A couple of weeks ago, a tasting event at the New York City Wine & Food Festival drove Dirt Candy’s Amanda Cohen to more or less lose her shit. Cohen, who’d spent 10 days prepping for the event, only to be rewarded by indifference and thievery by its attendees, isn’t alone wondering about how much tasting events and food-oriented benefits benefit the chefs who take part in them, much less the causes they purportedly benefit. Today in The Atlantic, Sara Jenkins writes a thought-provoking and frankly long-overdue column about the “dark side” of fall benefit season.
Jenkins, who supports her share of causes, writes
Some of the so-called “benefits” I have participated in seem to be more about throwing giant, self-congratulatory parties. It seems like every time some terrible event happens, everyone gets busy setting up a benefit for the victims and at the same time making sure they get more press themselves. Before you know it, rather than talking about the awful situation in Haiti or Pakistan we are talking about what delicacies such and such restaurant is serving.
Also, to participate in these events, Jenkins must spend time, effort, and money preparing hundreds to thousands of tasting portions, many of which often end up going uneaten. All in all, it’s a bust more often than not, leading the chef to wonder, “Isn’t it better for my customers and for me if I stay in the restaurant and cook? Isn’t that what my business is about?”
Having attended our share of these things, we’ve often asked the same thing, usually while being elbowed by crowds of people who seem more interested in benefiting their caloric intake than whatever charity they’re ostensibly there to support.