Heartless Chefs Hold Lifeless Pigs
On this cover of this week’s The Phoenix—Boston’s free weekly—you will find a photo of a young male chef holding a headless pig carcass across his back. The cover story, written by Cassandra Landry, is entitled “Fresh Blood.” Notably, the carcass that the chef hauls into the kitchen is bloodless. His hands are relaxed and he smiles.
It’s a colossally vapid article, a promotional piece of junk studded with every food writing cliche imaginable. What led to me read the issue, though, were the illustrations. The cover, it turns out, offers the thoughtful critic a gateway into an emerging world of hipster-chefdom that reminds me more of the World Wrestling Federation than Careme or Haute Cuisine.
First, there’s the iconic pose of the pig on the back. Iconic? Indeed:
It’s difficult to imagine what message carrying a pig carcass is supposed to convey. I guess it says “your chef is strong.” But who cares about that? More likely, it suggests that your chef is so experienced and knowledgable about the food he or she is about to prepare that nothing about strapping a pig to the back is at all weird. Look at them, after all: happy and cool and casual. It’s as if they’re carrying a sack of meal.
Next there’s the question of the chefs’ mentality. Intended message aside, part of me wonders what’s going on inside the heads of these chefs when they pose with pigs for posterity. It seems safe to suggest that the chefs want to appear in charge, both physically and mentally. In essence, they are saying to the eater, I can handle this, you sit back and enjoy your BLT, I’ll do the dirty work of, literally, bringing home the bacon on my back. They thump their chest, of course, as they say this.
But this leaves to me wonder what exactly is so powerful about slaughtering an innocent and very intelligent animal and wearing his carcass like a shawl. I think that the chefs who agree to pose next to meat as if they have done something brave and heroic know that they are, deep down, compensating for something. In so doing it’s hard not feel sort of bad for them (although not as bad as for the animal).
I say this because the interior illustrations (of men, mostly) reveal chefs trying very hard—way too hard—to appear very cool while, in actuality, appearing very insecure. Prodigious tattoos are displayed. Large knives are wielded. One has, no kidding, a skateboard. He’s tells the intrepid reporter, “I’m kind of a live wire. I’m not consistent, and most people can’t really read me most of the time. As soon as you think I’m some hard-ass prick, I’ll go soft on you.” Awesome to know.
The whole idea, I guess, is to be “edgy.” The idea of edginess here, though, is a little warped. All these chefs are really doing is creating a parody of themselves to appeal to the basest and cheapest instincts of consumers. They think they are being rebellious when in fact they are confirming an utter lack of creativity and imagination.
So I have a suggestion for these chefs, and I’ll be polite since they are hiding behind big sharp knives. Be a real man, a real woman, and a real leader. Do what your consumers, who you know will follow you wherever you lead them, don’t expect or even want you to do. Do what you know is right. Hug a pig. Do it. Here is what your little revolution might look like:
tomorrow: thoughts on John Brown and activism