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TDG: Introducing The Chocolate Curmudgeon


Fat Guy
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"Hillo, ho, ho, boy! come, bird, come." -Hamlet

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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Maybe that's another one of my problems. I don't wear a toque.

Let's see, Suzanne trots out the vendetta card. Our now Retired Chef wonders if I would "have been so quick to comment on Ms. Schrambling’s article had one of your restaurants not been mentioned."

Well, a quick search reveals I've expressed dislike about Schrambling's articles all along--and I'm by no means the only one. Her Philly piece in March. In April I wondered "if anyone has heard any buzz that Regina will take over editorship of the Dining section?  If so, I fear we're in for more first person diaries, poor editorial judgment, and questionably-talented writers contributing major pieces on subjects they know little about.  Maybe a hatchet-job piece on Arthur Schwartz is in the works?" About the Market menus in July, where I posted something critical of Schrambling and also where several other users began to define "her M.O." and Aurora weighed in with this: "there are obviously several bugs in Ms. Schrambling's bonnet....It truly is a mish-mash of emotions that Ms. Schrambing has about the issue. Given all the different angles she is coming from, it all empties out into a chef-bashing basin....The publicist comment was cheap, but worse still is the insulting, staged photograph of the FedEx delivery. It suggests that chefs are working on the cheat--the cuisine served is not the work of skilled, dedicated chefs in partnership with skilled, dedicated purveyors, but a mail-order convenience where chefs click buttons and let FedEx do all their busywork for them....A slant piece at best."

I'm reminded that, ironically, at that time we had to look to David Karp in the LA Times for really good coverage of the Greenmarket in Union Square.

The Arthur Ave thread and commentary took place in October. Then and only then did Zaytinya open.

Hardly vendetta material. We've been following her all along. In fact, I wonder if anyone from the Times was lurking on eGullet back then...

But back to the thick skin--it's not the same thing as turning a blind eye, is it?

Saying the desserts you had somewhere are not very good does not mean the pastry chef who made them is a bad person, does it? You'd rather I skirt around the issue Retired? Is that what chefs are supposed to do in your eyes, resort to obfuscation like Schrambling and hint around known figures instead, like her diss of Sirio Maccioni? That's a hurdle you might want to get over. (That stuff is also Off-topic here though: If you want to make the case someone's desserts are good and unjustly maligned by me, I suggest you make it on the DC board and on the threads in question. I've eaten enough at Morrison Clark and Majestic Cafe to stand by the accuracy and fairness of what I've said. Also, realize I will be the first person to post on eGullet after my next meal at Majestic Cafe if I really enjoyed a dessert there. And if Valerie ever cared about my opinion or asked for my help in picking her desserts up a notch, I'd be over there in a second. It's really nothing personal. It's about the food. I've changed my desserts, remedied problems or inconsistencies based on the comments of others--even diners I don't know--if what they said made sense. It's no big deal.)

Whatever perspective or authority I've earned around here comes from the fact that I've posted a few thousand times and in my own name. I'm not a tough-talking newbie under the cloak of anonymity--though anonymous tough-talking newbies are most welcome! There are no hidden agendas because I do talk about my friends, their restaurants, disclose relationships--as well as honestly reveal my picks and pans. All my errors of judgment are out there for all to see. In fact Retired, you're very eloquent and passionate when you write "I'm sorry to see that this is what this site is about. I'm sorry to see humility absent in the modern culinary world today. Yes, I suppose my generation was different. In my day it was just unadulterated dedication to the craft." Believe me when I say this--this site about alot more than me and this piece. Would you consider working something up along those lines--retired chef surveys the scene and doesn't like what he sees--for the Webzine? If so, PM me or Shaw.

This fact also remains: neither Shaw nor I nor anyone on this site could even have considered writing a tough piece like this about anyone else who contributed at the Times. They don't make the same mistakes. What does that say? We all have our soft spots--mine is the angelic Marion Burros, but Grimes (who has reviewed me, gave my restaurant at the time two stars but panned my signature dessert) Asimov, Fabricant, Bittman, Melissa Clark, Dorie Greenspan, etc. None of them could be tarred with any hint of this. Not even Amanda Hesser, the lightning rod of Times food writing, think the Spanish arc stuff as opposed to her Diaries. In fact, when Grimes was on leave I mourned his absence and missed his voice.

Keep killing the messenger if you like, more than a few seem to have gotten the message.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Once again, Dr Johnson hit it with:

I would have prefered more evidence that Schrambling is, in fact, The Most Evil Food Writer That Has Ever Lived and less ranting. That would, however, require a bit of work.

I will ask my question yet again, and hope that this time a direct answer is forthcoming:

Why? Why, when there are so many other topics equally -- or more -- deserving of a good muck-raking approach, should so much time be spent "exposing" as mean and incompetent a writer who clearly does that very well herself?

