Letters From the Issue of Thursday, May 25, 2006
You Got Served
Actually, the Wrigley wasn't amused: Wow! That was some funny stuff you published about Chef Kaz Yamamoto ("Xtreme Cuisine," Stephen Lemons, May 11). You had me going for a while, but lines like, "Mr. Brad Pitt, he lick plate clean," about Mayor Phil Gordon and Marlon Brando moaning and spitting out gristles of human flesh, about PETA members being "how you say, retards," were simply side-splittingly funny.
I love the Wrigley Mansion, and I plan to book a large party there because that place has such a great sense of humor. In fact, I've got new respect for Gordon, Senator Jon Kyl, anchorwoman Lin Sue Cooney, ASU president Michael Crow and Phoenix Suns CEO Jerry Colangelo for being able to laugh at themselves. At least I think they're laughing.
In addition to being a righteous punk that would make Ashton Kutcher proud, this satire made such great points: Not only did it lampoon the "extreme cuisine" movement that's featured in many major publications these days, but it also landed a body blow to extremist animal-rights morons, who care far more about their Bichon Frise puppies than they do about human babies.
Let me go out on a limb here and predict that you got hundreds, if not thousands, of protests from outraged dimwits in the animal-rights movement about the dog featured in the top of the satire and next to nothing about any of the other endangered species. I'm sure Gordon and Kyl will gain many supporters locally for their penchant for juicy leg of Mexican.
Samuel Arroyo, Phoenix
Ton of publicity for Wrigley: I just picked up New Times after seeing people from the Wrigley Mansion on TV protesting how you said they, ha, cook dog. Then, when I read the story, I see you didn't say they cooked dog, but that your funny-as-hell chef cooked it and served it there. I've rented space in the mansion, and I can tell you that pretty much anything can go on there. Anything! There seem to be only a few people working in the place at night, and you pretty much have the run of the place, so I doubt they'd know what was being brought in.
Look, I know this was parody, that this event didn't really happen. If you read very far into the article, you'd have to be an idiot not to know that it's a piece of comedy. I loved it. I was laughing so hard that I thought I was going to get caught surfing the 'net at work.
As for the Wrigley, it got a ton of publicity from your satire, so what are its managers complaining about? That place is barely on the map; it should be grateful that you honored it by making it the opening scene of "Xtreme Cuisine." It will get business from hip people because of this.
When I saw the picture on the cover (I didn't notice the baby seal head at first) and then read that an event was taking place at the Wrigley, I thought, "Great, that place is so cool. Maybe they have gotten a better chef at their restaurant." But once I read that Chef Kaz was serving Bichon Frise, the jig was up. I realized New Times was playing an elaborate practical joke on us. Bravo!
Todd Glassman, Tucson
Detest of time: I detest you. I detest your Chef Kaz. I am a really hip, cool nurse who was tear-gassed at the Pentagon in '70, was the "old lady" of the most exciting rock 'n' roll drummer ever (according to Bill Graham). Jim Morrison bought me my first drink. I got cred!
I totally detest your offhanded "aren't we so hip and cool that we can gross people out by eating affable, dear creatures others love like family." I try to ease people's suffering. My rock drummer died of an overdose. All I have for balm to my wounded heart and spirit is my sweet 16-year-old Bichon.
I totally hate you and that chef and that woman in the slinky dress and all you distorted lame excuses for "higher beings." You have no compassion. Someday I hope you understand. I hope it's soon.
Bonnie Margolis, via the Internet
Shocked, not awed: I am shocked that you would write an article like this. You make the entire thing sound romantic. You are talking about dog meat, for God's sake!
We are not some savages who have nothing else to eat except the domesticated dog. I will be sending this to all my family and friends and urging them to drop their subscriptions to New Times because of this. I am sickened and disgusted at how this chef thinks he's above our laws, and that you would find dog meat to be such a "divine delicacy."
Brandy Reid, via the Internet
A bunch of misfit freaks: I haven't laughed so hard in years over something I've read. I saw a piece on TV about the Wrigley Mansion getting threatened because of this "Xtreme Cuisine" parody. Dude, you'd have to be a moron to believe this brilliant piece of comedy. (There were tells from the very beginning.)
But that's just what these animal-rights nuts are. Morons! Have you ever watched the animal channel and seen the misfits who are French-kissing their mutts all the time? These are people a whore wouldn't fuck for money. A fucking bunch of misfit freaks.
Wasn't it funny how the Wrigley claimed its chef had been threatened because of the New Times spoof, and then the Wrigley plasters his face all over TV? Not smart.
