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How cooking saved Curtis Duffy
February 24, 2013 10:09 AM   Subscribe

Kevin Pang's profile of Chicago chef Curtis Duffy recounts how Duffy emerged from a turbulent family life to become a Michelin-starred chef.

At the end of the piece, Duffy thanks a middle-school teacher who got him interested in cooking.

As the last dessert plate was cleared, Curtis sat at her table. He was no longer the reticent boy.

“You’ve given me something more than any amount of money can give … unconditional love and values of life,” he told her. “I could never repay you. But the ability to be able to give back to you what I do … cook for you … means more than anything.”
posted by BibiRose (11 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
unconditional love and values of life

Says the man who built this fantastic career by never being home with his kids or ex-wife, who wouldn't respond to the reporter's attempts to contact her.

It felt like the reporter allllmost had the spine to come out and say it, but I'm guessing Pang's editor required that he adhere to our cultural adoration for anybody with a penis and any amount of fame, regardless of whether he's, you know, an admirable person.

I read this article like a week ago and have had it stuck in my craw ever since. In a world where mothers are crucified for not buying the best stroller, it's still totally fine for men to spawn and move on like immortal salmon as long as they get on TV every now and then.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:55 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It felt like the reporter allllmost had the spine to come out and say it, but I'm guessing Pang's editor required that he adhere to our cultural adoration for anybody with a penis and any amount of fame, regardless of whether he's, you know, an admirable person.

Look, the article is absolutely over-the-top with the fawning adoration but I think this is a bit unfair.
posted by schroedinger at 11:13 AM on February 24, 2013


Says the man who built this fantastic career by never being home with his kids or ex-wife, who wouldn't respond to the reporter's attempts to contact her...I read this article like a week ago and have had it stuck in my craw ever since. In a world where mothers are crucified for not buying the best stroller, it's still totally fine for men to spawn and move on like immortal salmon as long as they get on TV every now and then.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:55 PM on February 24


Wow. That's what you took from this story? I guess some folks can never look at things without bringing their own baggage to the table.

I enjoyed it myself. I love food, and I love learning about the people who love it even more than I do. Yeah, it was fawning, but so what? Sometimes it's nice to read about someone overcoming such an awful event.
posted by magstheaxe at 12:12 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I loved how his home ec teacher is still his mentor after all these years. Also, it's amazing to me that he was able to get up and live his life after the horrific murder of his mom by his dad. I wouldn't have that resilience.
posted by dragonplayer at 12:13 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh my god this article is amazingly badly written.
posted by kenko at 12:35 PM on February 24, 2013


I agree that the article is unbelievably fawning and I also think that the guy seems like kind of a jerk. It's not only the thing with his ex-wife, it's that his younger sister got pregnant at fifteen and he just cut her off completely. In the article it's presented as if her pregnancy was just another problem for him weighing him down and says nothing about what happened to Trish; I don't even know if he's an uncle. Of course having your fifteen-year-old sister get pregnant is rough on you but it's probably even harder on her and the fact that he's good at cooking doesn't mean other people should just become background to his story. That said, it does appear to be true that he overcame some really challenging odds and a harsh background through talent and being very, very driven.

I think one of the things it's easy to miss, though, partially because of articles like this idolizing people who work really hard at the expense of their personal lives, is that often people who are driven to achieve a goal are jerks. We're told that being driven is a good thing and that you should fight to realize your dreams and to a certain extent that's true, but it's always a sacrifice. This guy wanted to be the best, not just in Chicago, but in the world, and if you want to pursue that dream you can but you can't do that and be a good member of a family, it's just not really possible. It's also not necessarily good for you; the article talks about a typical three hours of sleep a night which is really awful and not healthy. I'm impressed with what he's accomplished, really impressed, but part of the problem with fawning pieces like this is that it keeps perpetuating this myth that being the best and following your dreams no matter what are the right choices and sometimes they just aren't, at least for a given individual. It's impressive that he kept striving but if he'd stayed in the small town with the $80,000/year restaurant job or started his own restaurant there maybe his wife and kids would have come to the opening.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:53 PM on February 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


I agree with everything you said, Mrs. Pterodactyl. At the same time, an 11-year-long marriage has got to be some kind of record in the restaurant industry.
posted by schroedinger at 1:03 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


At the same time, an 11-year-long marriage has got to be some kind of record in the restaurant industry.

Heh, yeah, that's probably true. It's definitely a very high-pressure industry and the hours can be really isolating. Admittedly my direct personal experience comes from working at the Chili's in Laurel, Maryland (now gone) but I have friends whose expertise in these matters I am willing to steal. Also I watch a lot of Food Network.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 1:13 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


He had an incredibly tough begining. We don't know all the story really, but he could have turned out many times worse.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 1:55 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I thought this was an interesting article and I didn't find it overly fawning. He had a shit start in life and found a way to get through it by learning a craft.

People often make incompatible choices, work/life balance is hard for everyone but especially those who are outstanding in their field. I think his accomplishments are admirable and I realize they came at a cost.
posted by shoesietart at 6:23 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get the feeling dude is kind of screwed up when it comes to family issues after all he's been through. Not so much that he's a jerk so much as that he doesn't exactly get how family is supposed to work, and he doesn't really expect them to stick by you.

Well, at least the relationship with his teacher has lasted. There is that.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:02 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


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