NYC Chefs: Don’t Frack With Our Ingredients

| January 4, 2012 4:00 AM

Chef Mario Batali prepares pizzas at Otto, the Greenwich Village pizzeria he co-owns in New York City. Last month, Batali joined Chefs for the Marcellus, a group of food professionals who are against hydraulic fracking. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Move over Mark Ruffalo — Mario Batali has entered the anti-fracking fracas.

As the Jan. 11 deadline for public feedback on hydraulic fracking in New York approaches, a bevy of bakers, chefs and restaurateurs have formed a coalition to raise awareness about the threat they say the natural gas drilling technique poses to one of New York’s most cherished institutions: its stomach.

“Unless we say no right now, Governor Cuomo is poised to allow fracking in vast areas of the Marcellus Shale, a geologic formation that covers a large area of the mid-Atlantic region, including much of New York’s southern tier — an area of pristine waters; produce, dairy and livestock farms; and breweries and wineries,” the website of Chefs for the Marcellus reads.

Batali, who signed onto the Chefs for Marcellus cause a few weeks ago, joins Brooks Headley, executive pastry chef at Batali’s four-star Italian restaurant Del Posto, Bill Telepan of Telepan and the group’s founder, Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez of PRINT restaurant, as well as about 30 other industry professionals who fear that fracking will threaten the quality and livelihood of restaurants in New York City.

Executive Pastry Chef Brooks Headley poses in the Del Posto kitchen. Like other Chefs for the Marcellus, Headley fears fracking will negatively impact the quality of his ingredients and New York City's water supply. Photo courtesy of Del Posto.

“The main thing is that fracking will affect the [upstate] water and the farms, and eventually the water in New York City,” said Headley. “You can’t mess with water like that. It’s the most important ingredient we use.”

The debate over fracking often focuses on the social, economic and environmental impact it would have on the areas upstate, under which the Marcellus Shale lies. But chefs like Headley and Batali worry about the impact on their eateries in the city.

Many restaurants source their ingredients from farms in areas on or near the Marcellus Shale, leading the chefs to fear that the groundwater could become contaminated if fracking is allowed in New York. Headley often bakes his La Dolce Mela recipe — a dessert served at Del Posto — with apples from Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, N.Y., which is at the edge of the Marcellus.

The second concern, while more contested, is the possibility that small fracking-generated earthquakes could damage the infrastructure of the New York City watershed, directly polluting the city’s drinking water.

“NYC is the greatest city for pizza, and a lot of people say that’s because of the water. If we destroy the water supply, we destroy New York pizza,” said Headley.

But supporters say fracking would bring much-needed jobs and profits to New York State, and several gas and energy companies insist that the practice is harmless.

With the deadline looming, Chefs for Marcellus is encouraging New Yorkers to send their concerns to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and for restaurant professionals to write Gov. Andrew Cuomo directly.

  • Westsider

    Batali is a sell-out. He supports Christine Quinn for Mayor in 2013, so how can anyone trust him?

    • sustainernyc

      Batali is not being presented here as the sole authority illustrating the catastrophic impacts of 596 toxic carcinogens being injected into fissures that seep into our ground water.

      He is merely drawing the connection, now evidenced by last year’s three Dept. of Agriculture quarantines on PA cattle and fracking-wastewater-related cattle deaths in LA, that fracking and farming combine to produce deadly threats to our food supply. (See the ProPublica article from July 2011, Fracking First in Pennsylvania: Cattle Quarantine)

      • Leesie

        Well said!

    • Jean Standish

      What does his political position have to do the hydraulic fracturing? This issue cuts across all political lines–it is nonpartisan.

    • suzanne

      Baloney! he is truly concerned as EVERYONE should be about the damage that Fracking does, NY is famous for its water! The best Bagles ever use the NY tap water, how do you feel about adding formeldahyde to the mix and about 100 other agents ?

    • Brenda Reiss

      Read the news places that have permitted this process are devastated and now we hear about more and more earthquakes. Is that what you want for NY?

  • Chris Orbach

    Nice to see more insight into this issue. It’s only natural that chef’s be concerned about the polluting of their ingredients. As a resident of Sullivan County, my own drinking water (which comes from a well on our property), would be severely affected by hydrofracking in the area — not to mention that our property’s value would plummet. As for the economic aspect, the only people likely to gain would be people who lease their land to the gas companies. Only those with LARGE plots of land that are big enough to drill on can lease. So if my neighbor, who has 300 acres, wants to lease his land (that he doesn’t live on), he can poison my water and ruin my life while he laughs all the way to the bank. Fracking in the Marcellus shale stands to ruin the water of the Delaware River. This will affect millions of lives, while enriching hundreds. Fracking in the Marcellus shale is ridiculous, and Cuomo needs to hear it from as many different groups as possible.

    • Steve B

      Chris is right. No Fracking in our State, please Gov Cuomo.