Lamont Williams, via the Internet
An extreme abomination: Your story on extreme cuisine is sickening. In America we do not eat dogs! For some "chef" to purposely be this obnoxious and for you to support it is an abomination.
While I realize other cultures eat animals we in America don't eat, I do not want people of these cultures trying to inflict their poor manners and taste on me in my country. I think this "chef" is more closely related to Jack the Ripper or some other sadist.
Patricia Bewley, Phoenix
A piece of journalistic joy: Your extreme cuisine piece provided me with more joy than I've received, journalistically, in quite a long time. We need more of this, and to hell with the detractors.
Not that this means shit, but I recently finished my MFA in Creative Writing at Arizona State University (so I guess I've been exposed to some talented writers), and was excited to see that a real writer can explore a journalistic avenue.
I taught undergraduate classes in argumentative composition and felt that your piece is an exemplary humorous argument. Given that the mainstream media provide us with harmful fictions on a daily basis, I'm baffled (and sickened) that many of your detractors are calling your journalistic ethics into question. What's more harmful, spinning a story to inspire fear via concealment, or spinning a story to creatively entertain?
Even further, your story is not entirely fiction. It is an inspired and veiled indictment of a wealthy, bored culture with a short attention span, forever "hungry" for the latest trend.
There's more truth in your piece than most. And if people don't get it, that's their problem. Their indictments against you are glaringly misplaced. You are doing something important -- making us laugh and think while providing us access to a rare intelligence. Writer Stephen Lemons is becoming the Andy Kaufman of the journalistic arena.
Oddly enough, I constructed an interview with a certain haiku poet a few years back and received similar indictments from the ill-defined ethics police (though the editors of Esquire liked it).
Matthew Frank, Tempe
Lenny Bruce, her friend ain't: I'm writing to express my horror regarding an article recently printed by New Times. It's supposed to be a satire that details a fictional gourmet restaurant wherein Bichon Frise is served, as well as other exotic animals, such as penguin.
It is my personal view that any editor, writer or publisher that finds humor in describing cruelty to animals not only has bad taste, but is suffering from a serious personality disorder, and needs counseling.
It was suggested by the editor of your paper that I simply don't have a sense of humor. In fact, I am grateful that I have evolved beyond the level of finding humor in butchering dogs.
Also regarding the inability of some folks to find humor in said article, I ran the New Times article by my roommate, who just happens to be a professional standup comic. He not only did not find the article remotely funny, but also remarked that he can't think of a comic who could use such lame material in his act who would not get booed off the stage.
Personally, I am saddened to live in a society where anyone finds killing and eating exotic animals titillating.
Judith Bell, Sherman Oaks, California
A month late, and a few dollars short: All the way through Stephen Lemons' story about Chef Kaz Yamamoto's taboo culinary adventures, I laughed heartily while a question continued to nag at me with each succeeding paragraph -- "Is this some sort of month-late April Fool's joke?"
My initial incredulity quickly changed to admiration for Yamamoto's chutzpah and evident adventurism, despite my reservations about his whimsical attitude toward the plight of endangered species and his superior attitude toward the law -- I only wished there was some way he could be busted for that San Francisco sea-lion-hunting expedition, let alone cooking humans.
What I can't comprehend is the immorality of Stephen Lemons' investigatory technique and willingness to indulge and promote the disgusting and illegal activity of cannibalism. It's one thing for a journalist to report that Marlon Brando, the mayor of Phoenix, and one of Arizona's U.S. senators eat Mexicans, but Lemons tells us, based on personal experience, that "Mexican liver is exquisite, tastier than its bovine counterpart."
Surely, besides being a crude and callous racist remark, a reporter's eating another human being under such casual circumstances ("how could I resist?") crosses the line of journalistic ethics. Is the reporter investigating bank robbers allowed to pocket a few Benjamins? The real story here is: Whose human liver was Lemons eating?
Paul Rogers, Phoenix
A piece of work: "Xtreme Cuisine" was one of the funniest articles I've ever read. Thank you! I'm sending it to my friends across the country. Did you have many readers who believed the piece to be a work of serious nonfiction?
Terry Rainey, via the Internet
Sidd pro quo: This article was hilarious! I must admit you had me hooked until I read the parts about the local celebrities who have partaken in illegal feasts. Once I saw you print their names, I realized it had to be a parody. Great job!
It's very evocative of the classic Sports Illustrated piece written by George Plimpton on Sidd Finch. Penned in '85 as an April Fool's prank, it generated a buzz. Plimpton did give a very obscure hint. The subheading of the article read: "He's a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent lifestyle, Sidd's deciding about yoga -- and his future in baseball."
