involvement in food justice and foodscapes.

Read it open access here

Abstract: Charitable foundations started by chefs and restaurant companies continue to grow and occupy space as prominent humanitarian leaders during times of crisis, and this paper utilizes research from New Orleans to examine these trends. Drawing on ethnographic data from chefs, donors, and community food activists, this paper examines: why some chefs have started foundations while others have not; the rationales of donors who give to chef foundations; the prevalence of ‘cause’sumerism to raise philanthropic funds; how some restaurant owners attempt to address the precarious labor practices of the industry within their own businesses; and how all these various forms of caring are raced, classed, and gendered. This paper begins and ends with the COVID-19/coronavirus pandemic, highlighting how chefs and their philanthropic foundations reflect a precarious reliance on caring individuals and non-governmental entities to respond to on-going crises.