    • RandomAction

      How true. So many cases from CO-OH-PA-TX of toxic chemicals from fracking leaching into the water… not to mention the spills, the vapor, the illegal dumping, the legal dumping into our “water treatment plants” and “landfills” that have absolutely no way to filter the chemicals out… this is a short term bridge to nowhere but poisoning the water we all need to drink.. and never mind the compressor stations exploding and leaking, and the pipelines snaking and spider webbing across the ag landscape and under streams like anemic snakes – just waiting to corrode and leak… none of it is regulated by the clean air or clean water acts either – they are all exempt. What the heck is wrong with our country?

  • tom roughneck

    I’m sure an overweight celebrity chef knows every empirical fact about oil and gas exploration. I hope he starts cooking with a wood stove.

    • blondie

      Actually, he is known for that.

    • allison

      Never trust a skinny chef, Tom.

    • Brenda Reiss

      Sorry Tom, but Batali is right on on this one. Over weight or not!

  • Brenda Reiss

    Always great to see well known and influencial people join in. The author of this piece has it wrong though on the jobs remark. The jobs created are extremely temporary and add nothing to the economy. Once the companies are finished they leave a mess that no one can clean up. The environment destroyed and home values drop to next to nothing. Hydro-Fracking is a disaster that brings with it more disasters. Look at the earthquakes in places that are not prone to them in other states that have permitted this process.

  • becky thatcher

    Thank you chef’s for seeing the big picture, caring for our food sources . It would be great to see more mothers and grandmothers joining the chefs, it is our kid’s and grandkids world we are trashing for a cheap energy fix. A quick study of these fields and the watershed for NYC aught to convince any thinking person that fracking is not a good idea.

  • MGG

    By now anyone who doesn’t know that the gas extracted from the US is going overseas, (China etc..) is just not following the issue. This is not about energy independence and we should be going Solar anyhow- and wind.

  • Joe

    Hasn’t anyone seen the Emmy and Cable Award winning documentry, entitled, “Gasland”, which was aired on HBO, over the past year, or so.
    All you need to do is watch it and you’ll find out all you need to know about Fracking.
    It’s a DEADLY, irreversable process that renders our pure underground water toxic. The manner in which the Gas Companies compensate people who’s water becomes irreversably contaminated is to delivery drinking water. One MUST ask, where does that drinking water currently come from and where will good drinking water be obtained, in the future, if we continue to allow the gas companies to Frack the most presine underground watersheds, in our country. If we allow Fracking to continue, there will come a time, in the not so distance future, when clean, drinkable water will become much more expense than gasoline. Every American MUST quickly develop the foresight to see where Fracking will lead us. Ask yourself, what will your children be left to drink? Poisoned water!

  • Kim Possible

    This world is gonna go to hell in a hand-basket if people don’t start doing the right thing instead of trying to make a quick buck. It’s disgusting to me.

  • Julia

    I wrote to the NY DEC through CREDO action and you can too. Go to
    and write your comments to help fight fracking in our state, or google CREDO action and find out more how to help!

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  • http://ondatecno.com/archives/233 Cedric Shuttleworth

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  • RandomAction

    SIGN THESE THREE PETITIONS. PLEASE. THE AIR WE BREATH AND THE WATER WE DRINK DEPENDS ON YOU. Each takes 20 seconds… but your action will make a lifetime of difference. Thanks so much!
    1. http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-natural-gas-development-in-the-susquehanna-river-basin
    2. http://action.foodandwaterwatch.org/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=6125&track=hp-051811-actioncenter

    also go to Protect Our Water. Ban Fracking in PA website for more information on fracking

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258399307 Scott Noren

    Actually….please Like this page: http://www.facebook.com/FederallyBanFracking?ref=ts and SIGN THIS FEDERAL BAN ON FRACKING PETITION: http://www.change.org/petitions/ban-fracking-federally

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1258399307 Scott Noren

    I am trying to do a write in for US Senate against Senator Gillibrand who is for ‘safe fracking’ and who took Chesapeake PAC money and gobs of gas, oil and nuclear PAC money. She absolutely is for getting fracking ‘safely’ into the Southern Tier of NY. She also advocated for more nuclear power plants in Western NY.

  • Elaine

    Western Colorado’s North Fork Valley is Colorado’s only rural winery region and has the state’s highest concentration of organic farms and ranches. It is an intimate mixture of private, small family farms–many certified by the USDA as organic–and public lands, including many managed by the BLM. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-12/the-fight-over-fracking-in-colorados-north-fork-valley#p1

    The BLM is an agency within the U.S. Dept. of Interior that manages most of the public’s minerals. BLM once wrote a land use plan for the area, twenty-five years ago. Now it seeks to use that plan–even though it never even considered oil and gas development in the North Fork to be much of a possibility–to open the area for drilling and fracking.

    Leasing of these 20,555 acres of public land, drilling & fracking will put an end to our small rural communities. We love New York, but we are fighting for our lives here.

    Please sign this petition! We need 25,000 signatures by 12/20!


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