The first letter of each of these words, taken together, spells: "HAPPY APRIL FOOL'S DAY."
Micheal Boulden, Phoenix
The Bichon is back: I have received copies of your "report" regarding the chef who serves Bichon Frise for dinner. I can only assume this is a hoax meant to enrage animal-rights zealots. Don't worry, I don't believe a word of it. But, it did make me laugh.
Susan Bauer, vice president, Maryland Pug Rescue
Puppy love: I am saddened by the fact that Stephen Lemons willingly ate a puppy. He, presumably, knows what puppies are like: full of life and joy. And yet, to satisfy a momentary pleasure, he contributed to an industry that kills these young animals for the sake of wealthy miscreants and the monstrous chef who serves them.
He chose self-satisfaction over opposing cruelty to animals. By his logic, he ought to approve of sadists who torture animals simply because it amuses them.
Michael Gurwitz, Silver Springs, Maryland
Culinary pussies: I want to praise Stephen Lemons for writing such an intriguing and well-thought-out piece on his friend Chef Kaz. People are so uptight these days! This is a man with obvious and admirable talents, and I know that New Times will be showered with spiteful letters about him. Shame on these culinary pussies!
As for Lemons: Two thumbs up for great writing and great taste. Bone apptit!
David Dowdy, Phoenix
Failure to communicate: My English is not that good, so please do not blame me. I just wanted to express my gratification about "Xtreme Cuisine." It is good to know that our Japanese adventure in eating is coming to America.
In Japan, we enjoy already many exotic animals at dinner. When I went to Los Angeles last year, I could not find restaurants that served much of what we are used to in gourmet places in my nation.
I find no record of Kazuki Yamamoto in my country, so I wonder did he change his name on coming to America? If you would, please, please send my letter of congratulation on to him, because he is a good representative of the artistic food preparing that we do so well here. We are a nation of eccentric diners. We do not just eat standard sushi and noodles, as Americans believe.
And please, please let me know his whereabouts, for I have a trip to the United States planned for this autumn. I would appreciate meeting him and sharing in some of his exotic species.
Nara Yoshida, Kobe, Japan
The innocent and the insane: I just wanted to know, was even a very small portion of your article tongue-in-cheek, or written just for the express purpose of sensationalism? I am a vegetarian, so of course I found the whole exposé disgusting.
The reference to eating Mexican babies was downright lampoonish. But if this is true, my sympathy goes out to the insane, as well as the innocent. At least the animals murdered and consumed for your writer's pleasure are no longer suffering. Though be warned: Chef Kaz, your writer and the other social mutants engaging in such behavior will suffer feelings of insignificance for their entire lives.
If this isn't true, your writer's journalistic talents have been drastically compromised by making jokes about and making light of mutual sentient beings. I'm sorry you gave so much attention to this real or imagined chef's horrific sick nature.
Nancy Sechrest, Tempe
He liked the story a little too much: A terrifically written article. I am shaking with inspiration and excitement.
I want to attend one of these parties, or, better yet, help shoot a documentary of the preparation of said party. Can you imagine it? It would open with a shot of the chef chain-sawing a cactus, then cut to him taking down a lion with a high-powered rifle on an African savanna and butchering it on the spot. Then, we are in San Fran, shooting a seal or two under the cover of night. Bloody brilliant!
Or can you imagine a film titled The Underground Iron Chef? Today's secret ingredient: Mexican liver, lion, seal, gorilla!
I want to meet this man. I want this man to teach me how to cook some of these crazy dishes. I swear to God that I'm going to try to contact this man until I succeed.
Benjamin Lewis, Dallas, Texas
His new hero: I am a private chef who just moved from New York. Although I found a secure and interesting position as chef in Paradise Valley, I was in search of a culinary scene in Phoenix until I read about Kaz Yamamoto. Very, very interesting!
I empathize with his frustration, as I, too, have worked for some very famous (and infamous) people in the NYC scene and have never had my name out there. Now, at least, I don't feel so bad about living in Anthem!
Name withheld by request
She didn't read to the end: Great article! But I found myself wondering if this was another New Times hoax, like the one about human taxidermy published a couple Halloweens ago ("Forever Yours," Esteban Sauer, October 28, 2004). My husband and I sometimes wish there was more to our diet than beef, chicken and pork. However, there truly is a creepiness about this "Xtreme" menu, especially when the main dish is an endangered or illegal creature.
What next? Braised tenderloin of milk-fed yearling Homo sapiens? Get out the black napkins for that one!
Corrie Collins, Tempe
How about a Pulazzie?: Around paragraph four, I checked the calendar to see if it was April Fool's Day. I feel like running against Phil Gordon next time . . . can you imagine the campaign posters we could conjure up? Kaz better watch out for that dick Joe Arpaio. He'll be all over this one.