Why her, why now, why with so much bile and so little backup?

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I must respectfully disagree with the "so little backup" claim, Suzanne. Ditto G. Johnson's implication that more evidence is required. The piece alone was comprehensive enough, and Steve K and I have continued to catalog Schrambling's misdeeds on this follow-up thread in an attempt to eliminate any lingering doubts. Whether or not people like or approve of Steve K's style is a matter of taste, but the evidence question seems to me one that can be answered objectively -- and objectively I think the (plentiful) evidence is quite damning.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Lest anyone forget, Schrambling is no innocent: she's bashed chefs repeatedly, loathes the cult of the American chef, has seemingly never met a chef's cookbook that she couldn't have improved with her (she believes) superior knowledge, derided farmers' markets, nit-picked apart market menus in "The Truth Behind the Market Menu," and has a major chip on her shoulder about most everything -- an attitude she has in no way earned (as though anybody could). Naturally, we discussed it here, having a more interesting discussion of what the article could have been than what it actually was.

Here we have an entire paragraph of assertions yet the only evidence supporting any of them is a single Schrambling quotation (and not a particularly compelling one) about a book by Deborah Madison. That's just lazy.

Edit: I should say I hold no brief for Schrambling. I can't remember reading any of her articles and have no opinion one way or the other.

Edited by g.johnson (log)
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Okay, so I held my nose and read the piece one more time. Okay, lots of evidence of how she is "gratuitously bitchy" and other similar descriptions. And references to other negative reactions (here and elsewhere) to her "bitching and moaning." All the research seemed focused on digging up more dirt on her.

But never a mention of why this Schrambling-bashing is necessary. Just because she is what she is? Surely she must have done SOMETHING besides be her incompetent, nasty self to deserve such lambasting. And surely there are plenty of other targets out there, with skills as limited and attitudes as bad.

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G., everything in our Webzine is fact-checked and passed through at least two different editors. Every statement in the passage you quoted was checked against an original source for accuracy. We might have considered links, but if the New York Times doesn't want to put all of its archived articles online for free, it makes it difficult to link to them. In this case, some are linkable and some aren't. This isn't an academic journal, though -- we don't footnote every statement. We fact-checked it, Steve Klc has read through her entire body of work, he is conversant and expert in it, and he is doing what journalists do. You're simply thinking about an inapplicable standard.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This isn't an academic journal, though -- we don't footnote every statement. We fact-checked it, Steve Klc has read through her entire body of work, he is conversant and expert in it, and he is doing what journalists do. You're simply thinking about an inapplicable standard.

Oh rubbish. Klc is making quite specific allegations which could easily have been backed with appropriate quotations, and they would have been in any serious publication.

Klc could have given us an effective piece by givng evidence. By providing little or no evidence he weakens his assertions and looks vindictive and petty. As a result I, and I guess most others who haven't already made up their minds, remain agnostic on Schrambling.

Edited by g.johnson (log)
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Okay, G., so now you're taking the position that all "serious" publications provide quotes to back up every statement? I submit you can't be "serious" about that. Steve K provided a significant quantity of quoted material, made reference to earlier eGullet threads that did the same, and has judiciously followed up in the post-publication discussion. The claim that he has provided no evidence -- "By providing none," as you say (there's a quote, okay?) -- is absolutely false and you really should retract it. What I hope you meant to say is that he did not provide evidence on every single point he made, and I don't believe he was required to in the context of an editorial column. But until you're willing to have this conversation without resorting to false accusations, you can have it with yourself from here on in.

(Edit: Precedent post subsequently clarified, though not by much. :laugh: )

Edited by Fat Guy (log)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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As always, with Suzanne.

i'm with both of you on this one, and with retired chef.

THIS is egullet? so what if it's true? i am really embarrassed to see this on the front page of the web-zine.

what is this, 8th grade? "She really deserves it. She's had it coming a long time." huh? what about, "Be a bigger person and ignore her."

:sad::sad::sad:

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Don't go getting all litigious on me. I've rephrased to be more precise.

I hope that all statements made in a serious publication are backed by evidence. Since, in this case, the matter is a largely subjective, it is incumbent on the writer to convince us of the evidence. And, as we're talking about someone's writing, the appropriate evidence is quotation. And there's just too little of it to justify the venom.

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I've read Steve K's piece, and I've read this thread. I have only a passing familiarity with Ms. Schrambling's work.

As Steve K said somewhere hereabouts, many participants on egullet have an interest in what goes on. My own interest is in support of a wish to see it be successful.

