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Washington Post Inaccuracy


cabrales
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Given J McManus' Q&A and her mention of a Relais Gourmand dinner in Paris in mid-June, I followed up on whether a story came out of it. Imagine my surprise when the following excerpt was included in the June 19, 2002 edition of the Washington Post ("The Rest of the Story" article):

"A gala dinner in Paris Thursday night is just the beginning of the Relais Gourmands' 30th anniversary celebration. On Friday and Saturday, the visiting American Relais Gourmands chefs will collaborate with 15 of their European colleagues by cooking in their restaurant kitchens. . . . [Discussions of Patrick O'Connell and Eric Ripert and their French chef pairings] Chicago chef Charlie Trotter will head to France's Burgundy region to cook alongside Alain Passard at **La Cote d'Or in Saulieu** . . . ."

As members may know, Bernard Loiseau is the chef at La Cote d'Or (in Saulieu, Burgundy) and the named chef cooks in Paris. This could lead one to wonder about the quality of fact-checking at the Washington Post, no? (One could argue that information of this nature should be common knowledge for anybody in food writing, even in the US) :sad:

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Well, it may just be a lack of clarity. I mean, the question is whether Trotter and Passard really are cooking together in Burgundy, or whether it's a mistake and Trotter is really cooking with Loiseau.

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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Where's Mr. Bradley when you need him?

Does this mean Deep Throat never existed?

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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The article seems to suggest that a given US chef was cooking in the kitchen of a particular, single French chef. If it's a Paris chef going to Burgundy, why was Loiseau not mentioned -- if the venue was La Cote d'Or, there must have been Loiseau at least present.

Based on further digging, here's a table with the chef pairings. The WP was indeed inaccurate. The location of the Trotter visit was Paris.

http://www.saveurs.sympatico.ca/relais/gen...al/jumelage.htm

This might be seen as suggesting the question -- why did the writer of the WP article and none of the people editing know this fact? :hmmm:

The other "lucky" North American chef was Feenie, who was paired with newly annointed three-star chef Jean-Georges Klein of L'Arnsbourg.

Here's an amazing menu -- unclear whether it was for the 30th anniversary celebration (in French; not translated):

http://www.saveurs.sympatico.ca/relais/menu.htm

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Does this mean Deep Throat never existed?

John Dean sure hopes you'll purchase his new book to find out.

"Save Donald Duck and Fuck Wolfgang Puck."

-- State Senator John Burton, joking about

how the bill to ban production of foie gras in

California was summarized for signing by

Gov. Schwarzenegger.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Here's an amazing menu -- unclear whether it was for the 30th anniversary celebration (in French; not translated):

http://www.saveurs.sympatico.ca/relais/menu.htm

Here is a very rough translation (due to time constraints) of a small portion of the the Relais Gourmand menu:

I. OFFAL

-- Coeurs de pigeons et purée truffée en paupiette de chou vert au four, sauce brune savoureuse (Pigeon heart and a puree of truffles with green cabbage), by Kiyomi Mikuni of Restaurant Mikuni, Japan

-- Cake aux Oreilles de Cochon ou aux lardons (Cake with pigs' ears or with bacon), by Jean-Paul Lacombe of Restaurant Léon de Lyon, Lyon

-- Ris de veau et chou vert braisé aux truffes (Veal sweetbread with green cabbage braised with truffles), Christian Denis of Restaurant Clos St-Denis, Belgium

-- Ris de veau à l'andouille de Vire, chutney de pommes et oignons (Veal sweetbreads with andouille from Vire, apple and onion chutney), Gilles Tournadre,

Restaurant Gill at Rouen

-- Ris de veau meunière en crépinette d'épinards, un amour de purée (Veal sweetbread with crepinette of spinach and purees), Mikuni

II. SHELLFISH

-- Aigo de homard (Aigo of lobster), Jacques Chibois of Bastide de St-Antoine at Grasse

-- Coquilles Saint-Jacques crispy (Crispy scallops), Jean Joho of Everest in Chicago

-- Couronne de coquilles Saint-Jacques et le risotto de riz sauvage aux champignons des bois (Crown of scallops and risotto made with wild rice and forest mushrooms), Denis

-- Homard de Bretagne assaisonné au jus de pomme verte, racine de persil, amandes et noisettes à la cannelle (Brittany lobster seasoned with green apple jus, root of parsley, almonds and hazelnut with cinnamon), Guy Martin from Grand Véfour in Paris

