By some accounts, Michael Bauer has the kind of make-or-break sway over SF restaurants that Frank Rich used to have over NYC theater. Unlike Rich, Bauer gives the appearance of working in concert with the local Convention and Visitors bureau. A whisper that the Bay Area is not the epicenter of American gastronomy sends him running to the keyboard like he's Hobbes, and it's a can of tuna. His recent effort is par for the course:
California is a culinary gold mine.The state grows the food that feeds the world, and the Bay Area nurtures the chefs who prepare it. Many national dining trends have their roots here, and it's where dedicated food lovers and chefs from around the country come to play and get inspired. Great cooks are everywhere - at a neighborhood bar, in a modest storefront restaurant and at haute cuisine white-tablecloth venues. But the Bay Area's visionary chefs are more than great cooks; they are people who have made Northern California an epicurean epicenter. Today and in the next two Food sections, I'll profile 20 of these innovators who have helped change the way we eat.
It's a three-part listicle, but whatever, it's August. More striking is the rhetoric, which seems cribbed from an article in a Southwest Airlines inflight magazine, where they talk about all the exciting things to see and do in some town you wish you could afford not to have to fly through. The list includes Alice Waters, Tony Gulisano, Paula LeDuc, Thomas Keller, Cindy Pawlcyn,
Craig Stoll, Emily Luchetti, Charles Phan, Jeremy Fox, and Gerald
Hirigoyen.As Grub St. points out, other than Keller and Waters, these are not folks who have reached the level of influence where, say, folks outside of San Francisco have heard of them. Paul Bertolli pops up in part two, but Bauer continues to bat around .200 in terms of names that are recognizable to a non-SFer who reads a lot about food.
It's the kind of thing that's easier to see when it's the mote in someone else's eye, but Bauer ultimately does SF a disservice with this kind of parochial boosterism. It's the same kind of folly that lead a younger Cod to champion some of the more obscure bands of his native Boston, (say, 8th Route Army) which undermined his advocacy of legitimate giants, like Mission of Burma. Bauer's inflation of SF chefs makes it seem as if he is writing about a much smaller town. It's cheerleading that leaves the reader with a profound sense of disembiggenment.