How to Spot a Fake Foodie (aka My Crappy Valentine’s Day Date)

photo courtesy of james-mcwilliams.com

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Make no mistake: Being a food snob does not make one a foodie.

I have always loved food. My earliest and best memories involve being in the kitchen, whether it was my childhood play kitchen in all of its fake, plastic-food glory or in real kitchens standing over simmering pots, peeling vegetables, or testing some new recipe. I’ve never been particularly fond of the term foodie but, if forced to be classified, I would agree that I am one.

Because of what I do for a living and having a career and interests firmly rooted in the culinary industry, I attract (and am attracted to) men who share my love of food as well. I tend to date chefs (often to my detriment) and culinary professionals but, occasionally, a charlatan slips under the radar. Let me explain: There are bonafide food lovers and there are folks that I like to call food posers. I happened to go out on a Valentine’s Day dinner date with the latter.

He had all the trappings of a true gastronome–he was a wealthy real estate magnate who co-owned an organic, sustainable farm somewhere in upstate New York, had a carefully curated wine cellar in his home that boasted rare and vintage labels, and peppered casual conversation with food-related lingo. He appeared to be my ideal man; a few weeks into the relationship, I seriously began to consider the possibility of him being The One.

That notion was quickly dispelled after a disastrous Valentine’s Day dinner when I discovered that he was, indeed, a fake foodie. How does one spot such a creature? First, and most importantly, you must trap this impostor in his natural environment–a restaurant–and observe him just as you would a wild animal on safari.

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HOW TO SPOT A FAKE FOODIE

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Sign #1 – A fake foodie will always select the trendiest and most hyped restaurant. This can be tricky. Sometimes a buzzed-about restaurant is worthy of critical praise; often times, it is not. Despite what Yelp and OpenTable may say, rave restaurant reviews cannot always be trusted but that matters not to a fake foodie. All he cares about is optics. Sure, it looks great to be seen at the grand opening of some frou-frou eatery or scoring a reservation at a celebrity chef’s new hotspot but, more often than not, the food is garbage. Beware of a person who can rattle off a list of buzzy, sexy-sounding restaurants but can’t name a single hidden gem or greasy spoon where you can get an excellent bowl of pho at 2 AM.

Sign #2 – A fake foodie loves “it” ingredients. This telltale sign is somewhat similar to Sign #1 in that the impostor always professes a love for trendy ingredients that most chefs, professionals, and true food lovers dismiss. Does he smother everything in sriracha because that’s the “it” thing to do? Wax poetic about bee pollen? Sound the alarm! Here is something I know to be true: Fresh truffles are awesome. Truffle oil? Swill.

Sign #3 – A fake foodie is likely a pretty knowledgeable oenophile. That’s right. A fake foodie is usually a real wine aficionado. Go figure. Somehow, the impostor can speak intelligently about terroir and viticulture in general but doesn’t know the difference between jackfruit and durian. Watch out for the foodie who wades into a lengthy discussion with the restaurant sommelier about a pricy Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru but quickly scans the menu and, without much thought, orders the overpriced (and likely tasteless), pedestrian seafood tower. Maybe impostors learn so much about wine to cover their glaring lack of food knowledge. Ugh.

Sign #4 – A fake foodie has no knowledge of what food is supposed to taste like. This happened to me on my Valentine’s Day date. We dined at a much-hyped (but disappointing) restaurant in the city’s chicest hotel and, while the luxe environs were impressive, the menu was not. We ordered carbonara, one of my favorite Italian dishes, and when it arrived I was confused. I’m a fan of the rich, creamy pancetta-studded dish, but what I got was a bowl of dry, grossly undercooked angel hair (!) pasta tossed with cubes of pork fat and a few pieces of flaccid bacon topped with an anemic, sad little egg yolk that was so impossibly tiny it may have very well been from a quail. I was not a happy camper. My dinner date, on the other hand, was thrilled. He slurped up those thin pasta strands and proclaimed it to be the best carbonara he’d ever had as traces of egg yolk slid down his chin. I’m a fan of chefs’ interpretations of classic dishes but this was so far off the mark, it was egregious. If this was his idea of exemplary carbonara, how could his culinary opinion be trusted?

Sign #5 – A fake foodie usually equates snobbery with being a food lover. Just as some people think porn is representative of what real sex is supposed to be like, fake foodies have somehow been led to believe that snobbery and just plain meanness is how gastronomes are supposed to behave. The impostor wistfully longs for the days of top hats and monocles when one called his valet or butler “my good man.” When the waiter accidentally brought out the wrong dish for our second course, he apologized profusely and promised to bring out the proper food and re-fire our third course. Before I could assure the apologetic waiter that all was well, my nightmare dinner date loudly exclaimed that he didn’t want warmed-over food. The waiter and I looked at each other in confusion and it quickly dawned on me that this self-proclaimed food lover had no idea that to re-fire a dish was kitchen lingo for discarding a dish and completely remaking it. It is not synonymous with allowing food to linger under the hot glare of warming lamps. He proceeded to berate our waiter and the restaurant manager who, no doubt, came over to our table hoping to diffuse the situation about not wanting warmed-over food and required far too much pacifying before he simmered down. Once we were alone again at the table, he smugly mentioned that sometimes “these people” needed to be taught a lesson. Ouch.

 

Have you ever spotted a fake foodie? Did you grin and bear their posing or did you exit stage left?

About Iris "The Palate Princess" M.

Food writer | Author of Food Lovers' Guide to Philadelphia, Main Squeeze: Juicing Recipes for Your Healthiest Self, and On the Line (coming soon)

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