-- Homard rôti a vif, court fumet à la vanille Bourbon (Roasted lobster with vanilla),

Gilles Étéocle of Hostellerie La Poularde

-- Homard poché, jus de canard au gingembre et à l'estragon (Lobster, jus of duck with ginger and tarragon), Alain Labrie of L'Auberge Hatley, Quebec

-- Poêlée de langoustines et vermicelle de riz à la mayonnaise de foie gras (Pan-fried langoustines with rice vermicelli with a foie gras mayonnaise), de Juan Mari Arzak, Spain

-- Poêlée de homard en anchoïade (Pan-fried lobster), Michel Rostang, Paris

-- Risotto croustillant de langoustines aromatisé à l'huile d'olive et au soja ("Crunchy" risotto of langoustines seasoned with olive oil and soya), Mikuni

-- Saint-Jacques en "sandwiches", jus citronné (Sandwich of scallops, citrus jus), Charlie Palmer of Aureole, NY

-- Sabayon gratiné d'huîtres Malpèque sur une julienne de légumes racines (Gratine'd? sabayon of Malpeque oysters with a julienne of root vegetables), Anne Desjardins, L'Eau à la Bouche in Quebec

-- Strudels de langoustine ou de queue de homard au beurre de mélisse (Strudel of langoustines or lobster tail with lemongrass butter), Labrie

-- Tomate et homard, vinaigrette au corail (Tomato and lobster, vinaigrette from the corail), Alain Deluc, Barbizon in Belgium

SNAILS

-- Escargots de Bourgogne, version traditionnelle (Snails of Burgundy, traditional version), Jean-Michel Lorain of La Cote Saint-Jacques, Joigny

-- Escargots petit-gris poêlés et Pommes de Terre nouvelles écrasées à la crème de Persil et à l'Ail (Pan-fried "petit-gris"-type snails with potatoes, cream of parsley and garlic), Lorain

-- Escargots petits gris au persil et à la fondue de tomate ("Petit-gris"-type snails with parsley and tomatoe fondue), Lorain

-- Raviolis d'escargots de Bourgogne dans leur bouillon d'ail doux (Raviolis of Burgundy snails with their bouillon of garlic; this is a signature dish), Jacques Lameloise, Lameloise at Chagny

That's just the beginning of the meal. :wink:

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There are some rather strange things on that www.saveurs.sympatico.ca site as well.

Bernard Loiseau La Côte d'Or Bourgogne / Franche-Comté, France

Placing Loiseau's La Côte d'Or or the region of Burgundy (Bourgogne) in the Franche-Compté plays foot loose with geography. These are two distinct regions. Trama is in the Grand Southwest while another chef is merely in the Southwest. [My emphasis.] The French chefs and their restaurants are all in cities, towns or regions of France, but el Raco de San [sic] Fabes is in Spain, which is not so much smaller than France. Anyway it's Can Fabes. It's a three star restaurant and hardly obscure, even if in Spain.

It's embarrassing as this appears to be a R&C sanctioned site that also features the Ecole des Chefs program that got a good thrashing in a a thread on the France board.

Nevertheless, it's a glaring, if not serious, error and sign of carelessness on the part of the Washington Post

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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We have been to one of these R & C events when it was held in LA. The way it works is this way. You are assigned a table and each table has assigned chefs. You are not eating an offal course by every chef, only the one assigned to your table. For example, my table might have the offal course by Lacombe, the shellfish by Joho, the snails by Lorraine etc. I can only say that the meal was horrible - badly conceived and poorly executed. The best part of the evening was prior to the meal, during cocktail hour, when each R & C had a "booth- table" with hand-outs about their property and the owner or chef or manager "working the table" available to answer questions.

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You mean newspapers make mistakes?

omigod, what's the world coming to? :biggrin:

That's some menu. It sounds like a feast or a circus.

I'll go with Lizziee's description.

Are they such events ever "reviewed" objectively?

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We have been to one of these R & C events when it was held in LA. The way it works is this way. You are assigned a table and each table has assigned chefs.

lizziee -- When you attended the R&C event, who were the chefs in charge of your table? How does one get wind of R&C events in the US? :wink: When Jeanne McManus had her Q&A, she mentioned the described Paris event, but also indicated that particular event was not open to the public. :blink:

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This is an interesting thread. The first time I read it, my initial thought was, Cab, you gotta be kidding. What an annoying post. The overwhelming thrust of the article was local: about the Inn at Little Washington chef and his preparation and the mention of these other chefs and their pairings was isolated and perfunctory--when viewed in the context of the article. The entirety of the article was fantastic--a piece stunning for its depth and breadth and very rare for the Post--an article which focused on a chef. (A chef I think is over-hyped and underwhelming but that's not the issue.) Still, a mistake is a mistake, Cabrales caught it and I switched over, thinking this thread dead.

