Monday, April 6, 2009

Hear the sizzle, smell the hype

On Sunday, the local newspaper had another long article, complete with color photos, glorifying a "celebrity chef." On the occasion of Bobby Flay opening a burger restaurant in Paramus, the paper went all out, providing even more detail about the food, cooking methods and service than I have seen for upscale places that get four stars.

We know Flay is wealthy, but even he wouldn't have paid for all this glorious publicity. He didn't have to. The newspaper treats him royally, seemingly grateful that he's taken pity on we poor, food-deprived North Jerseyans and opened a restaurant here. We learn about his actress wife, their children, his TV shows and books, and even that his mom lives in New Jersey. How does this serve you and me?

One thing the article is silent on is the quality of the meat in his burgers. The headline and article use words such as "high-quality cooking," "fresh" ingredients, and meat of "chef's quality." These are meaningless. However, we're told the meat hasn't been frozen and that it's chuck, with a 20% fat content. But there is nothing about the grade of beef used, where it came from, and whether the animals were raised with growth hormones and antibiotics, what they were fed and whether they were confined in feed lots before slaughter.

The article ends by mentioning that Flay hasn't yet eaten at White Manna in Hackensack, but "wants to visit soon." I happened to drive by Sunday afternoon and saw a line out the door of this tiny burger restaurant, probably the smallest eatery in the city. Those customers likely have one thing in common with people going to Flay's new place: They don't really know what they are eating.

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