Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Didja Want Fries With That?

A couple of sources have the low-down on high profile chefs who are fronting for products. Via World on a Plate, we have the Wall Street Journal story by Kelly Crow.
At the Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Mass., one typical East-West fusion offering is "Miso Risotto with Shrimp Mousse and Roulade of Seared Monkfish." With its fancy name and $28 price tag, diners might expect the seafood is all fresh off the boat.

But the shrimp that gourmet chef Ming Tsai uses in that entree and others is frozen. And that's no coincidence: Mr. Tsai cut a deal with a big supplier of frozen shrimp, which pays more than $550,000 a year to sponsor both of Mr. Tsai's TV cooking shows. The company also sells him frozen shrimp at "below cost." Under the deal, the underwriter asks that Mr. Tsai features shrimp on two or three episodes.

"For me, frozen is a tastier shrimp," says Mr. Tsai, who on occasion buys shrimp fresh from other vendors. "Fresh is not as fresh as frozen, I think."

While that may be true wouldn't we all feel better if Mr. Tsai was upfront about it? Disclosures abound in the article.

This brings us to Too Many Chefs who focus on Rick Bayless' Burger King commercial (a scandal in the foodie community) and consider the question of celeb chefs fronting for products is a problem. Guess what their answer is.
Bayless stated his goal was to "help Burger King customers “take steps toward honest, seasonal, natural flavors [by] starting with them where they are". Oh, and get paid. That, too.

He got paid, but the WSJ reports that Bayless was so pressured by the foodie community and media to renounce the Burger King spot that he gave the $300,000 he earned for the commercial to charity.

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