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Rick Bayless and Burger King - Part 2


ronnie_suburban
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ExtraMSG, if it is primarily the tenor and language of AB's remark that offends, I would suggest that our estimable Site Manager Steve Klc's approach as detailed above is a more productive path than responding in kind.

I think the tenor of AB's post was out of proportion along with several others through this whole thread. But I think you can often only respond in kind to show how out of proportion it is. I have no problem getting back to a more thoughtful debate on the subject, as Steve Klc suggested. I think my subsequent posts have shown that. And even my original response has more substance than rhetoric, I would say, if you read both paragraphs.

As for the Mission of Chefs Collaborative, I think you have done a little selective quoting. BK's business and culinary practices are clearly inimical to points four through eight in their Statement Of Principles, in my mind.

I don't know how selective it is. Missions are quite different from principles. Their mission statement says what they will do and how they will do it. The principles speak of the goals.

The goals are objects of the mind, nothing that actually exists. If you're going to condemn a restaurant for not achieving those goals, you're going to have to condemn most, if not all, restaurants. It's an issue of degree, not kind. We're all sinners. And no restaurant is pollution free, purely organic and sustainable.

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Getting way off topic here. Also, Tony, if Bayless won't blow you my girlfriend will.

Pork, you ain't kosher.

btw, better watch how you throw around that "foodie" moniker. It doesn't fly with some of the more sensitive types around here.

Welcome.

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Bourdain worship reaches a whole new level...

eh, not really...let's just say that she and I have had that as a private joke for a while. Definitely a fan though, but not a creepy one. We just like to drink and cook and have a good time, y'know?

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btw, better watch how you throw around that "foodie"

...

Welcome.

Apologies if that offended. I consider myself a "cook" really, but since my duchets come from programming these days, I demoted myself. I understand the stigma of the moniker, but figured a place like this would automatically recognize what I meant. (Not idiots buying every cookbook the tv tells them to, people that really understand and enjoy food and its part of the whole experience of life.)

Thanks for the welcome!

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As for the Mission of Chefs Collaborative, I think you have done a little selective quoting. BK's business and culinary practices are clearly inimical to points four through eight in their Statement Of Principles, in my mind.

I don't know how selective it is. Missions are quite different from principles. Their mission statement says what they will do and how they will do it. The principles speak of the goals.

As I read it, the Statement of Principles is an integral part of their Mission Statement. The link to that page says "Mission & Principles" and I don't think they make any indication that the two are anything but inextricably linked. Indeed the "Charter Preamble" says:

We, the undersigned, acknowledging our leadership in the celebration of the pleasures of food, and recognizing the impact of food choices on our collective personal health, on the vitality of cultures and on the integrity of the global environment, affirm the following principles. (Emphasis mine.)

If you read about their history, you will see that "a group of chefs -- including Rick Bayless, Nora Pouillon, Alice Waters, Jimmy Schmidt, Tim Keating, Robert Del Grande, Larry Forgione, John Ash, Paul Prudhomme, Madhur Jaffrey, Zarela Martinez, Nobu Matsuhisa, Michael Romano, and Roy Yamaguchi -- spent a full day developing the Collaborative's Statement of Principles. (Emphasis mine.)"

I would also suggest that Bayless' endorsement of Burger King does not seek to nor substantially "advance and promote among chefs and the general public concepts and benefits of good, safe, and wholesome foods, including sustainable food choices, responsible agricultural growing techniques, the impact of food choices on the environment, and the advantages of locally grown and seasonally fresh foods, and to provide educational and other programs fostering such concepts and benefits."

--

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I would also suggest that Bayless' endorsement of Burger King does not seek to nor substantially "advance and promote among chefs and the general public concepts and benefits of good, safe, and wholesome foods, including sustainable food choices, responsible agricultural growing techniques, the impact of food choices on the environment, and the advantages of locally grown and seasonally fresh foods, and to provide educational and other programs fostering such concepts and benefits."

Suggest all you want, but make the argument that it's not a step in the right direction. Here are the "advancements" as I see them:

* An in-house baked bun

* Real roasted peppers with decent flavor

* Much better fat/calories than most fast food products

* Better taste than many comparable items

You may disagree, like I said. You may not find these substantial moves "forward". But if reasonable people can disagree, then there's no merit in attacking RB's integrity, only in convincing him that he was mistaken.

