Jesse Camac, Shawn Burnette, Jessica Gonzalez, & Heritage Food + Drink

Jesse Camac and his history in the restaurant industry is outlined here. His father was in the restaurant business, opening up “Fatty Crab,” with “outposts” in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Virgin Islands and Hong Kong.

He had a successful start in restaurants, already in his early 20s, likely building off of the insights of his father, but was tired of the chain restaurant idea of Fatty Crab.

“Maybe I got a little soured by Fatty Crab,” he says, “but I’m not a big believer in rolling out identical restaurants anymore … I’ll be honest, it got to the point where we were on Fatty Crab number 7 and it became stale. I lost my passion.”

The article explains: “Now, Camac is in Wappinger’s Falls overseeing the construction of Heritage Food and Drink his new farm-to-table restaurant cheffed by Shawn Burnette, formerly of HuskDel Posto and The Breslin.”

Another addition to the team is Jessica Gonzalez, a founding member of the “fabled” Death and Co, and formerly head bartender at Manhattan’s Bar at NoMad. The article explains: “She’d had a child and no longer wanted to bartend until 4am. Says Camac, “She wants the country life, fresh air. Space. But she also wants to do her craft.”

The article describes this “talent migration” as a “divine providence” for Jesse. Speaking on the subject, Camac reflections are noted: “We’ve got this incredible team of people who all came up here for different reasons.”

A great ending to the article is Camac’s reflections on the values of his generation of food makers:

“…Wappinger’s Falls? “New York City isn’t the be-all and end-all of food anymore,” Camac says. “To make a name? Maybe. But I wouldn’t tell anyone to open a restaurant in New York City anymore.” Camac cites all his New York City restaurant friends who have fled for more sustainable lifestyles. “Everyone is having more fun, they’re smiling and they’re breathing fresh air.”

Opening a farm to table restaurant puts Camac in a very different relationship to his food than before. Fatty Crab is an upscale Malaysian chain. A farm to table restaurant is a little different. What lessons that Camac has learned in NYC carry over to his new career, and what is different about his relationship to food sourcing now?

I would be curious if Camac is getting involved in the ethics of his food, to the degree that our class is reaching out towards. I believe chefs like this can have a very positive and powerful impact on their food systems, choosing who to support, much in the same way institutional purchasing may have an effect… and even individual purchasing. I think it all comes down to trends, which become embedded in our culture for complex reasons. Chefs are changemakers in food systems, as are activists, and others.

Do you think that a chef can impact his foodshed in a positive way? Do you think that the food system can be affected by patronizing restaurants with ethical food choices? Do you think that chefs should have farming knowledge to better judge their produce? Do you think that chefs have a responsibility to address the ethics of labor in food?

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