Mad props to San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino who, at this year's MAD Symposium in Copenhagen, gave an impassioned talk about how deeply he regrets his years as a Food Network celebrity, and how dumb his show Chefs vs. City truly was. Many people who write about food for a living, and certainly many chefs, have bemoaned the trashiness of much of what passes for food TV, from having to watch Guy Fieri foodgasm over every last Sloppy Joe in America to having to watch Adam Richman devour inhuman amounts of everything everywhere. But to have a celebrity chef come out and say all that Cosentino did in this talk is sure to spark a lot of conversation about where food TV should be headed.
The talk was given on August 25th but the MAD people only now have released the video.
It's been five years since the Top Chef Masters winner and former Incanto chef he's now a partner in Incanto's casual replacement Porcellino and he's prepping a whole new concept of his own called Cockscomb in SoMa due to open later this year first saw himself on the show Chefs vs. City, which he says was pitched to him as a show where he got to travel around the country with buddy Aarón Sánchez and compete, combining his loves for travel, competition, and hanging out with friends. But what happened was it became all about competing with chefs in cities across the country in food challenges that made little sense, always with a view toward humiliating a fellow chef who was just there to promote his or her business.
"I was bummed," Cosentino says of his first viewing of the pilot. "I'd gone from city to city and I looked like a fuckin' bully. I looked like that kid who's in the senior class who likes to fuck with the freshmen... And I hated it. I hated everything about it."
Furthermore, he says, he had a dark moment picking up his young son at school, where the kid and all his classmates were playing a game at recess based on his show, which culminated in them running inside and trying to eat their lunch as fast as they could. "I've never felt so low about myself," Cosentino says.
He gets teary, sounds deeply angry and sad, and it gets darker as he describes the great ratings and the obligation to go forward with a full 23-episode season. He's also angry about getting called a sell-out, because, as he puts it, "In punk rock, you're a sellout. In hip-hop, you're blowing up." And he wants everyone to know that not only did he not get rich from the experience, he got pretty sick from having to eat mountains of chiles and whatever was put in front of him. Below, photos of the inside of his stomach, one from 2009 when he was shooting, with "third-degree alkaline burns," and one from this summer, which is normal. When the audience laughs, he assures them it's not funny, and says, "I spent days on the shitter, and, "I couldn't drink alcohol for a year." Also, the hospital initially told him he had cancer.
The talk, by the way, is called "Be Careful What You Wish For."
[h/t: Eater National]