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Here are the "advancements" as I see  them:

* An in-house baked bun

* Real roasted peppers with decent flavor

* Much better fat/calories than most fast food products

* Better taste than many comparable items

We may or may not agree on whether or not they are "advancements," but that does not seem to me germane in this case. The question is whether these things promote:

  • sustainable food choices (no)
  • responsible agricultural growing techniques (no)
  • the impact of food choices on the environment (no)
  • the advantages of locally grown and seasonally fresh foods (no)

That's 0 for 4 on the Chefs Collaborative Mission Statement, and I don't see a lot of wiggle room for differences of interpretation here. In fact, one could make the case (and I have been) that Burger King's business and culinary practices are in direct opposition to these goals.

--

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To challenge his integrity one must assume that he knowingly violated these principles.

If I am a nuclear physicist and I say that the most elementary particles in the universe are atoms, but then I find out, hey, there are smaller, more baisc particles, am I a liar, a hypocrite, a dope, or just wrong? The first and second and possibly the third require intimate knowledge of the individual unless there's substantial evidence about the person's knowledge and intentions.

I find it highly suspect that Bayless, the guiding light of the Chefs Collaborative and the primary author of their Statement of Principles, was not fully aware of which principles he was violating. Further, we're not talking science here, we're talking philosophical outlook. But, if you want to make a scientific comparison, if a famous scientist makes a certain assertion (say, that the earth is flat) which he later discovers, realizes or is convinced is no longer the case, he generally comes out and says: "Hey guys... remember all that flat earth stuff I was saying before? Total hogwash. Forget I said anything. In fact, let me lay some cool papers on you I wrote showing why I think it's spherical. You'll really dig it, and I want everyone to know it's spherical." The scientist is only a liar and a hypocrite if he takes money from the Spherical Earth Foundation to endorse their position when he actually still thinks it's flat.

This seems like reasonable positions to me:

He made a mistake. Bayless' alignment with the principles as enumerated in Chef's Collaborative are incompatible with promoting a Burger King product even under the best intentions.

But that statement, though making a judgment about his actions, makes no judgment about his character or intentions.

Yes, much of this I would agree with. I can't say that I support the characterization of him as nothing more than a money-grubbing sellout -- it's not fair to what he has done and will likely continue to do. That said, this would seem to be an absolutely incredible change of heart, and one that entirely contravenes many, if not most of his previously promoted philosophies. The fact that it involved a buttload of money, the fact that he was entirely uninvolved in the development of the sandwich or the sourcing of the ingredients, the ham-handed and slightly disingenuous way he handled the "contribution" of his fee to the Frontera Foundation and the feelings of incredulous disillusionment from those who had eagerly bought into his former (and now incompatible) philosophies combined to produce these fairly predictable responses. I think that Bayless' (perhaps former) followers have every right to feel angered and betrayed by his betrayal of the very principles he influenced them to believe in.

However, as I said, people sometimes change their minds -- even evangelistic public figures like Bayless. When this happens, it is incumbent upon that public person to revise his earlier positions in public. Usually this is not an issue because the freshly-enlightened evangelist is champing at the bit to pass on his new message to the masses. The fact is, however, that this hasn't happened. Bayless has not come out to say that he no longer believes in the principles of the Chefs Collaborative and has found a better way... nor has he revised any of his previous positions... nor has he made any public statement of substance about the whole thing. This has had the effect of making him look like a hypocrite (which conclusion seems inescapable at this point) who did it for the money or maybe for the fame. The fact may very well be that his core beliefs haven't changed a bit. People betray their principles for money and fame all the time, and it doesn't necessarily mean that they threw away those principles for good. But, as someone who held himself up to the masses and popularized certain principles, there is time to be spent in the stocks when those same principles are betrayed.

Sieve's criticism is correct in that even if you assume the worst only on this one incident, RB could still be a much better man than any of us.  He may regularly volunteer in charitable organizations, give a huge percentage of his income to charities, save babies from fires on a daily basis, and even think bacon is god's gift to the stomach, but from this thread it would appear all of that would be nullified if he decided to "sell-out" on an advertising campaign.

