The short answer
What is it about the ethics of eating that is so confusing for everyone? Daniel Patterson is right about one thing:
I'm troubled by the possibility that, as the Bay Area has become increasingly wealthy and more ideologically self-selecting, the Chez Panisse ethos has become a touchstone for the tastefully furnished stone houses and rolling, lavender-covered hills of an elite preindustrial agrarian fantasy. I worry that we have begun to reflexively equate an aesthetically beautiful lifestyle with a morally good life, and that the way we cook and eat has become bound up in that mix.
But it is a wonder to behold how he gets from this unassailable proposition to his "solution": more sous vide. The poor guy's logic may even be more torturous than Julie Powell. Here's a tip for future commentators who have something really, really important to share with the world: do not wrap yourself in the mantle of defensor pauperum if your goal is to make twee tapioca foams for the vulgarly rich. Also, move to Chicago.
Patterson does, inadvertently, bring up an interesting question: Is it logically possible to challenge this orthdoxy of sustainability? One would undertake such a project not because it cramps your "creativity", or because the people at the farmers market are irritating (although they certainly are), but because of its insiduous equation of aesthetic beauty with moral good.
Patterson deserves credit for identifying the equation, though the purely aesthetic conception of sustainability indicates the chef's limited grasp of the question better than anything I could write. We can capture more of the real issue by rewriting the equation: is it a moral good to spend more money than strictly necessary to make yourself feel better about your lifestyle?
The answer depends on another question: how sustainable is what we are calling sustainable agriculture? If it's not really sustainable, than we have something to argue about (because the yuppies are just making themselves feel better instead of doing anything real). But if "organic," local, seasonal produce really is better for the planet and those who produce and consume it, the only possible resistance is that cheapness is better than goodness -- or rather that cheapness is the greatest good. Not an indefensible position, though it hardly puts you on the side of the angels.
But somehow I doubt that's the argument of the chef whose "creativity" is so cruelly crushed by his inability to invent anything that tastes better than a Zuni hamburger.