I'm not sure if you guys deserve a Pulitzer or a Razzie, but it was one hell of an article. That Kaz is a character and a half. Good job!
David Smith, Carefree
Barrio cuisine: This type of cuisine is nothing new. People living in poverty all over the world do it all the time. I live in a barrio, and folks in my area eat like this often.
They just don't pay thousands of dollars or cover their heads with black napkins. Now that would be stupid!
I would like to invite Mr. Yamamoto to my neighborhood as dinner, but he comes across in his photos like he'd be a little stringy!
Rosie Coyote, Sunnyslope
Don't believe everything you read: You're probably getting a whole lot of hate mail about the "Xtreme Cuisine" article. But I think it was great! The people who're getting so mad about it that they're about to have heart attacks are just numb-nuts who believe everything that's printed in a paper is the gospel truth.
When a co-worker sent this piece over to me, I thought . . . pictures of a guy carving up a penguin head? Who really in good conscience could eat a spotted owl? And who would expose this to the media and not expect to be hunted, carved up and served for dinner themselves?
You just exposed a lot of people's blind belief in journalism. You may have been spoofing extreme animal-rights activists, but you also outed the large numbers of sheep in our midst. It's been a long time since I've seen people this shocked about something. I think it's funny!
Nicole Rund, Phoenix
He gets it: Brilliant work! My mouth was watering from the first sentence.
I was surprised that your chef did not go a bit further. One of the high points of my own culinary career came a few years back when, in New Zealand for a jazz didgeridoo convention, I ended up in the Murdoch compound, supping on econguin (that's emu stuffed with condor stuffed with one of those little South African penguins). Deelishus, I tell you!
Edward Ericson, Baltimore, Maryland
All that glitters is not gold: Having written more than a few hoaxes in my time for New Times, I really relished "Xtreme Cuisine."
Congrats to author Stephen Lemons, and please notify his next of kin I really enjoyed the meal Chef Yamamoto just prepared for me -- Lemons Meringue Thigh. Seriously, I thought the article was in excellent taste.
Barry Friedman, Phoenix
We had him at "hufu": You had me. You had me fooled for at least half of the article. That is, until it got completely ridiculous. Hufu, the human flesh alternative? This piece was kind of like the human taxidermy one or arming the homeless ("Give Piece a Chance," Inda House, April 1, 1999), eh? What gives, though? April Fool's was last month.
Shane Watson, Phoenix
The idiot factor: I am writing to you people about your lack of ethics in your parody article. Your newspaper has the legal right to publish such funny spoof articles. But how are you going to feel when some idiot who doesn't have better than a fourth-grade education burns down the Wrigley Mansion because, in their warped perception of reality, they think they're saving animals?
What you don't realize is that the attention span of your average American is about as long as his dick. Did you think that some idiot who makes bombs in the bathroom of his mom's trailer is going to read all the way to the end and realize that it's phony? Of course not! These fanatics we have out here can't tell the difference between a PBS documentary on PETA and an episode of South Park where Stan visits PETA.
Please, in the future, use the name of a phony hotel.
Jim Zofkie, Queen Creek
Too close to reality: The problem with your satire on Chef Kaz Yamamoto isn't that it's not funny; it's that it's too close to reality. There's probably some crazy persons out there right now thinking that they're going to do exactly what Chef Kaz has done and cook up everything from exotic species to human beings.
The story, which was brilliantly written, isn't that far away from Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. My point is, this is an idea that's already out there in fiction. Now that your article has come out, I fully expect to be reading that such a place as Le Menu exists somewhere in the world.
As you pointed out, the movie The Freshman already goes into the subject matter, though quite forgettably. Maybe you should have thought of all this before acting so irresponsibly, joke or no joke.
Harold Cuttain, Auckland, New Zealand
We can't take a joke: Why can't people in the United States take a joke?! It's so amazing to me how people are responding to "Xtreme Cuisine!"
The outrage that this story has generated is testament to how seriously people take themselves these days. They earnestly believe everything they read, if it's a compelling yarn. And "Xtreme Cuisine" was surely that!
I am an American living in France, and I saw this all over French TV. I understand from reading about the reaction over the Internet that animal-rights activists worldwide believed this malarkey, but here in France, where satire is more accepted, the broadcasters certainly got the joke.
What I've learned while living in France is that people outside America aren't so serious-minded about small things. They look for humor in everything, and when they find it, they're pleased. In France, people can own and love dogs but not find the eating of them so ghastly.
John Gibson, Marseille, France
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