Undeniably, haute U.S. culinary culture has been a boon to the sustainable-food movement over the past 20 years or so. From Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse to Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns to the star-studded Chef’s Collaborative, high-end foodie institutions have largely rallied round the cause of local, environmentally responsible agriculture.

While their wares are generally reserved for the expense-account-positive, these institutions invest in their local foodsheds and have been a valuable tool in the fight against flavorless, environmentally and socially destructive food.

All the more shocking, then, the brazen corporate flackery being performed by the Culinary Institute of America, the premier U.S. cooking school.

In exchange for a cool $200,000 from Coca-Cola, the august learning academy is promoting “diet” Coke beverages at its well-regarded campus restaurants in Hyde Park, NY.

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An article in Sunday’s Atlanta Journal Consitution opens thusly:

Rudy Speckamp, a senior consultant at the Culinary Institute of America and former chef, rests his fork between bites of baby red romaine with crispy bacon, pears, Great Hill blue cheese and poppy seed dressing.

Because salads are acidic, finding the right beverage to pair can be difficult, he explains. Today, Speckamp has chosen something sweet to contrast with the salad and also delicate so as not to overpower the food.

A Riesling perhaps?

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No, not exactly.

Speckamp, who wears a starched white chef’s jacket, sips a Nestea Lemonade Caramel — a concoction of Minute Maid Light Lemonade, Nestea unsweetened tea, Diet Sprite Zero and caramel syrup.

“It works, right?” asks Speckamp.

No, it doesn’t work; as the British say, it simply won’t do. It’s a crime to pair lovingly grown produce and meat with a bunch of fizzy chemical crap someone developed in a lab and produced in a factory. The only proper response to Speckamp’s loathsome cocktail is a spit take.

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