But now, I revisit and it seems another way to look at this is whether the "mistake" had been made by the R&C, the organizers of the event themselves, and that the Post was merely guilty of relying on press materials or information taken of the organization's own website for their details. It wouldn't be the first time a release was sent out or posted online with errant facts or a transposition--and/or that chefs or details were changed in a subsequent press release at the last minute. Deadlines have to be met and perhaps the official information provided by R&C changed as the invited chefs themselves started re-arranging who wanted to cook where, who could get a flight where, etc.

So, to me, the salient issue had seemed that the particular pairings of chefs and the restaurants was a very minor, value-added, even "filler" mention to the much larger feature--the feature story on Patrick O'Connell which involved the real reporting and sourcing--which seemed spot on.

Still, the brief, value-added mention did contain at least one error which Cabrales caught--so while it seems very possible to me that this error was promulgated by the event organizers themselves--the question then becomes--is it reasonable to expect that the writer or copy editor from the Washington Post food section should have caught this as if a matter of common professional culinary media knowledge--like whether the French Laundry is in Napa or St. Helena or Calistoga--or made a phone call on deadline to doublecheck the information, which as I suspect was provided to them by the event organizers. To both questions I answer no. No local readers were going to go to the event as a result of the article and potentially rely on any specific information provided by the article.

Now, if Food Arts ran with the pr materials and no one caught the mistake--no bell rang in anyone's head to say hey, that's not right--that would be a wholly different story.

I think I'm now leaning on the side of the Post in this. The Post serves its local readers--and isn't endowed with the reach or depth or mantle of the NY Times Food section as Jeanne herself readily admits. I believe Jeanne chuckled and said no one from the Post could actually afford to go to the event and I suspect very few of the staff writers ever eat at Michelin two and three star restaurants. I suspect the Washington Post restaurant critic doesn't eat often enough at any of the best French restaurants to have that level of familiarity with what's going on over there.

So Cab, now that I've revisited this, I find I'm swinging like an open gate, back toward the Post and am cutting them some slack.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Steve -- I personally find it disappointing that a leading US newspaper has a team responsible for the food section that would not have the knowledge of Michelin three-star chefs' names/restaurant affiliations as basic, background knowledge. Note also that Loiseau has been at La Cote d'Or for many years. These are leading restaurants in France. Why are people who are writing professionally about food lacking in such rudimentary (for a professional) knowledge?

The mistake is worse than a European food writer not being able to distinguish between T Keller of French Laundry and H Keller of Fleur de Lys -- at least those chefs have the same last names and San Francisco is the closest sizable city to Yontville. The mistake is also worse than a US food writer not knowing the difference between three-starred Gordon Ramsay, Royal Hospital Road, and currently-unstarred Gordon Ramsay, Claridge's, in London or thinking that Gordon Ramsay is the chef actually cooking at Marcus Wareing's Petrus (where Ramsay is co-owner and a significant insider, obviously). The Post's mistake is even worse than confusing the various Roux cuisiniers. :hmmm:

The Post is understandably most knowledgeable about "local" (i.e., DC and environs) restaurants and cuisiniers. But that is obviously too low a standard to which to hold its writers. Shouldn't any food writer at The Post be informed about the New York, Boston, San Francisco, LA, Seattle, Chicago, etc. dining landscapes at a minimum? Do you think that a food writer from The Post would know, for example, the names of the chefs at Blue Hill in NY, Julien in Boston and Hawthorne Lane in SF? Is it appropriate to expect them to at least have such knowledge? If not that set of restaurants, how about Le Bernardin in NY, L'Espalier in Boston and Fleur de Lys in SF?

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Cabrales, perhaps you could discuss what you think the basic required background knowledge should be for a Washington Post food-section reporter.

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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Cabrales, perhaps you could discuss what you think the basic required background knowledge should be for a Washington Post food-section reporter.

You mean there are MORE qualifications then memorizing the 30 names and places previously mentioned? :biggrin:

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cabrales, as Jeanne McManus indicated during her Q&A her, she doesn't really care about Michelin restaurants because most of her readership doesn't care. They want to know about good local places, good produce, tips for the home kitchen, 20 minute meals and such.

