Foodies are the new hipsters

Sydney's love affair with 'hipster chefs' ... Pictured (L-R) Morgan McGlone (ex-Flinders Inn), Mitch Orr (of Duke Bistro) and Dan Hong (of Ms G's).

Sydney's love affair with 'hipster chefs' ... Pictured (L-R) Morgan McGlone (ex-Flinders Inn), Mitch Orr (of Duke Bistro) and Dan Hong (of Ms G's). Photo: Wilk

Not sure about you, but the last time I had kimchi was at a pub. With a roast dinner. Among a sea of luxuriously bearded men sipping boutique beer. It’s the second time in a month that I’ve found the spicy Korean pickle in my food unexpectedly – the first time was in a burger.

Seeing the look of surprise on my face, my friend checked the menu immediately. 

“Yep, it’s everywhere,” she declared, pausing to survey fellow diners. 

“Kimchi?” I asked.

Advertisement

“No. Irony.”

It dawned on me that she was right – what used to be an old man’s bar is now filled with hipster foodies: ASOS-clad students sharing jugs of Sangria over sliders, after work locals tucking into ‘popcorn squid’ and lovers Instagramming their deconstructed desserts before meditating on the texture of the perfectly quenelled cream.

In fact, it’s hard to tell where the wait staff ends and the clientele begins. Both parties, I suspect, would boast an equally thorough knowledge of the menu.

As I made peace with the kimchi-roast before us, I couldn’t help but wonder – are foodies the new hipsters?  In Sydney at least, it feels like everywhere you look, there are eager diners lining up to get into the latest hot spots while debating the merits of dude food and beer geekery.

Yet despite our growing obsession to scour the web for trendy eats, not everyone wants to be associated with the F word.  Indeed, it seems like somewhere between the mainstreaming of Matt Preston and croque-en-bouche, the term ‘foodie’ has taken a decidedly pejorative turn.  

CAPTION

David Chang, chef and owner of the Momofuku empire.

And this sentiment seems to echo in other food-obsessed cities. In a New York Magazine story published earlier this year, 27-year-old Diane Chang (who photographed every meal she ate for a month for the magazine) confesses her aversion to the term: ‘“I’m not a foodie, I just like what I like,” she says. “Yes, I know, it’s just like hipsters saying, ‘I’m not a hipster.’ ”

The problem, she adds, is that she doesn’t want to be lumped with the herd followers – culinary ‘tourists’ who fork out for cliché restaurants and leave their two-cents worth on review sites like Yelp. This new breed of young, discerning food-lovers tend to be exclusively drawn to dishes or restaurants that are ‘worthy’ – preferring things like single origin coffee, artisan produce, and generally anything that shouts indie culture and good taste.  In this sense, each culinary conquest (think dessert with bacon bits and foie gras doughnuts) becomes “a badge of honor”, explains Chang – adding to their “Bragging rights.”

If all this sounds a lot like hipster psychology, it’s because – well, it is. In an article for New York Times, author and pop culture commenter Mark Greif explains how the ‘indier than thou’ ideology comes to play.   

“Struggles over taste ... [is] a means for “strategy and competition,”writes Greif. And for hipsters (like hard core foodies) who “play at being the inventors or first adopters of novelties: pride comes from knowing, and deciding, what’s cool in advance of the rest of the world.”

Not surprisingly, this sense of indie elitism has sparked its fair share of outrage  – resulting in no shortage of sarcastic blogs , hate poems and full length magazine features that condemn foodies, or more specifically, ‘foochebags’ – that is, culinarily-obsessed folks who happen to commit the triple crime of “attention-whoring, elitism, and superficiality”.  

As much as I hate to admit it, a quick look at my own social feeds reveals that I have definitely been guilty of varying degrees foochebaggery. Camera at the table? Tick. Lining up at Ms Gs? Tick. A worrying obsession with all things David Chang? Tick.

“We have made a legitimate pop celebrity of food,” writes Chris Cechin in a recent issue of David Chang’s quarterly food journal, Lucky Peach. “There is no doubt that a lot of people are eating better for it … But one awkward consequence is that the evolution of chefs as we know them – from sweaty, rarely seen crafts people into televised cultural gentry.”

CAPTION

New York chef Eddie Huang, headlining Brooklyn's GoogaMooga festival.

Blame it on the revival of ‘elevated street food’, the cult eateries of ‘gangsta chefs’ or the many tempting gourmet festivals at home and abroad (think Brooklyn’s Great GoogaMooga festival where chefs, rather than musicians are headliners) -- it's clear that  'food as a cultural pursuit' has gleaned an unprecedented level of social influence. And as much as we might mock, love, or emulate the foodie’s hipster ways, it's also hard to ignore the trickle-down benefits from the movement.

