New York City has become one of the culinary centers in the world. Food is crucial, not only through its consumption, but also its impact on food media, connection to the region, policy debates and during timed of crisis and post-Sandy resiliency. The two day conference by the Food Studies program at the New School brought together experts, scholars and professionals to talk “Gotham on a Plate.”
The Crisis of the Empty Plate: Hunger, Resilience, Recovery
This panel discussed the NYC food systems in times of crisis, whether combatting hunger and food security for New Yorkers or following Hurricane Sandy. We heard moving stories of the role of emergency feeding programs (soup kitchens like the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen and even organizations like City Harvest) and outpouring volunteer efforts post-Sandy. Does that mean the NYC food system is truly resilient?
Yes and no. In times of a crisis, NYC has shown its resiliency, but what about after? We still need to continue to find ways to feed people outside of crisis. Which brought us to the reality of hunger. If we claim to live in a resilient city, shouldn’t that mean we do not have to rely on these emergency food programs? While everyone can come to the table to discuss food (we all eat it!); when we try to discuss realities of food waste, food costs, income disparities and childhood hunger, that is when we start to make waves and even polarize the discussion. But these are all issues we need to discuss. We live in one of the great food cities in the world, yet some of our neighbors can’t even afford or have access to a nutritious meal. We need to think about that.
Business on a Plate: What New Yorkers are Eating…Today, Tomorrow, Together
This panel brought together some of the city’s most prominent culinary trend-setters to discuss the future of dining in NYC. We heard from founder of Myriad Restaurant Group, Drew Nieporent, which operates Nobu NYC/London/Fifty Seven and Tribeca Grill just to name a few; New York Magazine’s restaurant critic Adam Platt; food authority, writer, TV chef and author of the acclaimed newsletter The Rosengarten Report, David Rosengarten; freelance chef writer and blogger, Jacqueline Raposo; and president of restaurant consulting company Baum + Whiteman, Michael Whiteman. Whew! These were some heavy names in the NYC food world, all in one room!
One of the first questions explored whether there was really a distinct NYC cuisine. Some said yes and some said no. What most could agree upon in that “New York makes the fashion in the modern restaurant scene.” The sheer density of NYC restaurants is enough to set us apart from any city! Then came the topic of trends. No one could quite lock down the next big trend, but one thread is the hunger for better quality food. And quality not only in new innovative dishes, technology and nutrition, but just better in general—concern for where food comes from and just how it tastes. We live in the Food Network era of superstar chefs and food-igrams online where everyone know what things should look like, but not necessarily how it should taste. As David Rosengarten said, “It’s not enough to know what it is, you need to know what makes it good.”
Although if you want a timeless food trend, it will always be roast chicken!