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2018 in food: A recap of #metoo controversies, celebrity chef deaths and revolutionary new cooking shows

Writer and chef, Jess Spiro sums up an eventful year filled with noteworthy and significant events.

by: Jess Spiro | 31 Dec 2018
 
anthony bourdain chef

There are no two ways about it, 2018 was a big year for food. Peppered in between all the tasty things we ate, drank and watched, there were some truly remarkable moments that took place. Here are some of the biggest things to happen in food in 2018.

The good

Firstly, we celebrated 20 years of Nigella Lawson’s inimitable writing at the anniversary of her first cookbook How to Eat. How to Eat was the first book from Lawson, but was also the first book of its time, in that it taught us to take as much to eat as we do to cook.

David Chang continued his world domination as he released Ugly Delicious, the no-frills Netflix-produced show that looked at some of the most delicious and perhaps least-understood foods across cultures. It’s since been renewed for a second season, which is likely to be devoured by viewers the minute it's released.

Following on from a remarkable year in food-related TV, Samin Nosrat’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat further captivated audiences. Her clever approach to the basic components of food demonstrated just how easy it is to create something delicious. 

The bad

2018 was also the year we bid adieu to some of the biggest food icons of our time. None more so than Anthony Bourdain, who died by suicide in June. Bourdain, who really needs no introduction, won hearts and minds with his ‘eat-anything-once’ attitude, and a constant reminder to cut the bullshit from food. His unexpected death left the world stunned and opened up a broader conversation about mental health in the restaurant industry. 

Along with Bourdain, we lost magnanimous Joel Robuchon, who died at the age of 73. Robuchon was one of the founding fathers of modern French cuisine and was Michelin’s most decorated chef – racking up a cool 32 stars in 13 different cities.

Though a relatively smaller name outside of the United States, beloved LA-based food writer Johnathan Gold passed away this year after losing a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was notable for a whole host of reasons, particularly because of his cutting-edge writing about the LA food scene (and beyond), and was the first restaurant critic to win a Pulitzer prize.

The ugly

Easily the most shocking, yet important thing to take place in food this year was the #metoo movement. At the end of 2017, the Time’s Up campaign was launched to actively tackle systemic misogyny and sexual assault in Hollywood. However, it didn’t take long for the chilling #metoo hashtag to permeate into every industry and for the restaurant world to experience its own moment. 

Slowly but surely, some of the biggest male figures in food were called out for their inappropriate sexual behaviour. From Eataly’s Mario Batali to boy-next-door John Besh to famed restaurateur Ken Friedman, the #metoo movement took down well-known and (previously) well-respected men in the industry. While the overall movement is important for women everywhere, there’s something incredibly poignant about #metoo in the restaurant industry. It’s a widely-known fact that restaurants are the most predatory places for women to work, with many kitchens harbouring a perverse ‘boys' club’ attitude. 

With the start of the movement, women in kitchens everywhere began to stand together and voice the terrible things that had happened to them at their place of work. Hopefully, through all this catharsis, the restaurant industry will be forced to do some serious introspection and ultimately end the relentless, poor treatment of women.

So, all in all. Food definitely went through some real transformation this year. Some of it was good, some of it was bad, but ultimately food is in a better space to allow for real change. Here’s hoping that this positive momentum continues well into 2019.

ALSO READ: Hannerie Visser on the future of food and the FOOD XX movement

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