HARTFORD - The Connecticut Forum closed out their 2008-2009 season Thursday night at The Bushnell with the highly anticipated, and very sold out, "Food For Thought" program.

The discussion, billed as a talk about everything 'from what we're eating to what's eating us,' brought in people from as far away as Alberta, Canada.

Hartford Courant columnist and regular Forum host Colin McEnroe moderated the discussion, featuring celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain (of The Travel Channel's No Reservations), Duff Goldman (of The Food Network's Ace of Cakes), and Alice Waters (award winning restaurateur and organic food advocate).

The program moved quickly, with cordial jibes between the three and a look into the often dark and unexpected world of a professional kitchen. The guests lacked kind words for airline food, fast food chains, and 'kitchen disaster' shows. However they bonded over their shared experience and the status bestowed upon them by legions of loyal fans.


As the very condition that brought them to Hartford in the first place, the topic of the celebrity chef phenomenon came up quickly. Duff Goldman recalled being ogled over more than actor Leonardo DiCaprio while at a popular sushi restaurant. Anthony Bourdain spoke of chefs he considers both good ( Mario Batali of Molto Mario) and bad.

"Go home and google 'Sandra Lee Kwanzaa cake' and count how long it takes for your head to explode."

McEnroe called Bourdain out on what he once said was his "naked contempt" for celebrity chefs. "Yeah, irony sucks," remarked Bourdain.

Alice Waters, the only guest who is neither on television nor a culinary school graduate, said she doesn't watch television. She proceeded to envision a celebrity show to her liking: one that educated viewers about food simply and effectively. "Like Mr. Rogers," said Waters.

Surprisingly, there was no mention of an infamous DCist article in which Bourdain remarked Waters "annoys the living (expletive) out of me," and that her concepts of organic food were "very Khmer Rouge." Bourdain later apologized for those comments, calling Ms. Waters 'a visionary.'

Despite lacking a direct reference to these quotes, the subject of organic food evolved into one of the few real points of contention between the panelists. While everyone agreed on the benefits of locally grown, organic food, the matters of price and social priority brought disagreement.

Mr. Bourdain, whose travels frequently bring him to impoverished countries, commented that especially in tough economic times most people simply cant afford to go all organic. "People aren't lining up at Popeye's for a 99 cent chicken leg because it's locally grown or organic or tastes great," said Bourdain, "They're lining up because it's a 99 cent chicken leg!"

Waters, who's "Edible Education" program has found success combining gardens and cooking with everyday school curriculum, advocates providing 2 organic meals and a snack to children daily. Bourdain's retort: make sure children know how to write before spending billions to have them eat right.

One audience member asked what each guest would like to have as their last meal, a rather popular question in the culinary world. Duff Goldman said wants a falafel from a local street vendor. Anthony Bourdain requested a dish of roasted bone marrow from St. John restaurant in London, spread on French bread with crushed sea salt. Alice Waters said she would like to have shark fin soup as a final meal.

"That doesn't sound very local!" quipped Bourdain with a lighthearted smirk.