Can You Take Criticism Better than Guy Fieri?

Time for Guy Fieri to put on his big-boy pants.

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?

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  • Tom

    I’m having trouble finding the review on the Times site. Your linky thing doesn’t take me there. But I would like to know, did the critic get past criticizing how the menu was worded and actually taste the food itself and comment on that?

  • JoeyS

    In chapter 6 of Cross-Cultural Conflict. Building Relationships for Effective Ministry by Duane Elmer he describes addressing conflict with a one-down approach. Basically, you defer to the person with whom you are in conflict in a way that if they continue in their persistence causes shame on them. This works less well in America where public shaming is common and expected but there are instances where it is a very effective tool, especially if you are in a conflict with a subordinate.

    • JoeyS

      Also, I once bumped into Guy in a crowded room. He just kind of barreled through a crowd annoyed, as if deserved a staff that would make the crowd part ways for him. He was also taller than I expected.

  • sofia

    If anyone didn’t click on the link to the Dallas Observer review, do so now! (especially if you live in or know the city of Dallas well) HILARIOUS.

  • I am a perfectionist and a people-pleaser, so being criticized has always been very difficult for me. So presenting at the conference and even just blogging regularly is a huge thing for me because doing anything in a public way opens the door for criticism. For me personally, I am trying to train myself to try to really listen to any criticism that may come up and see if there is anything valuable I can learn from it (advice I heard from Tony Campolo on how he deals w/ criticism). What helps me to do that is knowing that I do only have a BA (plus maybe 15 seminary hours; can’t remember exactly) so I am constantly reminded that I don’t actually know everything (even if I do think I know it based on all the reading I have done). I also try to look at how others respond to criticism publicly and see if they do it in a gracious way or not, and I hope when the time comes to be able to respond with graciousness to the critic. I’ve been especially impressed with how Rachel Held Evans has responded to criticism of her new book.

  • Evelyn

    Ok, now I think I know what the last supper was all about and possibly why Jesus would dine with prostitutes and tax collectors. When Jesus was feeling criticized, he and the disciples got together and paaar-teed or he found some prostitutes and tax collectors to joke around with.

  • Kell Brigan

    “…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).”

    Why is this extraordinarily level of verbal abuse of Christians allowed and endorsed on this site?

  • kalimsaki

    “There is no god but God”

    This phrase conveys the following good news to the human spirit, suffering as it does countless needs and the attacks of innumerable enemies. On the one hand the spirit finds a place of recourse, a source of help, through which is opened to it the door of a treasury of mercy that will guarantee all its needs. While on the other it finds a support and source of strength, for the phrase makes known its Creator and True Object of Worship, who possesses the absolute power to secure it from the evil of all its enemies;
    it shows its master, and who it is that owns it. Through pointing this out, the phrase saves the heart from utter desolation and the spirit from aching sorrow; it ensures an eternal joy, a perpetual happiness.

    From Risalei Nur collection by Said Nursi.

  • T.S.Gay

    Christianity gets criticism, although like a lot of restaurant reviews, not as memorable as this one. That’s the thing, if your going to write a bad review, it should be done less than the average critic for you to be a good critic, and it should be one that is going to be memorable. I love Chesterton’s description of the Orthodox church at the end of his chapter(VI) on The Paradoxes of Christianity in “Orthodoxy”. “It is always easy to be a modernist, as it is easy to be snob”. It’s easy to fall into the open traps of fashion after fashion…..its as true in the restaurant business as in the religious business…….their are an infinity of angles to fail……Creation has never been tamed. There are man-made and natural disasters. It’s life. The point of my remarks is about how wild the ride actually is(when most think its civilized and tame AND about critics. This one was a good one. There are many many bad ones, and as easy as it is to fail in creation, it’s just as easy to be a bad critic.

  • Dan

    I attended your lecture at Dordt and I thought you handled the criticism beautifully. It became obvious pretty quickly that the father-daughter combo taking offense had an extremely narrow theological perspective. And when you dissed CS Lewis (as you apparently enjoy doing a lot of lately) they were unable to wrap their heads around it.

    For me, the whole event was worth the price of admission simply because of this interchange. I reflected for days on how I would have responded in such a situation.

    I think what makes criticism so hard to take is that it’s the only voice you hear. You heard the cricisms of the two, but not the affirmation of others. So you’re kind of left with this feeling that everyone there was critical, which isn’t true.

  • Tony, there is some good advice in handling criticism posted, however I think your method is the best–I certainly don’t mean that flippantly; it has much to do with a community of caring people and most importantly the holiness of laughter…we must do this together soon. Thanks for writing, Ted