So I have these questions for the Steves: Why was it necessary to write this article? Which of egullet's interests are served by it? Are we harmed or threatened by her in some way? Or are we upholding a principle? If so, what is it and why this means of upholding it? If we are upholding a principle, are there others who might be treated the same way for the same reason, or for a related reason?

One more question: is it possible that this is seen to be a clever/safe/effective (choose one or add one) method for Gully to be a bad boy in public?

I ask because I only want the best for the site.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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So I have these questions for the Steves: Why was it necessary to write this article? Which of egullet's interests are served by it? Are we harmed or threatened by her in some way? Or are we upholding a principle? If so, what is it and why this means of upholding it? If we are upholding a principle, are there others who might be treated the same way for the same reason, or for a related reason?

It's hardly as premeditated and Machiavellian as all that, Robert. I mean, we are certainly premeditating, Machiavellian kinds of guys, but in this instance Steve Klc is a columnist for our Webzine and this is what he chose to write his column about. It seemed entirely logical: He and I (and others) had been monitoring this situation for a year, posting openly and notoriously about it, and if I may be so bold as to guess at Steve K's thinking I'd say the trigger event of the launch of her self-indulgent Web site was just too much to resist. He submitted copy to me -- I had no prior notice of the topic and do not expect prior notice from an editorial columnist -- and I thought it was terrific. I pulled up all the references and checked all factual statements. Statements of opinion were checked against the primary sources for reasonableness-of-inference, and in all cases I thought they were on target. We made some decisions about where to put citations/links, where to put quotes, and where to speak in the editorial voice. Then it went on to another member of our editorial team -- in this case Matthew Amster-Burton -- for an additional look. He made his changes, it went back through me, back through Steve K, and onto the live site. In some cases 5-7 people look at copy on a Webzine piece before it is published. We make some mistakes -- the users are quick to point out every misplaced apostrophe -- but we try to achieve a much higher production standard than the average daily print publication. We are also very quick to acknowledge and correct any errors -- and as a result we feel justified in being very quick to react to incorrect allegations of errors. As for principle, although we are not overtly pursuing an agenda in this instance, I think the main principle at issue here here is journalistic accountability. We are not media watchdogs per se, but when someone in the food media is persistently out of line we are here to help correct that. Others who might be treated the same way? None come to mind, not for me at least, but you never know. But each person is unique, and it's up to our columnist not to me. Thanks for your polite questions.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I have to admit I never noticed her before this article. And I also have to admit, I never would have read the article if someone didn't email me about this thread. In fact, I never even heard her name before. That's how much of an impact she has made on me. So I don't see the point to writing this article. So she's abrasive. So what? What's the point of the tit for tat here?

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I'd love to know what you think you contributed to the conversation with that post.

Let me ask all of you this: what would you be saying right now had you been the target of one of Schrambling's hatchet jobs? Think about it. I'll leave you all with that and turn it back over to Steve K -- that is, if anybody has anything to say about the article besides "Why did you write that?"

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Well that really isn't the question. Nobody has said that Steve K shouldn't be angry with her or that he shouldn't tear her a new asshole. The comment was that the Daily Gullet was not an appropriate forum for that, and that the article seemed vindictive.

But I forgot, you don't READ the Daily Gullet, Steve. :laugh:

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Let me ask all of you this: what would you be saying right now had you been the target of one of Schrambling's hatchet jobs?

steven, i can answer this from my end.

the reason this piece is upsetting to me is because, like schonfeld and others, i care about this place. klc's piece was not only insulting towards schrambling, it was insulting towards us, the members, whether klc intended for it to be or not. and i'll give him the benefit of the doubt.

i have no problem with writing here that i am a smart, savvy, educated and discriminating consumer of print media--whether i tend to act silly at times, or whether i know as much about food as the next guy. EDIOTED TO ADD: the egullet webzine articles thus far have been pretty good--informative, humorous, smart and sometimes a little edgy--but never nasty.

i am a long time subscriber to the nation, harper's, the economist. i like to read a good panning of george bush, for example. but when someone takes him to task, i want to read a critique that is thoughtful, provocative and informative. if i were to pick up one of these magazines and read a piece criticizing ken lay or lynne cheney, both of whom deserve every ounce of ill will the rest of us can muster, i would NOT expect to read a series of ad hominem attacks. whether the attacks can be substantiated with "evidence" is irrelevent--they are still ad hominem attacks. and not only are they offensive to the person to whom they are directed--they are offensive to an audience who wants to focus on issues, and who wants a comprehensive and intelligent discussion of how said target has failed.

my question for you would be: who is your audience? who would you like it to be?

my gut reaction to it was anger. i've just been on the stairmaster and sweated it out, and i still feel angry. egullet is too good for this. so are you, shaw.

Edited by stellabella (log)
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