If someone can be such a snob about food, then I would like to remain as the foodie who pulls the plug on a food snob.
A few months ago, I was at a dinner date with someone – a self-claimed foodie – who refused to fully pay the bill and chose to “go Dutch” at a relatively nice restaurant in San Francisco. For some reason, I haven’t been able to let go of this incident. To him, it was the principle that such a restaurant at a certain price range wasn’t deserving of his money when it, according to him, didn’t serve great food. The bill came, it sat there, sat there, and….still sat there.
It wasn’t so much about the money for me, but an experiment. I wanted to see how a person, who complained about every dish that arrived at our table, would actually, well…pay up in the end. He didn’t, entirely. I grew tired of waiting, and asked “should we split this?” He said with a firm “yes.”
For weeks, I spoke about this incident to my friends. I couldn’t fathom why someone who had traveled the world, an expert in his field of profession, a seemingly easygoing and laid-back kind of a guy, could throw away common sense of a gentleman, showing his true color as: a food snob. It occurred to me that, it’s not just him. Many people do this.
How many times have we walked into a restaurant and tirelessly chirp about: service, food, water temperature, waiter’s dress codes, waiter’s facial hair, noise level, restrooms…the list goes on. The worst part is, this precisely occurs when an identical dining experience is perceived as flawless to someone else.
During this particular dinner date, I wasn’t hungry but thought the food was above average. Sure, it lacked just a pinch of a flavorful kick, but it wasn’t so terrible that I would whine about throughout the entire meal. Luckily, I’ve also had privileged experiences of dining in some fine-dining restaurants in the world, relishing local street foods or trekking through days of travel when food became a serious scarcity. While I appreciate how food is prepared and where produce come from, it is always with appreciation that food is simply present at a table. From a bowl of plain rice to a lobster risotto, I see the ability to experience food as an honor, an evidence of being alive and well. To me, complaints about food not only shows bad manners, it’s also showcasing a huge lack of world vision.
I wanted to ask this guy, who works with international charities: How many hungry children have you witnessed in the world? Travels to lands of extreme poverty, how is he not shifted by them? He was a snob about it, and repeated, “This was not worth all the hype, or the money.”
Growing up in Taiwan, I learned how to be a foodie at Din Tai Fung. Sure, it taught me the importance of: taste, smell, presentation, consistency…all things comprise of a great restaurant experience. But it pushed me to step back and look at food from a historic point of view. What do soup dumplings say about my culture? What sort of limits is the shrimp fried rice trying to push when every other restaurant also serves the exact same dish? What message does the atmosphere of the restaurant attempts to create and deliver? Being a foodie parallels to reading a great book, it allows you to appreciate an art form that satiates the soul: hunger for knowledge, or simply, hunger.
When I met Mr. Warren Yang (owner of Din Tai Fung,) one of the most talked about and interesting men in Taiwan, I immediately recognized an unexpected humbleness. To this day, he yearns to be better. It almost seems as if he is unaware of the level of his worldwide success. By conducting interviews for Jetset Times, I’ve deeply understood that humility can take you a long way. It’s an utter turn-off when a self-proclaimed foodie walks into a highly acclaimed restaurant in San Francisco – one of biggest food scenes in the world; complains throughout the entire meal, judges with every peck and thinks he is too good to pick up the check in the end.
I observed silently during that particular dinner date. Carried on cheerfully, I appeared unfazed. But I deleted his contact information soon after. If someone can be such a snob about food, then I would like to remain as the foodie who pulls the plug on a food snob.