A celebrity chef went on a talk show and told viewers that he believed veganism to be a cult and that if it were up to him, he would "kill them all.”
Photo via Flickr user armaburrito
In a nation with such a deep and unfaltering tradition of eating—where even the gilded bastion of authority that is the Vatican has not one, but two cookbooks published about its food traditions in the last two years alone—pretty much anything that is perceived as being a threat to the status quo of the kitchen is met with a frenzied backlash.
For the past few years, it seems as if veganism has been that darkest of looming threats. We've seen parents lose custody of their child for refusing to feed the child meat, homeless Italians threatening to "return to the streets" after being served vegan food at a soup kitchen, and politicians proposing a bill that would jail parents who impose a vegan diet on their children.
All of this pent-up steam over veganism seems to have come to a frothy head last week when a celebrity chef went on a talk show and told viewers that he believed veganism to be a cult and that if it were up to him, he would "kill them all."
Gianfranco Vissani, a celebrity chef and the owner of Casa Vissani, a two-Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel in Baschi, made headlines last week when he went on the Italian talk show In Onda and proclaimed that "Vegans are like [members of] a sect, they're like Jehovah's Witnesses." Carlo Cambi, a fellow guest on the program who is the author of the Gambero Rosso restaurant guide, agreed with Vissani, saying vegans were the "new P2"—meaning Propaganda Due, a masonic lodge that became a clandestine, ultra-right organization implicated in several crimes and murders before its dissolution in the 1970s.
Wow. Some people really feel strongly about choosing to not eat meat.
The debacle took place during a purported discussion about molecular gastronomy, having nothing whatsoever to do with veganism. When another chef described molecular or modernist cuisine as a type of "lifestyle," Vissani turned the discussion into a takedown of veganism. "What do you mean, like vegans?" he interjected, launching into this rant.
The studio audience laughed, but when a chef named Davide Oldani came to the defense of vegans—and told Vissani not to "say such rubbish"—Vissani came back with his "kill them all" retort.
To precisely no one's surprise, Italian vegans and supporters-of-vegans took to social media, calling Vissani a lot of things, including, in one particularly cutting remark, "proof that meat is bad for you." Others applauded Vissani's anti-vegan position.
Veganism will likely remain a controversial issue in Italy for years to come. Luckily, most pasta is vegan. If that weren't the case, we might have to reconsider Italy's nuclear-weapon sharing abilities under NATO. Things could truly get nasty.