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Bruni and Beyond: NYC Reviewing (2007)


slkinsey
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another thought:  as far as the NY dining public is concerned...Ducasse never had a chef change.  the chef was always Ducasse.  it's not like a Danny Meyer restaurant where people understand Meyer is not the chef.  the dude ultimately responsible for the menu didn't leave.

Do you think this would be parallelled if Beno were to leave per se, or Bruel to leave Daniel?

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another thought:  as far as the NY dining public is concerned...Ducasse never had a chef change.  the chef was always Ducasse.  it's not like a Danny Meyer restaurant where people understand Meyer is not the chef.  the dude ultimately responsible for the menu didn't leave.

Do you think this would be parallelled if Beno were to leave per se, or Bruel to leave Daniel?

I don't think most NY diners (and I'm talking about upscale ones) have the foggiest clue who Benno is (and it's not like Keller's name is even in the name of the restaurant!)...and I'd never hear of Bruel until now.

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another thought:  as far as the NY dining public is concerned...Ducasse never had a chef change.  the chef was always Ducasse.  it's not like a Danny Meyer restaurant where people understand Meyer is not the chef.  the dude ultimately responsible for the menu didn't leave.

Do you think this would be parallelled if Beno were to leave per se, or Bruel to leave Daniel?

I don't think most NY diners (and I'm talking about upscale ones) have the foggiest clue who Benno is (and it's not like Keller's name is even in the name of the restaurant!)...and I'd never hear of Bruel until now.

I might agree on Bruel, but you don't think most people visiting per se have a clue as to who either Benno or Keller are - if not their specific relationship to the restaurant?

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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another thought:  as far as the NY dining public is concerned...Ducasse never had a chef change.  the chef was always Ducasse.  it's not like a Danny Meyer restaurant where people understand Meyer is not the chef.  the dude ultimately responsible for the menu didn't leave.

Do you think this would be parallelled if Beno were to leave per se, or Bruel to leave Daniel?

I don't think most NY diners (and I'm talking about upscale ones) have the foggiest clue who Benno is (and it's not like Keller's name is even in the name of the restaurant!)...and I'd never hear of Bruel until now.

I might agree on Bruel, but you don't think most people visiting per se have a clue as to who either Benno or Keller are - if not their specific relationship to the restaurant?

oh...I think they generally know who Keller is....

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another thought:  as far as the NY dining public is concerned...Ducasse never had a chef change.  the chef was always Ducasse.  it's not like a Danny Meyer restaurant where people understand Meyer is not the chef.  the dude ultimately responsible for the menu didn't leave.

Do you think this would be parallelled if Beno were to leave per se, or Bruel to leave Daniel?

The ADNY and Per Se examples are quite similar, Alain Ducasse and Thomas Keller both spend the majority of their time—in Ducasse's case, the vast majority—outside of New York. I believe Keller has even said, "Per Se is Jonathan Benno's restaurant now." So yes, if Benno left, I would expect Bruni to pay a visit within the first 3-6 months and report on it.

By most accounts, Daniel Boulud still spends the majority of his time at Daniel. Unlike Ducasse or Keller, he's New York based, and Daniel is his flagship. So I wouldn't expect Bruel's departure to be as significant a change as Delouvrier's was, or Benno's would be.

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another thought:  as far as the NY dining public is concerned...Ducasse never had a chef change.  the chef was always Ducasse.  it's not like a Danny Meyer restaurant where people understand Meyer is not the chef.  the dude ultimately responsible for the menu didn't leave.

Do you think this would be parallelled if Beno were to leave per se, or Bruel to leave Daniel?

The ADNY and Per Se examples are quite similar, Alain Ducasse and Thomas Keller both spend the majority of their time—in Ducasse's case, the vast majority—outside of New York. I believe Keller has even said, "Per Se is Jonathan Benno's restaurant now." So yes, if Benno left, I would expect Bruni to pay a visit within the first 3-6 months and report on it.

By most accounts, Daniel Boulud still spends the majority of his time at Daniel. Unlike Ducasse or Keller, he's New York based, and Daniel is his flagship. So I wouldn't expect Bruel's departure to be as significant a change as Delouvrier's was, or Benno's would be.

