Tom Colicchio Blasts WSJ Critic on Food Policy Action: ‘I’m Not About To Stop Now’


When someone calls Tom Colicchio “the culinary elite” and to just “stick to your pots and pans,” you know that he’s not going to take such a remark lightly. So in addition to a rebuttal in the Wall Street Journal, Colicchio also took to Twitter to take down this new food policy nemesis for a heated (bordering on downright personal and nasty) debate.

In short: last week, food instructor Julie Kelly took Colicchio to terms for his work with the Food Policy Action organization. Saying that Colicchio was “out of touch” with his fans, she criticized him for his political involvement in this week’s midterm elections (spending money against politicians who want to take away food stamps) and mixing the food movement with the political movement. And then it starts to get weird from there. From the op-ed:

To be truly useful, a food movement shouldn’t be about politics. It should be about food: what to cook and how to cook it without breaking the family budget. I teach suburban moms how to cook at home. They voice frustration, confusion and even fear about the conflicting information they hear about food. Organic or nonorganic? Farm-raised or wild? Grass-fed or cornfed? Gluten-free or no? It is a strange paradox that so many people now suffer from information overload about food but have very little practical knowledge about how to cook it properly.

Most home cooks need instruction, not more reasons to worry. They need to know how to make a quick marinara, not whether the tomatoes were locally sourced by kindly area farmers who overpay their migrant workers. They need to know how to season and cook a steak, not whether the steer ate genetically modified corn feed. They see food as a necessity, not a political cause or “about values and justice” as Mr. Colicchio said at TEDx.

OH NUH UH, said Colicchio in a much more eloquent way. In his response to her in the Wall Street Journal (and re-published on Food Policy Action’s website), Colicchio explains all the reasons why “food is worth fighting for.” From GMO labeling to the Child Nutrition Act to SNAP benefits, there’s an awful lot of responsibility the government has to ensure safe and healthy food for all, he says. From his letter to the editor:

From ensuring hungry families have access to basic food assistance, to labeling GMOs and preventing the overuse of antibiotics on farms, voters want this information and the response to our efforts has been incredible. These are not Republican or Democratic (or – heaven-forbid Progressive) issues. These are American issues, and how we address them says a lot about our values as Americans. …

One critic suggested I should “stick to my pots and pans.” But I’ve always made sure there is good, responsibly sourced food in those pots and pans, and I’m not about to stop now. Americans have a right to that, and a right to speak out when they see issues of basic common sense and justice mishandled by their elected officials, whether they are chefs or not. You might leave the “proselytizing to the politicians” but I prefer my leaders lead, with smart policies that make healthy, affordable food available to all.

It wasn’t enough for Colicchio to leave it there, though — the debate got quite heated on Twitter between Colicchio and Kelly.

Ultimate burn straight ahead:

And Colicchio kept hammering his point home.

And the kicker to it all:

Don’t bring a pan to a knife fight, Kelly.

[Wall Street Journal, Food Action Policy, Twitter]

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