Celebrity chef Thomas Keller, the owner of world renowned Yountville restaurants the French Laundry, Ad Hoc, and Bouchon (as well as numerous other restaurants across the U.S.), is one of only four independent restaurateurs who were named to the White House’s Economic Council for Restaurants, Eater National reports Thursday morning. Wolfgang Puck, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and Daniel Boulud are the only other arguably (?) non-corporate names on the list of folks tasked with saving an industry devastated by the coronavirus crisis. (Incidentally. all four of these guys had a phone call with Trump just last week, suggesting perhaps that the net was not cast especially widely.)
As with any announcement associated with the current administration, the news was met with a combination of exasperation, irritation, and anger, a response perhaps enhanced by the news that the other participants on the so-called “Great American Economic Revival Industry Group” include a panoply of problematic chains like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A, and form a roster “nearly devoid of people of color, and entirely devoid of women,” Eater reports.
Seemingly oblivious to the negative reaction the council makeup might evoke, Keller tweeted Wednesday that he was “honored” to be named to the group, and that he is “proud to work together towards a strategy where the safety of Americans is top of mind in conjunction towards economic revitalization.”
Honored @realdonaldtrump asked me & @danielboulud @wolfgangpuck @jeangeorges to join @whitehouse Great American Economic Revival Industry Group. Proud to work together towards a strategy where the safety of Americans is top of mind in conjunction towards economic revitalization.— Thomas Keller (@Chef_Keller) April 15, 2020
Feel skeptical about any of that? You’re not alone, as these nine responses to Keller’s tweet illustrate.
Here’s Food and Wine senior editor Kat Kinsman, with some suggestions of who else to add to the group:
Would you please insist on bringing @DevitaDavison @chefjoseandres @chefedwardlee @ChefKwame @HughAcheson @chefpmistry @A______C______ @vinnyeng @davidchang @matthewjennings and other brilliant, bright souls who represent America's restaurants to the table where they belong?— Kat Kinsman (@kittenwithawhip) April 16, 2020
Chef/historian Thérèse Nelson also questions the lack of diversity on the list, as well as the dearth of folks who might understand the plight of rank-and-file industry workers.
Im still trying to understand how these chefs represent a true crosssection of restaurant owners? Oh wait, they don't. Who in that room is going to speak for workers? I feel like we're all putting too much faith into this "relief" when we aren't even through the storm yet.— Thérèse Nelson (@blackculinary) April 16, 2020
Tech and design consultant Christina Wodtke doesn’t even think Keller should mess with the POTUS.
Lay down with dogs, get up with fleas.— christina is remote (@cwodtke) April 16, 2020
Walk away and do good on your own.
Jason Clampet, the co-founder of news app Skift, feels similarly.
You are better than this, chef. Nobody who gets into bed with this man comes out clean.— Jason Clampet (@jasonclampet) April 16, 2020
Writer Matthew Kepnes questions Keller’s understanding of how the other half lives.
Most Americans can’t afford your food. You have no idea about real food costs. Fuck off.— Nomadic Matt (@nomadicmatt) April 16, 2020
Writer Galena Mosovich tries to play to Keller’s pride as a chef.
Yo TK, you know he eats his meat well done, right? This isn’t a good look for you or your colleagues. Back out.— Galena Mosovich (@galenawrites) April 15, 2020
Podcast host and food scribe Korsha Wilson is uncharacteristically speechless about the whole thing.
What in the entire fuck is this shit?!? https://t.co/oue2fVFsHp— korsha wilson (@korshawilson) April 16, 2020
Ready for a conspiracy theory? Twitter user Lindsey46105454 has a good one. Tying together Keller’s role as consultant to a rodent-focused Pixar film and a rat that reportedly ran past the president during a briefing Wednesday, it’s suggested that the scurrying creature inspired Trump’s call to Keller.
I’m sorry but the timing demands the joke:— Oh, what a McGovern I've been (@Lindsey46105454) April 16, 2020
A Rat: *runs thru the presser*
Trump: Get me the guy who consulted on Ratatouille.
It goes on like this (and on, and on), for nearly 700 responses as of publication time, with little positive feedback to be found, a phenomenon also noted by Toronto Star coronavirus columnist Bruce Arthur.
I call this dish, Le Ratio— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) April 16, 2020
As of noon Thursday, Keller had not issued any subsequent tweets, nor had he responded to any of the hundreds of messages from his followers pleading that he reconsider.