Nanny State

NY Chefs Valiantly Defend Full-Sugar Coke


New York magazine got a bunch of fancy restaurateurs talking about (and mostly ripping on) the "obesity tax" on non-diet soda about to come crashing down on their heads: Half fiscal health measure, half physical health measure, the 18 percent tax is supposed to slim the population and fatten the state budget.

Gabrielle Hamilton, the chef and owner of the ultra-hot restaurant Prune had the best reply:

I question the idea of legislating or taxing the "symptom" and not addressing the root problem. A well-timed ice-cold Coca-Cola is one of life's greatest taste and sensory experiences: the way it makes your eyes sting and tear up, and the back of your throat gets that chalky moment as good or better even than some of the highest tannins in a big red wine, and then the full sugar and caffeine rush that completely cures what ails you. I'm not saying every day and I'm not saying three a day. I mean one perfectly placed Coke in your week.

Hamilton proposed taxing restaurants that serve small plates and have waiters who call customers "dude." Jim Lahey, owner of the Sullivan St Bakery, Co.: "I would impose a tax on any diner who asks that their meal be deconstructed (pasta or pizza with sauce on the side, salad without dressing)." David Lynch of  the John Dory: "I'd tax apple-tinis, espresso-tinis, and all other non-martini martinis. And any cappuccinos ordered for anything but breakfast." Drew Nieporent of Corton and Nobu: "Tax people who make reservations in restaurants and don't show up or call to cancel."

They're all kidding, of course, but jokes like these make me even more nervous about sin taxes. Some of the chefs come off a bit snobby—so what if I want a cappuccino after lunch?—and you get the feeling that if they woke up one morning  with the power to tax (as Paterson essentially did) they might actually give some of these proposals a second look. A few of these ideas wouldn't be much more absurd than an 18 percent tax on full-sugar soda.

UPDATE: Anthony Bourdain wasn't included in the forum, but everyone knows he likes coke.