I don't get this. isn't much of the menu at Per Se composed of "the greatest hits of Keller"? (I suppose you could try to differentiate ADNY on those grounds....but like I said, most affluent NY diners weren't keeping track of chef changes when as far as they knew the name of the chef was in the restaurant's title and hadn't changed)...

Edited by Nathan (log)
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another thought:  as far as the NY dining public is concerned...Ducasse never had a chef change.  the chef was always Ducasse.  it's not like a Danny Meyer restaurant where people understand Meyer is not the chef.  the dude ultimately responsible for the menu didn't leave.

If that is what the NY Dining Public thought then it was even more derelict of Bruni not to educate them on the reality.

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To the extent people are saying those pies are modeled after traditional Neapolitan pizza, sure, they're wrong. But if Bruni, the New York Times critic, was going to opine on pizza, he should have familiarized himself with the top few New York places regardless of category. His fundamental lack of knowledge has made him seem out of touch, regardless of the comparability of the styles.

Honestly, I don't understand this at all. If Bruni had been writing an article about NYC pizza or a NYC pizzeria, or even about a style of pizza made elsewhere that is comparable to or within the frame of reference of classic NYC pizza, then I would agree with you. But not only was the article about a pizzeria on the other side of the country, but the correct frame of reference for that pizzeria is nationwide rather than local. Indeed, Bruni makes a point of this by writing "it reflects the spread of a certain kind of haute pizza culture across the country."

Had Bruni devoted significant column space to comparisons between Mozza and NYC pizza or NYC pizzerie, that would have demonstrated a fundamental lack of knowledge -- not to mention that he would have had to shoehorn it into an article where it really doesn't belong. Instead, he mentions that the aesthetic at Mozza is part of a nationwide trend and names examples of pizzerie that share this aesthetic in three cities (NYC, Chicago and Phoenix). Other than passing mentions of the more robust pizza served in the Campo de' Fiori in Rome (an appropriate reference because it reflects an influence of Silverton's) and Spago (again, appropriate because Spago was a "gourmet pizza" pioneer in the US, and was also in Los Angeles) he doesn't talk about any other pizza or any other pizzerie. And why should he? It's not a comparison piece. I don't really see that it is incumbent upon him to relate the article closely to NYC and NYC pizza simply because he is writing for the New York Times where he has a gig as a food critic. If he were writing an article about a pizzeria in Napoli, would he have to give three paragraphs to Patsy's and Franny's?

--

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It's a Mario Batali restaurant. The whole reason he was writing about Mozza was because of the New York connection. Bruni's corresponding "Diner's Journal" entry was a New York/LA restaurant-culture comparison. And while the reader who claimed Patsy's was "real Napoletana pizza" was off-base, Bruni's reply was far more clueless because he, the full-time professional critic for the New York Times, was unequipped to say "No, it isn't" and instead regurgitated a generic answer more reminiscent of what you'd hear from an insurance company denying your claim than from anybody with knowledge about a subject:

I can’t promise this reader I’m going to be able to get there in the near future and write him back. One of the great things about doing this job in this city is the number of restaurants on my to-do list. And one of the worst things about doing this job in this city is the number of restaurants on my to-do list. What I really need is 72 more hours in each day, three more days in each week and several additional stomachs.

Bruni decided to go down that path of writing about pizza in the New York Times, and making various tie-ins to New York restaurant culture. Did he really think he could go start writing about an iconic food of New York without his lack of context coming back to bite him? He's been doing this job long enough that he should know better. Even a newbie at the job should know that if you're going to say word one about pizza, hamburgers, pastrami, hot dogs, barbecue or anything of the sort, you need to take at least a day and go around to a bunch of places and get yourself educated -- or you need to leave that category to Ed Levine or the "$25 and Under" critic, because those guys actually know the subject matter. Otherwise you just look silly.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
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Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
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most affluent NY diners weren't keeping track of chef changes when as far as they knew the name of the chef was in the restaurant's title and hadn't changed

