Guy Fieri’s Times Square restaurant got a wicked review this week in the New York Times. I live in a town with one of the greatest food writers in the land — I’ve been reading Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl for years. (Here’s her blog.) Back when she wrote for City Pages, her reviews were both lauding or wicked, but always brilliantly written.
A couple years ago, I stumbled upon what still stands as the best restaurant review I’ve ever read. It’s about a burger joint named Maple & Motor in Dallas (which has appeared on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, as fate would have it), written by Alice Laussade in the Dallas Observer:
Outside, there’s a sign on the door telling you that you’ve gotta order before you get yourself a table. This tells me that at some point Dallas showed up in her Sam Moon bangles, was a dick lick and started saving tables for a party of 20 that never showed. Don’t ever be this person. This person who saves shit for people. I hate you, Saver. I hate you when you’re saving seats at the movies. I hate you when you’re saving a spot for your friend in line in front of me. I even hate you when you’re saving your virginity for your wedding night as if Jesus gives half a holy turd. (Newsflash: Horrible lays and your mom made that abstinence shit up in the ’40s. I was there).
That’s some great writing.
Now Pete Wells of the NY Times has turned his pen on Fieri’s Times Square calamity of a restaurant. It’s a devastating review, which isn’t really a surprise — for the Times to review a restaurant like this is a bit like them reviewing an Applebee’s. It’s brilliant because it’s brilliantly written, composed entirely of questions for the celebrity chef:
GUY FIERI, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square? Have you pulled up one of the 500 seats at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar and ordered a meal? Did you eat the food? Did it live up to your expectations?
Did panic grip your soul as you stared into the whirling hypno wheel of the menu, where adjectives and nouns spin in a crazy vortex? When you saw the burger described as “Guy’s Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,” did your mind touch the void for a minute?
It’s brilliant because it calls bullshit on the contrivance that a celebrity chef like Fieri or Wolfgang Puck does anything other than lend his name to a restaurant like this.
I was hoping that Fieri would write something in response to the review — that he’d take it with good humor and write some hilarious blog post or OpEd that would go viral and make the world a better, funnier place.
Instead, he responded in the most prosaic way possible, in an interview on the Today Show. He took the redeye and flew all night to be there — poor guy, the things you need to go through to be on national TV. And there he sat, pitying himself, spouting conspiracy theories, and evading questions:
I’ve been the target of some criticism over the years. Some has been warranted, and some, IMHO, has not. Just a couple weeks ago, I was publicly criticized by several audience members at the conclusion of my lecture at Dordt College. I did my best to respond honestly and with equanimity.
And then I did what I’ve come to believe is the best possible thing to do after receiving public criticism: I retreated to a local pub with about a dozen friends and supporters. There we drank and debriefed and laughed uproariously.
Let me here thank Tim and Scot and Kelly and Taz and Jason and Nathan and the others who sat in the back room of The Fruited Plain in Sioux Center, Iowa, bought me a beer, and allowed me to respond to criticism by blowing off some steam…in private.
How do you respond to public criticism? What tips do you have for Guy Fieri?