Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Chef Walks into a Grocery Store with Ten Dollars....

Best intentions. I'm sure they had the best of intentions. Who am I talking about? A whole passel of folks in the news recently but mainly I'm talking about the Partnership for a Healthier America. Last week a group of celebrity chefs gathered in Washington DC to stunt cook (but for a good cause). This particular event caught my eye for two reasons: 1) Tom Colicchio and 2) it was a straight up repeat of this challenge...

...where Season 4 chefs' shop at Whole Foods to make dinner for a family of four using a $10 budget. The twist this time? They are not pimping Whole Foods but their supposed challenge was to use SNAP coupons. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the current form of food stamps. So the two teams of chefs were supposedly to use $10 of SNAP money to make their meal. But our long experience with Chef Tom tells us that there's no way he's going to actually take ten bucks into a grocery store and shop for a whole meal. Nope. As typical with restaurant chefs, they've jiggered the numbers again to allow themselves to use restaurant math to make this work for them. They also decided that the recipes that they produced were for two families. So already they've taken a very real situation that many people face today and cheated it into something totally unrealistic all the while giving themselves a big pat on the back for being so philanthropic. If you think I'm being harsh, here is Tom's list of ingredients for his three course meal of Salad, Beef Stir Fry and Panna Cotta with Orange Segments.

1 whole bag carrots, 1/2 cup raisins, 2 apples, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 T apple cider vinegar, salt and pepper, 1 1/2 pounds beef round, 1 cup broccoli florets, 1 cup snow peas, 1 cup button mushrooms, hot sesame oil AND regular sesame oil, 3/4 cup soy sauce, 1 T oyster sauce, 1 T fresh lime, 1/2 cup green onion, 1/2 cup peanuts, 1 cup onion, 1 T garlic, 1/2 cup cilantro, 3 cups brown rice, 1 packet sugar free orange jello, 1 1/2 cups buttermilk and orange segments.

Now I don't have to go shopping to tell you how crazy that list is for regular folks and I'm not sure just what the rules are for what products are and are not allowed to be purchased using SNAP, but I'm thinking oyster sauce is not included. Here's what I do know. When faced with attempting to make every dollar stretch, every penny count, unemployed parents are going to hard pressed to turn away from a cheap Micky Dee's Happy Meal when faced with this list. Hell Tom's list is not so bad compared to Ming Tsai's list which includes two heads of frisee. But these restaurant chefs are going to have to accept the fact that folks using SNAP are not going to have two kinds of sesame oil in their pantry, if they still have a pantry at all.

So what did they accomplish? Did they raise a lot of money for their non-profit? Probably. Did they raise awareness about healthy eating? Not sure since there were no nutritional values listed in the press releases or on their website where I found their recipes. Did they convince anyone that the meals they made can hit their ten dollar budget? Highly unlikely since again, no monetary values were attached to the recipes. Did Chef Tom get the experience of having someone spit out his creation in front of a live audience? Hella yes! (Read all about it here at the Washington Post article describing the hilarious spit by spit event) But let's just take a cold reality shower and remember that 60 Minutes and CBS News recently had a sobering piece about families living in vehicles because of the economic reality many are currently experiencing.

Arielle Metzger and Austin Metzger

Maybe these two kids should give a seminar on eating healthier on $10. It might be a little more honest.


froggy said...

3/4 cup soy sauce?!
Going to go read the article now.

MakingSpace said...

Look. Feeding a family of four one meal for ten dollars is a SNAP (no pun intended). The reality is how many families have ten dollars until payday - which might be a week or two away.

And then the folks living in their cars... kitchen? Where?

Big Shamu said...

Froggy, don't forget the Sugar Free Jello.

MS, the family featured living in that truck has no kitchen facilities. They eat unheated canned food.

Dani said...

Some people are just so out of touch.

Big Shamu said...

Yes, Dani, they are.