No Radiation Detectors at 10 Arts…Yet

People get a little weird when you call them on the phone and start asking about radiation.

But seriously, 10 Arts was kinda asking for it. I mean, when your head guy goes on CNN and starts bragging about his new dosimeter, what are people going to think? They’re going to think that if a chef is willing to shell out the pesos for a radiation detector then there’s probably a reason for it.  And when your head guy is Eric Ripert, co-owner of Le Bernardin and one of the most famous celebrity chefs in all the land? That just makes it even more of a story. Ripert said straight out that he didn’t think that there was going to be any radiation from the Japanese earthquake/tsunami/reactor shitstorm present in his fish or produce at Le Bernardin, but he just wanted to be double-super-sure that his New York customers would be safe.

Quoth Ripert:

“I wanted to make sure because some of our clients were asking, actually, if the seafood source was reliable, if what we serve is fine and so on.  Our staff was concerned.  I was concerned myself.  I trust obviously the government and the agencies for testing it.  However, I thought by having a machine at the restaurant, it will really make us feel much more comfortable to talk to our clients, for ourselves, and I was very confident that we would find absolutely nothing in terms of radiations, and the result is that we find absolutely nothing.”

So that’s great. No radiation at Le Bernardin. New York is safe.

Which was when I thought, “Hey, what about 10 Arts?”

The first guy I got on the blower didn’t want me to use his name, but when I asked him about whether or not Ripert’s radiation-suited fish-sniffers had stopped by the Philadelphia location to check out the product he said, “No… I mean, I don’t want to comment, but… No.” He also said that, as far as he knew, no customer there had even asked about the rad levels of their farmed Kindai tuna–or anything else. And when I pressed him (asking, “Really? No one?” as though demanding to know the radiation levels in a tuna was not the most ridiculous thing in the world), he immediately kicked me up to marketing director Iman Butler.

Butler managed to say absolutely nothing the first time I had him on the phone (a survival skill of marketing professionals, especially when ambushed by weirdos asking about atomic tuna), insisting that he would have to check with the floor staff and chef Jennifer Carroll to see what, exactly, the state of the fish radiation might be. And when I got him a second time, he said several things.

First, the answer is no. They’ve got no dosimeter on the line at 10 Arts. “We do not have our own device,” Butler said. “As Eric mentioned in the article, they’re on back order.”

BUT, for those of you planning on attending the April 26 Ripert/Carroll dream dinner at 10 Arts, guess what? The chef will be bringing his detector with him and doing “spot checks” of all the supplies, according to Butler.

He also mentioned that, unlike the crew at Le Bernardin, the staff at 10 Arts has not had a single question from the customers as to the safety of anything on the menu. Being a professional, Butler insisted that this was because Le Bernardin is primarily a seafood restaurant while 10 Arts is not. Being a jerk, I asked if maybe it was because the Philly crowds are just a little tougher than the folks in New York and willing to take the hit from a radioactive tuna if need be. Butler laughed and reminded me that Ripert had found nothing with his dosimeter, and that the FDA has said that all the food making it into America’s restaurants is safe from Japanese radiation. I laughed too, and silently decided that New Yorkers are just a big bunch of wussies.

Which is all just fine because, really, the whole radiation detector thing? I think it was an extreme reaction in the first place. I think it’s crazy that the staff at Le Bernardin was getting pestered that much by panicky New York foodies worried about catching radiation like it was some kind of a cold. And while I understand Ripert’s abundance of caution (apparently it does not take much to spook Manhattan’s high-end fish freaks), I don’t need someone in a yellow HazMat suit running a Geiger counter over every piece of sashimi I eat. Some risks I’m willing to take.

And honestly, I was only hoping that Ripert had picked up a dosimeter for 10 Arts so that I’d know where to borrow one if I needed it. See, I’ve got this shipment of porno and Hello Kitty paraphernalia bibles and fine art coming in from Japan next week, and while I may be cool with taking a gamble on my tekka maki, there are some things I’d rather not leave to chance.