Chef Alex Stupak Ponders Society’s Shortcomings on Twitter

Staff Writer
Alex Stupak

The chef angered several by issuing an anti-vegan donut tweet.

This past Saturday, pastry chef turned Mexican cuisine connoisseur and notoriously indelicate tweeter Alex Stupak took to Twitter, blasting vegan donuts.

The last time The Daily Meal gave a nod to Stupak’s social media style, reading the account I was admittedly impressed by his efficient — and damning — use of 130 characters, calling attention to a former line cook who resigned by sneaking out during a shift. This more recent tweet, however, which commanded roughly half the character count, left me a tad taken aback, especially considering the anti-vegan rant that ensued, as well as society’s ever-evolving attitude towards plant-based diets.

Named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s top 25 “Best New Chefs” in 2013, the 33-year-old owner of two Empellón locations in New York City (soon to be three) is recognized and admired for his modernist approach to food. A contemporary perspective should be celebrated, nuanced dishes savored and saluted, which is why it might come as a surprise to some that Stupak would air the following:

Stupak’s first few tweets, those aimed at no one named in particular, drew ample attention, attracting acrimony and no shortage of figurative high fives from followers. But, was Stupak just jesting? Is this an example of how you can’t “read tone” on Twitter, the same way we all sometimes misinterpret the tones of text messages? Whatever his actual manner, flippant or earnest, Stupak came across as both mean-spirited and out of touch with the current culinary climate. (Didn’t his colleague and advocate Grant Achatz fairly recently introduce a vegan menu at his Chicago restaurant Next?) Whether Stupak is either or both of these things is up for debate. His tweets aren’t.

Indeed, after launching his first tweet, the restaurateur singled out former fan Jay Astafa, a 21-year-old plant-based chef merely aiming to dispel the myth Stupak seemed seduced by and bent on perpetuating.

Tweeted Astafa:

Stupak proceeded to broadcast he’d be blocking Astafa, dismissing him as “that one dude.” (Stupak has since followed and unfollowed Astafa.)

Astafa’s right. Vegan doughnuts are having a moment. Or, rather, vegan doughnuts have been enjoying many moments. Not that this should be the focus of Stupak’s public faux pas, but it’s worth noting the Brooklyn-based bakery Astafa references has been lauded all over town, from The New York Daily News to Refinery 29, Gothamist to The Village Voice, Thrillist to…The Daily Meal, though the editor representing the latter didn’t adore them as much as, well, everyone else (but hey, everyone has an off day).

In all fairness, I'm pretty sure Stupak’s tweet wasn’t directed at Dun-Well anyway (a photo of the sign that set him off would have helped). But, that isn’t the point.

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The point is, like it or not, demand for plant-based options is growing, whether prompted by yet another health-related research study or still more undercover investigations, an allergy scare or concern for planet earth. Whatever the motive may be, the vegan elevator is steadily ascending and, while many still resist it, savvy chefs would do well by themselves (even selfishly) to hop aboard and adapt some classics or, heck, go out on a limb and innovate.