I think that would be a misapprehension if there are those who get that impression from this thread. Most of the people who have participated here have remarked that Bayless is a talented chef who has done much to further valuable core philosophies and who will likely continue to do so, despite the fact that he has likely forever traded away some of his credibility as an evangelist. But, the fact remains that the evidence we have before us does point to Bayless in this matter being a hypocrite and a sellout who traded in, or at least temporarily rented his principles for money and fame. Bayless is nothing if not media-savvy, and he is certainly aware of the things that are being been said about him. I have a hard time believing that we wouldn't already know about it had he, in fact, had a genuine change of heart that lead to his acceptance of BK's endorsement offer. No doubt, should he come forward and popularize such a philosophy in the future, you will see many people whose opinions of him are changed. I will be one of those people.

--

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Bourdain worship reaches a whole new level...

eh, not really...let's just say that she and I have had that as a private joke for a while. Definitely a fan though, but not a creepy one. We just like to drink and cook and have a good time, y'know?

The line for blowing AB starts behind me... and I :biggrin::wub: am an admitted creepy fan.

I think it cost's $40 though... :unsure:

I'm just going to shake his hand though

2317/5000

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Bourdain worship reaches a whole new level...

eh, not really...let's just say that she and I have had that as a private joke for a while. Definitely a fan though, but not a creepy one. We just like to drink and cook and have a good time, y'know?

The line for blowing AB starts behind me... and I :biggrin::wub: am an admitted creepy fan.

I think it cost's $40 though... :unsure:

I'm just going to shake his hand though

I'm trying to figure out if the handshake would cost more or less than the bj.

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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sustainable food choices (no)

responsible agricultural growing techniques (no)

the impact of food choices on the environment (no)

the advantages of locally grown and seasonally fresh foods (no)

It says including these. It's starts out with:

concepts and benefits of good, safe, and wholesome foods

It seems that it promotes these three, at least in the mind of Bayless, according to his statements.

Doesn't it seem to be stretching the importance of those three incredibly vague concepts to hinge Bayless' whole argument on them and somehow make this "right" by the Chefs Collaborative? Especially when it is so clear that the more specific elements of their Mission Statement are not being met (not to mention fully 50% of their Stated Principles)?

"Good" is, of course, entirely subjective.

"Safe" is equally nebulous, although I would hardly call a sauce that includes smoke flavoring, which contains known carcinogens, entirely "safe."

"Wholesome" is, again, hardly a specific requirement -- and I have a hard time believing that Bayless would have said a BK chicken sandwich "promoted health or well-being of mind or spirit" before they gave him a big sack of money.

The fact is, of course, that if Bayless thought this was a viable argument he would have trundled it out a long time ago instead of "step in the right direction."

--

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Had Chef Rick designed this sandwich, as un-good as it is, I myself would feel that he really was trying to make a difference in the fast food marketplace.

That it's un-good would then be definitely due to the constraints of the BK system.

That it's un-good and yet he endorsed it (which calls his palate if not his character into question), that Chef Rick is supporting BK in direct contradiction of the principles he has espoused, that he also did an ad for a BBQ sandwich and claimed that BK has real BBQ just boggles.

But then perhaps I am too boggable.

I do hope he continues his excellent work in educating about and promoting Mexican cuisines.

But the thought has come up that his next book might come with tear-away coupons for a sandwich...

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I'd say Bayless must have had a clear understanding of the "nature" of BK. There's no way he could have believed that endorsing one of BK's products would in turn cause them to conform to his ideals.

But at question should be, first, the nature of the sandwich, since that's what he's truly endorsing, not BK as a whole. It's certainly reasonable to condemn his actions because they help an otherwise immoral company, but I imagine he's compartmentalizing, saying that this sandwich is a step in the right direction and that he's not endorsing all their food, only the sandwich and this movement within BK.

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I'd say Bayless must have had a clear understanding of the "nature" of BK. There's no way he could have believed that endorsing one of BK's products would in turn cause them to conform to his ideals.

But at question should be, first, the nature of the sandwich, since that's what he's truly endorsing, not BK as a whole. It's certainly reasonable to condemn his actions because they help an otherwise immoral company, but I imagine he's compartmentalizing, saying that this sandwich is a step in the right direction and that he's not endorsing all their food, only the sandwich and this movement within BK.

He is, in fact, endorsing BK. It's unavoidable. It isn't as though the ads recommend avoiding all else at BK.

