Melissa Torre Of Cookie Confidential On The Irony Of Being Harassed By Animal Rights People & Being Accused Of Setting Back Female Chefs

Over a year ago, I attended a promotional photo shoot for the upcoming Fine Swine Dinner at Taproom On 19th that was done at Cannuli’s House of Pork. Set to feature an array of talented, local chefs who used some part of the pig in each dish they contributed, a South Philly butcher shop’s walk-in freezer seemed the perfect setting for a photo shoot. But then the photos got out and people got internet angry. And then the harassing phone calls began, Melissa Torre of Cookie Confidential says.

Why? Because, she had the audacity to further inflame the sensitivities of some vegans and aloof carnivores–the ones who like to pretend a magical stork brings meat to every butcher shop and grocery store–by wearing a body suit decorated with a multi-layered view of the human anatomy.

That apparently added an inappropriate sense of frivolity as her and the other chefs, all clad in white smocks, stood by dead suckling pigs that were–oh my God–in a butcher shop’s meat locker. The PETA crowd got angry. Arm chair feminists became enraged and criticized her for flaunting her ass, while both groups righteously condemned her for equating the female form with a consumable commodity. Foobooz applied a bad headline and took her to task for all this–while gleefully running said photos and sitting back to watch the clicks add up.

Recently at Cookie Confidential, we talked about the inherent irony of someone who cares deeply about the humane treatment of animals being harassed and threatened by animal rights advocates, with said detractors showing the same blind spot as PETA did when they went after the sustainability minded the Publican in Chicago [see the Publican’s response here]. We also discussed whether or not Melissa was indeed making life harder for Philly’s female chefs.

courtesy of Melissa Torre.

courtesy of Melissa Torre.

Brion J. Shreffler: Talk about the backlash you got for your outfit in the promotional photo shoot at Cannuli’s for the Fine Swine Dinner at Taproom On 19th.

Melissa Torre: So we did that photo shoot for a dinner from which a portion of the proceeds would benefit the Vetri Foundation. We took a lot of funny pictures joking around in a meat locker full of pigs and I got a ton of backlash both from PETA [minded people]–for posing with dead pigs–and also from female chefs who said that I was giving female chefs a bad name and making it hard for them to do their jobs.

B: Were you?

M: I don’t see why anything I would do would affect what anybody else’s career was. If I’m that influential, there’s a lot more going on in my career than I ever thought [laughs].

B: The idea then is that you’re making it harder for people to take female chefs seriously.

M: Yeah, I think the people that cause the most harm to female chefs being taken seriously are female chefs that complain about not being taken seriously [Timer goes off, Melissa removes yet another batch of cookies from the oven]. I think that a lot of times females complain when they’re treated like one of the guys. They want to be equal and they start to get treated like equals and they don’t like it.
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