Chef John Besh: Steamed in the Gulf

Like everyone, I've been reading news of the BP explosion with a growing sense of alarm—and have been wondering what this would do to the shrimp and oysters that are an indispensable part of any eating experience in New Orleans.

I called John Besh, who knows as much about Gulf fishing, New Orleans cooking, and disaster cleanup as anyone, and certainly any professional chef in New Orleans. He also wrote a beautiful book last year with Dorothy Kalins, with great pictures that include him fishing.

He was mad and not shy about saying so. Watching reports calling the spill a "natural disaster" was particularly galling, and seeing the government take too much time to decide how and when to take action, and try to point fingers before swiftly mobilizing, riled him more.

As for interruptions to his own supply of local fish—which is all he serves at his six restaurants—he was less disturbed, at least for now. Right now. (And the crawfish industry won't be affected at all, which I hadn't realized and was glad to hear.) What happens next week and next month is another story. Read what he has to say here—and hope that federal emergency-management officials do too.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.

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