I have no idea how you know what "most affluent NY diners" were thinking, however what we do know is that the chef change was well publicized. Not only would you know about it from reading the New York Times, but also if you had ever dined at Ducasse and given your address you'd have received a card announcing the change (Ducasse sent out quarterly mailings about new menus, etc.). The staff were, I believe, instructed to talk about the change -- "We have a new chef, Tony Esnault, who has worked with Mr. Ducasse in blah blah blah." More importantly, the cuisine was quite different under Esnault than under Delouvrier. The Delouvrier situation, as well, has some bearing here because, independently of Ducasse, Delouvrier had been a four-star chef at Lespinasse. He created a hybrid of his own cuisine and Ducasse's cuisine, whereas Esnault marked a return to cuisine much more in the style of Ducasse Paris or Monaco. At Daniel, when there's a chef change, very little changes that anybody but a serious regular would notice. I haven't been to Per Se in awhile so I can't say what they're serving today, but when I went, yes, it was French Laundry with minor variations for local ingredients.

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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isn't much of the menu at Per Se composed of "the greatest hits of Keller"?
A few things, yes. Every Per Se meal I've ever heard of begins with the Salmon Cones and Oysters & Pearls (unless you're a vegetarian, that is). But after the first couple of courses, the menu changes quite a bit—far more than Jean Georges does. It's not as if the restaurant is stalled in a 1990s funk, serving the same few things over and over again.
....but like I said, most affluent NY diners weren't keeping track of chef changes when as far as they knew the name of the chef was in the restaurant's title and hadn't changed)...

I'm always amazed that Nathan can say what "most affluent NY diners" are keeping track of. How on earth does he know?

But even if that were demonstrably true, Bruni obviously would have been aware of the change. As someone who spends practically his entire waking life visiting restaurants, he is supposed to know more than the typical affluent diner. His reviews are supposed to do more than just tell us what we already know. Any intellectually curious person in his shoes should have been motivated to check out the retooled ADNY for himself. If he failed to do so, shame on him. If he did, and could perceive no difference, what does that tell you?

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All the affluent diners in NYC that I knew were well aware of the chef changes at ADNY. These people read and hear from their friends; I think they're more well informed than you might think. They don't just stumble in and expect a great meal.

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It's a Mario Batali restaurant. The whole reason he was writing about Mozza was because of the New York connection. Bruni's corresponding "Diner's Journal" entry was a New York/LA restaurant-culture comparison. And while the reader who claimed Patsy's was "real Napoletana pizza" was off-base, Bruni's reply was far more clueless because he, the full-time professional critic for the New York Times, was unequipped to say "No, it isn't" and instead regurgitated a generic answer more reminiscent of what you'd hear from an insurance company denying your claim than from anybody with knowledge about a subject:
I can’t promise this reader I’m going to be able to get there in the near future and write him back. One of the great things about doing this job in this city is the number of restaurants on my to-do list. And one of the worst things about doing this job in this city is the number of restaurants on my to-do list. What I really need is 72 more hours in each day, three more days in each week and several additional stomachs.

Bruni decided to go down that path of writing about pizza in the New York Times, and making various tie-ins to New York restaurant culture. Did he really think he could go start writing about an iconic food of New York without his lack of context coming back to bite him? He's been doing this job long enough that he should know better. Even a newbie at the job should know that if you're going to say word one about pizza, hamburgers, pastrami, hot dogs, barbecue or anything of the sort, you need to take at least a day and go around to a bunch of places and get yourself educated -- or you need to leave that category to Ed Levine or the "$25 and Under" critic, because those guys actually know the subject matter. Otherwise you just look silly.

but he wasn't writing about an iconic NY food. Period. he didn't write about NY-style pizza. do you have to know anything about NY-style pizza to write about Chicago-style pizza? heck no. same thing. this is a very NY-parochial point of view. the NY style of pizza is not the be-all and end-all for the category...heck, it's not even the original.

as for Mozza..it's as much a Batali restaurant as Esca is...