"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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Cabrales, perhaps you could discuss what you think the basic required background knowledge should be for a Washington Post food-section reporter.

Steven -- I would imagine the qualifications are multi-faceted, but should include presumably (1) dining experience at all major restaurants in and around DC (including Baltimore, etc.), (2) familiarity with all major restaurants in the NY, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Arizona's major destinations, New Orleans, LA, San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, other similar cities and major restaurants in Napa/Sonoma, (3) significant knowledge of cooking methods, (4) significant understanding of French, Italian and Mexican cuisine and ideally understanding of certain Asian cuisines, (5) some knowledge of American culinary history and the history of restaurants in the US, (6) ability to identify all Michelin three-star restaurants (not just those in France) and general understanding of certain two-star restaurants, coupled with some dining experience at the three-star level, and (7) ability to recognize the 2 or 3 significant restaurants in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, Brazil, Vancouver, Toronto, etc. :wink:

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:laugh:

"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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Cab--you do realize how unintentionally funny your "qualifications" list is? I'd fail 1, 2, 4, part of 6 and 7. I'd fail number 1 because no one in DC cares about Baltimore, and if anyone does, they shouldn't. That would be like New Yorkers caring what's going on in Boston or Hartford. I couldn't confidently tell you the name of a single good restaurant in Baltimore.

Here would be my list for the same staff writer at the Post food section:

A talented writer with an open mind who enjoys cooking and dining out at least occasionally.

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Cab--you do realize how unintentionally funny your "qualifications" list is?  who enjoys cooking and dining out at least occasionally.

Steve Klc -- I'd fail 1, 2 (due to lack of significant experience in Miami, Atlanta, Arizona's major destinations, Chicago, New Orleans and LA), 3 (obviously, requires understanding of cooking), 4 (except with respect to French cuisine), 5 and 6 (due to inability to identify restaurants/chefs in Italy and Germany). I would only meet 7. But then I am not, and do not aspire to be, a professional food writer. :wink:

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We have been to one of these R & C events when it was held in LA. The way it works is this way. You are assigned a table and each table has assigned chefs.

lizziee -- When you attended the R&C event, who were the chefs in charge of your table? How does one get wind of R&C events in the US? :wink: When Jeanne McManus had her Q&A, she mentioned the described Paris event, but also indicated that particular event was not open to the public. :blink:

I don't remember which chefs were assigned to us that evening, probably because the meal was so uninspired that I was just as happy to forget about it. In fact, if memory serves me right, we went out for a late snack at the Water Grill next door and had some marvelous oysters and other assorted cold seafood.

Sorry, Cabrales, but I also don't recall how we got wind of this particular event. Since we stay at a lot of R & C places, both in the States and in France, it might have been through one of the other properties.

However, this is an event that looked good on paper, had a certain "wow" factor feel to it (I remember looking at the chefs cooking and saying to my husband that we had to go) and then not delivering at all.

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I said it was a glaring, but not serious error. Klc, is there room to swing on that gate of yours? I'm not a swinger, I just play one on the Internet, where is that chat site? --Oops, wrong thread. Okay, I can go either way--I mean play devil's advocate on either side. I mean it's a minor issue and neither important nor relevant in the overall picture the article attempted to paint. Why get hung up on details? On the other hand, if this is not of interest to most of the Post's readers, it is also likely that this is the only source of information they will get on the subject. Shoudn't it be correct? Does it matter if all the names and places involved could be those of dead people on Mars to the readership. Does the misinformation mar the overall picture?

These things have to be taken into consideration in the real world and I'm inclined to cut some slack. For one thing, few of us should ever expect to believe everything we read in the papers, especially when the news is second hand. How did the Post report the information? Was it presented as definitive or as news they received? That makes a difference to me. Newspapers should acknowledge when they are writing from press releases and when they are reporting what they can veryify. That might be a better standard than requiring every staff reporter be an expert in the field.

Neither should real life interfere with Cabrales' attempt to set an abstract paragon. Setting ideals is a worthwhile tast.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Bear in mind that many periodicals that used to have fact-checking staff who went through their articles looking for errors no longer have that luxury. I know from journalist friends that they must often rely on press releases for information, with no time to check questionable or even apparently spurious claims made on behalf of products or services. The truth is whatever you can get away with.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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