Governor Andrew Cuomo has a decision to make, whether to open New York State to the process of fracking, and chefs in New York are uniting in opposition. It's not often that chefs get political, but the issue of fracking has caused such luminaries as Mario Batali, Elizabeth Falkner, Chris Santos, Amanda Freitag, Michael Laiskonis and many more to write to Governor Cuomo, urging him not to allow fracking in New York State.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the process by which gas companies drill beneath the Earth's surface and inject chemicals and water under the ground in order to force gas up through wells. Of fracking, chef Elizabeth Falkner, a recent transplant from San Francisco to Brooklyn, told me, "The public should be scared to death of fracking. Contaminating our water sources is a threat to everyone and imposes unacceptable risks to our existence and our planet."
Will Blunt, managing editor of StarChefs.com, a sponsor of the July 26 fundraising event Taste of The Marcellus at Brooklyn Winery, said to me that the dangers to the water systems caused by fracking are too great. Blunt pointed to the fact that restaurants and tourism are a huge part of New York's economy, and that fracking poses serious risks not only to the land, air and water of New York, but to its economy.
Brooklyn Winery, venue for Taste of The Marcellus on July 26 (Photo Courtesy Brooklyn Winery)
Chefs are not just lifestyle figures, they're small business owners and job creators critical to a healthy New York State economy. As Governor Cuomo weighs his decision, we want to make it abundantly clear to him that the restaurant community and its leaders stand against legalizing this dangerous practice in New York State. Farms, distilleries, breweries, wineries and their products are lifeblood for restaurants -- and chefs recognize the potentially catastrophic effect that this dangerous practice could have on their businesses. -- Will Blunt
To help organize Taste of The Marcellus, Will Blunt went to Brian Levanthal, co-founder and CEO of Brooklyn Winery, which this season will get fully 50 percent of its grapes from the Finger Lakes region, a region threatened by fracking, and whose menu consists of nearly 100 percent local farmer produce. Levanthal told me that when Will came to him, "It wasn't a question of if we are going to support this, it was a question of how; we jumped on board right away."
Chef David Colston of Brooklyn Winery, Summer Salad (Photo Courtesy Brooklyn Winery)
Chefs for The Marcellus, another partner in the July 26 event, has formed a petition to present to Governor Cuomo, and it has been encouraging businesses and individuals to sign the petition and to contact Governor Cuomo by phone and letter to tell him of their concerns about fracking.
Hillary Baum, co-founder of Chefs for The Marcellus, along with chef Heather Carlucci and restaurateur Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy's No. 43, wanted to bring the food community into the conversation with the environmentalists. So the three got together and crafted a campaign directed at food industry professionals. "I wanted chefs and restaurateurs to know and understand how fracking could affect their businesses and their livelihoods, how it really hits home for them," said Baum.
Baum of Baum Forum, has long been involved in issues facing chefs and the food industry. She told me she learned about fracking from a small farmer. Baum told me, "There is no way to think about the future of local farmers, of the buy-local movement, which is a huge movement in restaurants, and with consumers at farmer's markets, without thinking about the dangers of fracking."
The event itself, held at the beautiful Brooklyn Winery, just around the corner from the Bedford Avenue stop on the L train, will be a grand tasting of local Marcellus region produce, wines from Brooklyn Winery, and beers from Brewery Ommegang. Participating chefs include Elizabeth Falkner of Krescendo in Brooklyn, Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, Heather Carlucci of PRINT, Mary Cleaver of The Green Table, David Colston of Brooklyn Winery, Peter Hoffman of Back Forty, Zak Pelaccio of Fatty Cue, Chris Santos of Stanton Social, Bill Telepan of Telepan, and Daniel Holzman of The Meatball Shop.
Brooklyn Winery, 213 N 8th Street, Brooklyn (Photo Courtesy Brooklyn Winery)
A grand walk-around tasting featuring ingredients from fracking-threatened farms will be paired with Brooklyn Winery wines, Ommegang beers, and cocktails from Richard Knapp of Mother's Ruin, using rum from Tuthilltown. Not only does the event promise an evening of delicious, local food and drink, it aims to raise awareness of the dangers of fracking, and to raise funds for both New Yorkers Against Fracking, a broad coalition of consumer advocacy, food, health, religious, and environmental organizations as well as individuals throughout New York state, and Chefs for The Marcellus.
Aging wines at Brooklyn Winery (Photo Courtesy Brooklyn Winery)
As a separate ticket, the proceeds for which also benefit New Yorkers Against Fracking and Chefs for The Marcellus, there's an Ommegang After-Party at Brooklyn Bowl, where guests are treated to live music and all the Ommegang beer they can drink.
To purchase tickets to either event, visit http://tasteofthemarcellus.eventbrite.com/.
Follow Regina Varolli on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ReginaVarolli