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as for affluent NY-diners, here is what I know.

close to 25% of the population of Manhattan makes six figures (this is extrapolated from census data...there's no exact figure but it's within that number give or take 5%). a significant proportion of that makes a lot more...often seven figures.

based upon the hundreds (literally) of NY restaurants where diners easily spend a $100 a meal or more...it's fair to say that a significant number (almost certainly the majority) of these people go to expensive restaurants now and then.

edit: to make my point clear...we're talking about a couple hundred thousand people.

last time I checked, ADNY was a small restaurant that wasn't exactly packing them in. and the idea that any significant number of these people recognize either the names of Delouvrier or Esnault is simply absurd. (heck, the number of people on Egullet, Mouthfuls or Chowhound (or among NY food bloggers in general) who were reporting on meals at ADNY was quite small...and it was usually the same people over and over again...contrast that with Per Se)

with all due respect...people here tend to be a self-selected group of foodies who tend to hang out with other foodie people (to varying degrees). so, yeah, I am getting the impression that my perception of what ordinary affluent NY diners know is more accurate.

Edited by Nathan (log)
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All the affluent diners in NYC that I knew were well aware of the chef changes at ADNY.  These people read and hear from their friends; I think they're more well informed than you might think.  They don't just stumble in and expect a great meal.

right, they read Zagat.

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isn't much of the menu at Per Se composed of "the greatest hits of Keller"?
A few things, yes. Every Per Se meal I've ever heard of begins with the Salmon Cones and Oysters & Pearls (unless you're a vegetarian, that is). But after the first couple of courses, the menu changes quite a bit—far more than Jean Georges does. It's not as if the restaurant is stalled in a 1990s funk, serving the same few things over and over again.
....but like I said, most affluent NY diners weren't keeping track of chef changes when as far as they knew the name of the chef was in the restaurant's title and hadn't changed)...

I'm always amazed that Nathan can say what "most affluent NY diners" are keeping track of. How on earth does he know?

But even if that were demonstrably true, Bruni obviously would have been aware of the change. As someone who spends practically his entire waking life visiting restaurants, he is supposed to know more than the typical affluent diner. His reviews are supposed to do more than just tell us what we already know. Any intellectually curious person in his shoes should have been motivated to check out the retooled ADNY for himself. If he failed to do so, shame on him. If he did, and could perceive no difference, what does that tell you?

agreed that he should have checked it out. we simply don't know if he did.

as for what it would tell me if he didn't perceive any difference for his star rating? nothing. I never ate there. I don't know if the quality changed or not. some people loved ADNY. other competent diners thought it was "meh" under all three chefs. I have no way of knowing so....

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but he wasn't writing about an iconic NY food.  Period.  he didn't write about NY-style pizza.  do you have to know anything about NY-style pizza to write about Chicago-style pizza?  heck no.  same thing.  this is a very NY-parochial point of view.  the NY style of pizza is not the be-all and end-all for the category...heck, it's not even the original.

If you're writing about Chicago-style pizza in the New York Times, and drawing comparisons between the Chicago and New York dining cultures in that context, then yes, you need to educate yourself about New York pizza. The funny thing is that this is just about the easiest thing in the world to do. Bruni is neither lazy nor stupid, so it's hard to imagine why he couldn't be bothered to get himself some context.

as for Mozza..it's as much a Batali restaurant as Esca is...

Do you think the Mozza story would have been written, by the New York restaurant critic for the New York Times, if Batali hadn't been involved? Of course not. The story existed because of the New York angle.

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 for affluent NY-diners, here is what I know.

close to 25% of the population of Manhattan makes six figures (this is extrapolated from census data...there's no exact figure but it's within that number give or take 5%).  a significant proportion of that makes a lot more...often seven figures.

based upon the hundreds (literally) of NY restaurants where diners easily spend a $100 a meal or more...it's fair to say that a significant number (almost certainly the majority) of these people go to expensive restaurants now and then.

Just because someone has the financial resources to patronize fine restaurants, does not mean they choose to spend their money that way. They could be spending it on golf courses, ski slopes, clothes, jewelry, fancy cars, expensive apartments, private schools, rock concerts, or a hundred other things. So you haven't really identified the relevant population.
last time I checked, ADNY was a small restaurant that wasn't exactly packing them in.

In another post you said you never dined there, which means you never checked.
agreed that he should have checked it out.  we simply don't know if he did.