That being said, I do think you're right about this argument being blown out of proportion. Sheesh.

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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I'd say Bayless must have had a clear understanding of the "nature" of BK. There's no way he could have believed that endorsing one of BK's products would in turn cause them to conform to his ideals.

But at question should be, first, the nature of the sandwich, since that's what he's truly endorsing, not BK as a whole. It's certainly reasonable to condemn his actions because they help an otherwise immoral company, but I imagine he's compartmentalizing, saying that this sandwich is a step in the right direction and that he's not endorsing all their food, only the sandwich and this movement within BK.

Surely you can't be suggesting that an endorsement of a BK product constitutes anything less than an endorsement of the company? I can't imagine that someone with Bayless' media experience would possibly suppose that it would be construed otherwise.

--

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The fact is, of course, that if Bayless thought this was a viable argument he would have trundled it out a long time ago instead of "step in the right direction."

I think he was. I think the "step in the right direction" is exactly that. He's saying it's not a violation of the principles because he's supporting something in particular that makes that company's food better and gives people a better option. It may also "educate" their palates to better tastes and textures.

I don't know how most people came to good food, but I know that with myself and other friends it was truly slowly. We knew decent home cooking. I was lucky to grow up in an area with lots of agriculture, friends who lived on farms and had orchards. I always had a garden and because we were poor, we made a lot of food from scratch, even if a lot of it was unsophisticated. But I didn't have a lot of variety or knowledge about cuisines and I didn't have much experience with high end food and certainly not often enough to be able to compare. As I had more discretionary income, started cooking myself every day, started eating out with friends and searching for the best places, I developed my palate. But it took baby steps. I found burger places that were independent and way better than the chains and fast food. I ate at the Olive Garden. I was introduced to Pad Thai and Chicken Tikka Masala. I ate out at medium level French and Italian restaurants. It was a slow gradual prcess where now I can appreciate (and afford) The French Laundry, Charlie Trotter's, and the like.

I can remember my first taste of mole and I hated it. Now I can't get enough. Change is scary. Revolution is scary. Little steps like this chicken sandwich at BK and other such attempts by McD's and others (Niman Ranch at Chipotle, eg) could have way more positive impact than most of what CC does. It's something that can't be deemed preaching to the choir, but instead actual attempts at wooing the unconverted (to borrow your evangelist metaphor).

Who is more subverted by the success of the chicken sandwich, RB or BK?

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If a newspaper comes out in support of a specific politician, does it then support that politician's whole party?

If you say Niman Ranch beef is the best beef you've ever had, does that necessarily mean I should buy Niman Ranch pork?

It's a support of BK, but trivially so above the support of the sandwich in particular.

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Bayless is a different kind of case.  He put himself in this position, up on a pedestal, which is something I haven't done.  As a public person on a pedestal of his own making, he opens himself up to public accountability and also to public criticism.  I have in the past described Bayless as an "evangelist" for his philosophies, and I think the allusion is an apt one.  To use your example of infidelity: this is something that most people have been involved in to one degree or another over the course of a lifetime of relationships.  I certainly would not seek to condemn someone based on an infidelity.  However, if a moral evangelist who preaches to the public against infidelity is involved in an infidelity himself, that is a different story.  He who proclaims a higher standard is in turn accountable to that higher standard.  This man would be fair game for public censure over his infidelities.  Bayless is one such person, and if he is being judged, he is weighed on scales of his own making.

This is just a very intelligent post. Congrats, SLKinsey.

If people don't get it after your words here, they ain't gonna.

And I don't think they're going to get it, regardless of your wisdom. You couldn't have said it any better.

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If a newspaper comes out in support of a specific politician, does it then support that politician's whole party?

If you say Niman Ranch beef is the best beef you've ever had, does that necessarily mean I should buy Niman Ranch pork?

It's a support of BK, but trivially so above the support of the sandwich in particular.