“In the end, I made my own private peace with hipsters... God love them – they’re the driving force behind just about every restaurant we want to eat at these days,” writes veteran food celebrity Anthony Bourdain, “We may think we’ve seen enough ironically bearded cooks with pig tattoos on their forearms. But let’s face it ... I’d still rather eat at a loud restaurant where I can barely hear my companions over the music than eat in a room with a bunch of golfers.”  

I can’t agree more.

62 comments

  • Oh god. Foodies. I tend to find the ones most vocal about being a foodie and food have the worst taste of everyone. That's irony.

    Commenter
    Fernandes
    Location
    Brisbane
    Date and time
    September 20, 2012, 9:55AM
    • I understand the hipster thing better now that I'm in the US. It's so much harder to find anything here which isn't some kind of franchise that people go a little crazy about it. Aussie businesses are far more independent in general, so there's no need to fetishize them to the extent the Americans have. We can enjoy good food, booze and coffee without pretentiousness, lets give it a try.

      Commenter
      rl
      Location
      LA
      Date and time
      September 20, 2012, 10:28AM
      • How do people become so gullible?

        You gotta wear the right thing to the right place to eat the right food and say the right thing.
        That is a whole load of effort to then part with a good amount your hard earned!

        Oh i get it! It's still easier than exercise!

        Commenter
        howdy doody
        Location
        shitney
        Date and time
        September 20, 2012, 11:44AM
    • Thanks to foodies you now need a dictionary to work out the thing you're ordering is steak and chips

      Commenter
      Ailie
      Date and time
      September 20, 2012, 11:02AM
      • It may be partly because of the foodies, but I think it's more so that restaurants can get away with charging and arm and a leg for nothing. This is an actual menu item on a breakfast cafe in Melbourne: Cory's granola, Sunny Ridge strawberries & Schulz organic milk.... $12
        So, that's $12 for some muesli and milk with berries. Bargain.

        Commenter
        tjho
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        September 20, 2012, 1:42PM
    • Oh wow, Diane Chang clearly doesn't know that this - "The problem, she adds, is that she doesn’t want to be lumped with the herd followers – culinary ‘tourists’ who fork out for cliché restaurants and leave their two-cents worth on review sites like Yelp. This new breed of young, discerning food-lovers tend to be exclusively drawn to dishes or restaurants that are ‘worthy’" is Hipster 101. Kind of like 'I'm only in to bands that other people haven't heard of'... Foodies and Hipsters are all the same, people trying to define themselves by the things they like, completely devoid of creativity.

      Commenter
      Kilkenny
      Date and time
      September 20, 2012, 11:20AM
      • Not to mention the fact that by defining yourself by what you like and only if it isn't "mainstream" or popular that means you are being defined by the mainstream. Whenever they like something you automatically have to not like it, of course, after you claim you liked it first but don't like it now because it is too mainstream.

        Commenter
        Bender
        Date and time
        September 20, 2012, 4:54PM
    • I bought some black rice last week and my bf remarked that I was in danger of turning into a foodie. I was dismayed. I bought it because it's nutritious (and I'm gluten intolerant), not because it's novel.

      I have a few foodies in my online social network and reading them rhapsodising about food and how full they are just makes me think foodie culture legitimises being a gluttonous pig.

      Commenter
      JEM
      Location
      Melb
      Date and time
      September 20, 2012, 11:23AM
      • Ah - black rice. Not 'wild rice', as I originally read it.
        Good - since if you're gluten intolerant, wild rice is actually a form of wheat.

        Hey, food is food - isn't a restaurant about producing food that looks and tastes good? The original French word meant it was an establishment for 'restoring' people's energy levels after a long day's travel.

        If something is a fad, it may pass. Anything truly good should endure. I suppose edgy food is about seeing what new things have the quality to endure. I just hope that we don't become so engrossed with finding new dishes and methods that we lose sight of the good things we have discovered earlier - such as good, fresh ingredients, well respected.

        Commenter
        termite
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        September 20, 2012, 7:20PM
    • This was something that I never really thought much about until my partner recently said, "it's strange that chefs are celebrities now. Everyone knows who George Calombaris is -- a guy who worked in the back of a kitchen." It's something we all seem to accept as normal, but it is a little unusual. Still, I LOVE food, so if that makes me a foodie, I can live with that.

      Commenter
      tjho
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      September 20, 2012, 11:56AM

      More comments

      Comments are now closed