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Think of a chef. You are likely imagining a rough and tumble sort, tatted, gruff. There’s a deep forehead crease no amount of Botox could fix, and they might have just snapped at a line cook for overcooking the sirloin.
Think of a tech founder. You might be thinking of a white guy in a hoodie, preoccupied, rushed, looking at their phone. They might have just snapped at a junior engineer for using tabs versus spaces.
The outfits are different, but the stereotypical attitude is the same. A swashbuckling, “you can’t tell me what to do,” “i’m in charge,” captain of the pirate ship mentality. We know there’s some toxicity going on, maybe some anger management to work out in therapy, and yet, we worship them.
The tech startup world and the food world are united in this key sense: there’s a sense of lawlessness, of being badass, not conforming to the ivory tower of academia, law, or consulting, and swashbuckling your way into creating your own success. Chefs, like tech founders, invent their own products and deliver experiences that engage all of our senses and release dopamine in our brains.
The mythology of the entrepreneur, whether it’s a tech entrepreneur or a food entrepreneur, is so strong. We in America are so obsessed with someone who brims with confidence, who knows exactly what they want to do. Someone who conceives an idea and by the force of their personality ushers it to existence.
But, there have been so many high profile cases lately in the food world where our “founders” – the chefs, recipe developers, and food thought-leaders who have defined how we eat in 2020 – have been exposed for questionable worldviews; outright harassment; cultural appropriation; and violations of kitchen health and safety laws, that it’s made me stop and think about who we are worshiping and why. How did we get here?