The New Celebrities

August 18, 2008

This piece from the New York Magazine, (which ticks the box demanding new heroes!),

“Just a few years ago, only a celebrity chef could have stirred up so much epicurean excitement. Back then, the food chain extended only as far back as the restaurant kitchens we viewed—sometimes literally, at, say, the Mercer Kitchen or Café Gray—as staging grounds. But we’ve come to realize that dinner originates in the planting row, not on the prep line. We’re increasingly conscious of how our food is produced, and where—and who—it comes from. So New Yorkers are now beginning to fetishize farmers the way we once did chefs. Some of us make ritual trips to buy our wares at the Greenmarket, nod with recognition when our favorites are name-checked on menus, and turn out to hear them speak when they make meet-the-farmer appearances in town.

The meet-the-farmer mania is characterized by a desire for personal connection. “In the past, people would call me and ask, ‘Where can I pick apples? Where can I pick pumpkins?’?” says Coop produce buyer Allen Zimmerman. “The thought of a farm being ‘our’ farm is new.” Our farm. Meet your farmer. I went to hear Hepworth speak at the Coop because I really had come to consider her my farmer: It was like a brand preference; I’d buy anything she grew, from a purple cauliflower to a doughnut peach. I liked the idea that I was buying from an actual person, from an Amy. “Farming for the most part is a man’s world,” says Zimmerman. At the Coop, “Amy is a legend. People meet her and they swoon.”


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