The Food World & The Theater World


The James Beard Awards were last week, this week the Tonys. It’s often occurred to me that theater geeks have much in common with foodies and now I’d like to make a list of how the theater world is similar to the food world and vice-versa:

* The food world and the theater world are both often seen as elitist;

* The parts of the food world that aren’t seen as elitist (the Food Network, fast food, movie theater nachos) are considered by the elitists to be lowbrow just as populist theater (jukebox musicals, movie-to-stage adaptations) are frowned upon by theater elites;

* Still, both worlds are niche worlds with communities of passionate people who follow the ups and downs of their industry with fierce fascination;

* Restaurants fear Frank Bruni the way that producers fear Ben Brantley;

* New voices are celebrated to the point of exhaustion–David Chang meet Stew;

* Newish voices take a while to be noticed but once noticed are also celebrated to the point of exhaustion–Wylie Dufresne meet Tracy Letts;

* Older voices get their moment in the sun after long careers of hard work–Jean-Georges meet Patti LuPone;

* It’s expensive to eat at James Beard award winning restaurant; it’s expensive to see a Tony-winning play (or any play or musical, for that matter);

* Both communities have lively message boards: foodies have chowhound and eGullet; Theater geeks have All That Chat and;

* If you make it in theater, you often flee to Hollywood to do movies and TV (see: Cynthia Nixon, Mary Louise-Parker); if you make it in the food world, you often flee to “Hollywood” by way of Food Network, the Home Shopping Channel, the frozen food aisle, and restaurant franchises (see: Wolfgang Puck, Mario Batali);

* Las Vegas: both restauranteurs and theater producers go there to offer watered-down versions of “high” culture;

* Modern American food culture owes a debt to gay men (notably James Beard & Craig Claiborne) just as modern American theater owes a debt to gay men like Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee, and Stephen Sondheim;

* People turn their nose up at foods they consider weird (offal, for example) the way that audiences walk out of plays they consider weird (“Top Girls,” for example);

* People don’t dress up any more to go to the theater much like they don’t dress up any more to go out to dinner;

* Some save menus, some save Playbills;

* Celebrity chefs fill restaurant seats just like celebrity cast members fill theater seats, (despite frequent bad reviews, Julia Roberts);

I’m sure I can go on and on, but we can leave it at that. Thank you for indulging my desire to point out how the food world is similar to the theater world. Carry on, designers. (Oooh, that leads to the fashion world… but that’s another post.)

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