The available evidence, albeit imperfect, suggests he did not. Edited by oakapple (log)
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like I said, "we simply don't know if he did."

as I also said, the existence of literally hundreds of expensive restaurants in NY indicates that the pool of a couple hundred thousand affluent Manhattanites (I didn't even mention the other boroughs) does indeed, eat out at expensive restaurants on occasion...(heck, I easily know a couple hundred people meeting that description....) who the heck do you think is eating at these restaurants?

that ADNY was significantly easier to get into than Per Se or Babbo was often reported. since when is direct personal knowledge the only kind? I don't have direct personal knowledge that it was a "small restaurant" but I do have indirect, but accurate, knowledge that it seated 65 diners plus two private rooms. I also have indirect but accurate knowledge that it opened to a media blitz (as FG noted) and that there was purportedly a 2700 name waiting list at its inception. I also know that this waiting list dissipated soon after....and that it wasn't long before reservations (or even walk-in tables) were easy to procure.

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Now, I don't want you to take this too personally, but as a neutral reader, my take is that her food/restaurant knowledge is about comparable to yours. That's partly because she knows more than you give her credit for, and partly because you know a little less than you imagine.

I just saw this. that's amusing.

here's my proof:

http://www.restaurantgirl.com

I need say no more.

her notoriety rests on one thing only...and it has nothing to do with food.

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I just saw this.  that's amusing.

here's my proof:

http://www.restaurantgirl.com

I need say no more.

her notoriety rests on one thing only...and it has nothing to do with food.

Her views on anonymity are exactly the same as Steven Shaw's. Now, I'll grant you there's a difference: Shaw wouldn't allow himself to be photographed in a sexy dress.

She's employing a star system with a plus-one bias above the Times. She defines one star as "disappointing," while the Times defines it as "good." She defines two stars as "a safe bet," while the Times is "very good."

Gemma comes from the same people as The Waverly Inn. Frank Bruni gave one star to Waverly, Freeman gives two to Gemma, so they're tracking about equally, after accounting for the plus-one bias. She doesn't only say good things. Indeed, given the text, 1½ stars ("hit or miss" by her definition) might have been more appropriate. But there's been plenty written about Bruni's star inflation, so she's in good company there.

Of course, the writing isn't as good as Bruni's, but we expected that.

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I just saw this.  that's amusing.

here's my proof:

http://www.restaurantgirl.com

I need say no more.

her notoriety rests on one thing only...and it has nothing to do with food.

Her views on anonymity are exactly the same as Steven Shaw's. Now, I'll grant you there's a difference: Shaw wouldn't allow himself to be photographed in a sexy dress.

She's employing a star system with a plus-one bias above the Times. She defines one star as "disappointing," while the Times defines it as "good." She defines two stars as "a safe bet," while the Times is "very good."

Gemma comes from the same people as The Waverly Inn. Frank Bruni gave one star to Waverly, Freeman gives two to Gemma, so they're tracking about equally, after accounting for the plus-one bias. She doesn't only say good things. Indeed, given the text, 1½ stars ("hit or miss" by her definition) might have been more appropriate. But there's been plenty written about Bruni's star inflation, so she's in good company there.

Of course, the writing isn't as good as Bruni's, but we expected that.

I'm talking about the site as a whole. yes, she famously announced a few months ago that she would start making negative comments where they were warranted....the "reviews" before that are quite "interesting".

so, what about the PR regurgitation directly on the site? Shaw doesn't do that.

btw, Gemma does not "come from the same people as the Waverly Inn". Graydon Carter is the driving force behind the WI and the reason for its "A-list crowd". some of the same people who partnered on the WI are behind Gemma...but its association with the WI is pure PR (and that won't work on the "friends of Graydon" that created the WI's buzz). neither is the chef of the WI...John DeLucie..involved. Gemma is really by the same people as the Maritime Hotel. Carter is the only name that matters for the WI...and he is not involved in Gemma...despite the press releases (which artfully imply it while carefully not directly saying that he is)....which have been swallowed wholesale by various bloggers.

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I'm talking about the site as a whole.

I agree that the self-promotion is disgusting, and no respectable critic—even one who shared her views on critic anonymity—should be doing that. That's even allowing for the fact that it's in the Daily News, where you do expect more sensationalism.

I now realize that I mis-read the graphic. It is 1½ stars (exactly what it reads like). According to her system, that's the equivalent of a pan.

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