Do you have a Food Deal-Breaker? Chefs and Food Writers Respond

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Courtesy of Rahim Packir Saibo via Flickr

Love and food. For some, it’s hard to separate the two.

A few weeks ago in response to a post on Evan Kleiman’s facebook page about broccoli, a commenter declared, “I would not marry a man who did not love broccoli. So far I have married two who do. Problem with #1 is that he did not also love Brussels sprouts and lima beans.”

This got me thinking, are there some foods that are so important to prominent chefs and food writers that if their loved one didn’t appreciate them as well, it could be heartbreaking, or maybe just really annoying to deal with?

As one of the few women out there who for some reason has the misfortune to not like chocolate, I find this topic particularly fascinating. Nobody has ever broken up with me over my aversion to it, but it’s an admission that is oftentimes met with gasps of horror when I divulge it to someone for the first time. I constantly feel like I have to justify myself by affirming that I am not a picky eater, it’s just a quirk.

But what habits offend some of the most influential people in the food world?

Father of L.A.’s food truck scene, Roy Choi, did not mince words. “If you come at me with fake allergies then we are not gonna fu– tonight,” he put bluntly.

Perhaps Portlandia’s Allergy Pride Parade has inspired those lacking allergies that they need a defining characteristic. I have a friend who once claimed he was allergic to cheesecake. In any case, from a chef’s perspective, I would imagine faking a kimchi or pork belly allergy would be infuriating.

star anise 2
Courtesy of Jeroen Bennick via Flickr(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

I also turned to Evan Kleiman, the host here at Good Food to find out what foods she held near and dear to her heart. But instead of naming a food she loved, she mentioned one she hated. She said she could not stand to be with “someone whose favorite spice or flavor was star anise and who loved to make broths with it. Star anise is my kryptonite. Yuck.”

Commonly found in pho, and occasionally in Chinese five-spice mixtures, Evan says the ingredient makes her shudder.

Roxana Jullapat of Cook’s County responded similarly to Evan in that she mentioned not something she loved, but something she found ‘unacceptable.'”As far as deal breakers, my diet outside of the restaurant is heavy on veggies, fruits, nuts and popcorn (I love it, can’t help it), but I’m by no means a picky eater and had been known for having a liking for raw meat. However, there is one category of foods that is completely unacceptable and that is any animal on the list of endangered species, whether it is whale, blue fin tuna or marine turtle eggs, there’s just too much information advising against it to eat these foods and be cavalier about it.”

And while many interpreted the issue as one that would affect a romantic relationship, Chef Ludo Lefebvre responded from the perspective of a parent. “My heart will be broken the day my kids prefer boxed mac and cheese over my homemade version. I don’t serve it [boxed mac and cheese] to them, but play dates are dangerous, because they learn all of kinds of bad habits.”

box mac and cheese
Courtesy of D. Sharon Pruitt via Flickr(The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

And it’s not surprising that David LeFevre, Chef/Owner of Manhattan Beach Post and Fishing with Dynamite said, given his restaurants’ emphasis on seafood, “a deal breaker for me might be someone who didn’t enjoy drinking wine, and secondly a woman who doesn’t eat meat or fish. I do really love vegetables, but I wouldn’t want to have to decide my dining options around just that particular food group. Luckily my girlfriend loves wine, meat and fish!”

Sara Kate Gillingham, founder of the Kitchn did not mention a particular food item that could ignite conflict, it’s more about her efforts in the kitchen being acknowledged. “If my loved one didn’t appreciate my efforts to keep the ingredients she loves in the house, I’m not sure I’d be devastated but I’d be bummed. Jalapeños, tortillas, and of course, good strong coffee. I love that she appreciates when I do things like unload the dishwasher, that for some are just part of the job and often go unnoticed.”

And finally, Ruth Reichl conceded she didn’t have a deal-breaker at all: “I’ve spent the last 30 years living with a man whose ideal dinner would be served at 5 o’clock, consist of cheeseburgers and end in under an hour. But we deal…”