For decades, New York City has been considered the de facto culinary capital of the country. And not without good reason; the Big Apple always had the stats to back up the reputation. Used as a standard by which all other cities are measured, aspiring chefs were compelled to head there for the chance to gain skills and experience seen as needed for their big break. The belief was that if you can make it there, well, you'd stay there.
Except this paradigm is showing serious cracks as of late. According to NPR, NYC is experiencing a major talent drain as more and more culinary professionals are leaving the city for greener pastures, making it difficult for chefs and restaurateurs to find qualified cooks.
So what's behind the shift? The story focuses on two particular reasons. The first is a growing adherence to locavorism, such that cities like Austin and Madison that have easy access to fresh local produce have become that much more appealing to enterprising chefs. (We heard former Eleven Madison Park senior sous chef David Nayfeld say as much in sharing his reasons for moving to L.A.)
Then, there's the astronomical cost of living in NYC, which for culinary professionals is difficult to manage given the industry's notoriously low wages. It's often easier to simply survive in other cities, where everything — from restaurant leases to apartment rentals — is a whole lot less expensive.
If you ask us, this trend isn't the worst thing that can happen. A spread of culinary talent across the country can only make contemporary American cuisine better.
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