But what if the newspaper is coming out in support of a specific politician because of, say, his public works program, despite the fact that he's a neo-nazi? To me, that would be an endorsement of the politician.

peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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It's been a while since I saw the commercials, but I remember them being all about the sandwich. I don't think you can then assume that:

a) RB advocates eating all BK products

b) RB has given up any previous criticisms of fast food or BK

Obviously if a newspaper came out in support of a politician, then they support that politician. But if they came out in support of the public works program sponsored by a politician that would be a different matter. This actually happens all the time. Democrat Senators co-sponsor Republican bills and vice versa. It doesn't mean they'll support their next bill and it doesn't mean they'd vote for them. Democrat Senators often even make themselves a part of a signing ceremony for a bill being signed by President Bush, a Republican. That doesn't mean they'll support him in 2004, just that this time they're teaming with him. People make these types of distinctions all the time. I don't know why this case should be any different.

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I don't think it is reasonable to compare political parties to a fast food franchise in terms of branding. There is no "Democratic Party Logo" that appears in all political ads and on all Democrat politicians' clothing. It's just not the same thing.

--

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Had Chef Rick designed this sandwich, as un-good as it is, I myself would feel that he really was trying to make a difference in the fast food marketplace.

That it's un-good would then be definitely due to the constraints of the BK system.

Jin, bless your heart. Thank you, thank you, thank you for that moment of reason in an otherwise conflated debate that has more to do with individuals than it does with principles.

Okay, polemic aside, Jinmyo has a real, substantive point. If chef Rick had a hand in developing this sandwich all of our arguments would be for naught, straw men at best. We could lay no claim of hypocrisy at his feet. At best we could say that he tried and failed. Didn't succeed, but at least tried. Noble.

That he didn't have a role in developing this sandwich is a real problem. Is this the hill upon which he has chosen to die? That's the real question. Frankly, I doubt it. Was he presented with a prettied up, ideal version of the sandwich (and a big check) and said, "Hey, this ain't bad -- and the fat content is what? Cool! I can get behind that." Or was he party to how the BK machine works (and works quite well) to lower foods to a common denominator and price point? I'd like to think the former, that he was presented with a test-kitchen version of a low-fat, healthier choice sandwich and said, "You know what, this isn't bad; it isn't as great as I'd like, but it's a good start" and went from there. We've all got mortgages to pay.

Anyway, I agree that there is a disparity between what the chef's collective has espoused and what chef Rick is doing with BK. Does that make him evil? I dunno.

Does that make him a dupe scrambling for justification after the fact? Maybe.

Does it make him an idealist who has a mortgage and is willing to sell a little of his soul if it doesn't seem too bad a deal? Most likely.

We're all whores. We're just negotiating price.

Chad

edit: pronoun trouble

Chad Ward

An Edge in the Kitchen

William Morrow Cookbooks

www.chadwrites.com

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Trying not to wade in.

Trying.

Not.

To wade.

In.

Again.

It seems to me, that there are a couple of factions here (Oh really?!).

Without trying to put words into peoples mouths (which is surely worse than putting the Sante Fe sandwhich in the same location) - there are those that take RBs pronouncements at face value that he believes this is a step in the right direction for BK (and presumably fast food behemoths in general). I will call this the subjective view, as it refers to RB's opinion regarding the sandwhich. You can agree or disagree, but as far as we know, that is his opinion.

And there are those who point out the Chef's Collaborative's mission statement and principles - and argue that - viewed objectively - Bayless' endorsement of the sandwhich in question appears to violate some of the principles. (That others could argue they don't is not the point I'm trying to make. The point is, there is RB and his honestly held opinions - which we can't know except from his public statements on the matter - and the CC's mission statement and principles, which surely Bayless' endorsement of the SF 'which can be measured against in some objective manner).

So, my question is, has Bayless come out and stated (and hopefully specified which) specific CC principles this sandwhich helps promote?

Is the sandwhich any good? Subjective. (Mostly).

Is it better than BK's or their competitor's other sandwhiches? I'd argue this is also subjective (mostly) but could also have aspects that could be judged objectively. Is it step in the right direction? Opinions may differ.

Can the sandwhich and its promotion (by RB or otherwise) be said to adhere to or promote the CC's mission statement and principles? I'd argue that there is a basis for evaluating this on a relatively objective basis (they're vague enough to allow argument - but that is perhaps another subject again) From what I've read, I think there is a pretty strong argument that this sandwhich isn't doing a whole lot to support the CC cause.

Anyone with an ongoing relationship with CC want to ask them if RB will refer specifically to all of their mission statements and principles and detail how the sandwhich fits with each of those?

Cheers,

Geoff Ruby

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