At some point along the way, good food got mistakenly conflated with fine dining. Which proves problematic for those of us who enjoy eating well but don’t always need the pomp and circumstance. Don’t get me wrong — having dinner at institutions like New York City’s Le Bernardin and Montreal’s Maison Boulud is an absolute privilege and an inimitable experience. But food doesn’t need to be ostentatious to be delicious.
That’s a theme running throughout our spring food issue. Our feature subject, octogenarian French chef Jacques Pépin, tells writer Wendy Lubovich how he savors the simplest ingredients prepared in the simplest way, like a tomato plucked from his garden seasoned with just salt and olive oil. After decades at the top of the food world, he has distilled life down to the elemental.
Celebrated Spanish chef José Andrés is also a fan of unpretentious eats. These days, the inspirational humanitarian is dedicating his time and efforts to feeding those in need with his nonprofit World Central Kitchen, in addition to helming some 30 restaurants. He takes us on an exclusive tour of his homeland and waxes poetic about the culinary traditions of Spain.
The trio behind Bronx-based culinary collective Ghetto Gastro — Jon Gray, Pierre Serrao and Lester Walker — is on a mission to harness the power of food to prompt social justice reform. They explain how food is at once a form of survival, a source of luxury and also a weapon that has long been used against Black, Native American and other marginalized communities. The group’s manifesto is outlined in their acclaimed cookbook, Black Power Kitchen, which celebrates the beauty and complexity of Black culture.
Anne Roderique-Jones touches on the topic of lavish vino, asking experts if wine needs to be expensive to be good. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.) In fact, the late Fred Franzia proved that with his cult-favorite Two Buck Chuck. Scoff all you want, but fans of this infamously inexpensive wine and other previously overlooked lowbrow offerings are causing a major shift in the industry.
Here in the Twin Cities, we have plenty of talented chefs who know that food needn’t put on airs to be absolutely exquisite. Native American change maker Sean Sherman of Owamni showcases this with his beautifully prepared Indigenous ingredients. So do chefs Ann Ahmed (Khâluna), Christina Nguyen (Hai Hai), Yia Vang (Union Hmong Kitchen) and Pedro Wolcott (Guacaya Bistreaux) — all of whom are telling the stories of their people through their cuisine.
So next time you find yourself craving something special, don’t dismiss the unassuming neighborhood joint. What these eateries lack in ego they more than make up for in flavor. And you’ll leave with both your heart and your stomach wonderfully full — no sport coat required.
Kate Nelson, Editor-in-Chief