Posted on Friday, 05.25.12
Havana hookers rob US chef in art show
Not funny, says critic of trips to Cuba
By Juan O. Tamayo
Celebrity chef Tom Colicchio jokingly tweeted, "I was no where near Cuba."
So who was the New York chef, or assistant chef, who went to Cuba for a
bit of food diplomacy and wound up being robbed by the two hookers he
took back to his hotel room?
It seems like nobody is willing to tell, although reports on the
misadventure have been making the rounds of foodie blogs and websites
and drawing jokes, insider jabs between chefs and at least one serious
reproach of the trip to Havana.
Ten prominent New York chefs flew to Cuba earlier this month for the
11th annual Habana Bienal modern art show, to put on a piece of
performance art with 10 Cuban counterparts — cooking in a kitchen built
into a cargo container.
But New York chef Sara Jenkins on Wednesday cast a different light on
the visit when she tweeted, "So one of the American chefs in Cuba took
two whores home with him and then got robbed of all his money
The restaurant, bar and nightlife blog Easter National swiftly published
the tweet and began speculating on exactly which chef had been robbed,
because some on the list of 10 never made it to Cuba and were replaced
by others. Some also took assistants to Havana.
Among the names mentioned were the chefs of famed New York restaurants
like Hearth, Terroir, Sueños and Sunday Night Dinner and Alma de Cuba in
Philadelphia, Eater National reported.
Colicchio, a long-time judge on the reality TV show Top Chef, was not on
any of the lists and his tweet was clearly a "not me" joke.
After the brouhaha erupted, Jenkins, the chef at Porchetta in New York,
sent a tweet apologizing "to all the chefs and colleagues who helped put
together this amazing cultural exchange for indiscreetly calling out the
behavior of one member."
"What was meant to be some collegial ribbing in fact has instead
reflected poorly on all the chefs who donated their time and energy to
this project," she added. "And while I don't condone the individual's
behavior, I do regret airing it publicly on Twitter. Social media lesson
One reader's comment posted on the Easter National site said, "If it's
good enough for the Secret Service and the DEA…" referring to the recent
scandal involving the agencies and prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia.
The kitchen performance, named "Project Paladar" after Cuba's
family-owned restaurants, was part of a program designed to use food,
cooking and eating to improve relations between the people of Cuba and
the United States.
Elizabeth M. Grady, an adjunct professor of art history at the State
University of New York, managed the project for smARTpower, described on
its web site as a U.S. State Department-funded initiative to use visual
arts to bring people together.
But the program drew fire from Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of the
U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee, which favors strong U.S.
sanctions on the island's communist government.
The chefs flew to Cuba under a new category of U.S. Treasury Department
license approved by the Obama administration to promote so-called
"people-to-people" contacts between Cubans and Americans.
Too many U.S. visitors on those licenses are in fact engaging in pure
tourism, which is illegal, and sometimes hiring Cuba's famously cheap
hookers, Claver-Carone has complained.
"As if serving gourmet meals while regular Cubans struggle to serve
themselves any meal wasn't insulting enough, at least one of the chefs
took the 'people-to-people' definition too literally," he complained
Thursday in his blog, Capitol Hill Cubans.
"Boy, these "people-to-people" programs are really winning the hearts
and minds of the Cuban people," he joked. More seriously, he added,
"Could this new policy be any more insulting and counter-productive?