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Chodorow's Response to Bruni's Review


weinoo
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Today's NY Times dining section has a full-page ad, an open letter to Pete Wells, Editor, about Bruni's 0-star review of Kobe Club being basically a personal attack on Mr. Chodorow.

It's good reading (and doesn't appear to be available online). I guess I don't understand that if your restaurant is packed, as is made clear in the lettter, why spend all that money on a full-pager. Give your bloody staff a raise, Jeffrey, and blog away!

Well, maybe it's time Bruni was brought to task. But we do that all the time here, for free!

Thoughts?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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This isn't the first time a restaurateur has purchased an ad to respond to a review. The newspaper must be laughing all the way to the bank.

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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did Chodorow think he was doing something "classy" this time?  (i.e. with the Kobe Club?)

For some reason, I think Chodorow has a pretty high opinion of himself.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I know it's not even 10 am yet, but I just saw this on NY1 and I can't believe this is all eGullet has to say about it so far.

I mean, aren't we glad that someone has finally, publicly called Bruni on his many and oft-repeated mistakes as a reviewer?

Or, coming from Chodorow, does it just sound like sour grapes?

I, too, would like to know whether past ads of this nature have ever mattered.

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What I think is interesting is that he's planning on starting a blog called "Following Frank and After Adam" where he plans to visit the restauraunts reviewed by the aforementioned critics and then post a review of the review.

It will be at: http://chinagrillmgt.com/blog

Edited: to fix URL

Edited by slkinsey (log)

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I mean, aren't we glad that someone has finally, publicly called Bruni on his many and oft-repeated mistakes as a reviewer?

If you don't have the newspaper, Chodorow's ad is available here (PDF).

Part of it is indeed sour grapes. Kobe Club has received its share of both positive and negative reviews. What a surprise! Chodorow thinks the positive reviewers got it right, and that the negative reviewers got it wrong.

He does have some legitimate complaints. One is that the review wastes space talking about unrelated failures, like Mix, Rocco's, and Caviar & Banana. None of those restaurants has anything meaningful to do with Kobe Club.

Another is that Bruni thought that the restaurant's signature dish, Kobe/Wagyu beef, is very solidly prepared. Chodorow thinks that if the establishment's raison d'etre is done right, it warrants at least a star. Perhaps he has a point. Would anyone give Peter Luger zero stars because of the salmon?

Lastly, Chodorow complains about a food critic who has no background in food. But I think the Times editors got exactly what they wanted in Frank Bruni.

Edited by oakapple (log)
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I know it's not even 10 am yet, but I just saw this on NY1 and I can't believe this is all eGullet has to say about it so far.

I mean, aren't we glad that someone has finally, publicly called Bruni on his many and oft-repeated mistakes as a reviewer?

Or, coming from Chodorow, does it just sound like sour grapes?

I, too, would like to know whether past ads of this nature have ever mattered.

because a zero star review of the Kobe Club is almost certainly not a mistake.

(indeed, Bruni rarely gets his ratings clearly wrong...it's the specific texts of his reviews that informed people object to most of the time)

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One could argue that Chodorow's many years of experience in the restaurant business gives him as much or more cred than Bruni, Platt, Grimes, etc.

well, Grimes is the preeminent historian of the cocktail. he's also written about food on and off for 20 years.

Chodorow has opened various restaurants in NY and Miami that were always about the scene and not the food. He's never shown the slightest interest in actual cooking. since Chodorow restaurants aren't even good FOH operations....I wouldn't even want to hear his opinion on that side.

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a zero star review of the Kobe Club is almost certainly not a mistake.
If you're saying that zero stars is defensible, I agree. One star would also have been defensible, but there have been enough negative comments about this place to amply justify zero.
indeed, Bruni rarely gets his ratings clearly wrong...it's the specific texts of his reviews that informed people object to most of the time)

I think Bruni has gotten quite a few ratings wrong. His downward pressure on the luxury sector, coupled with his grade inflation of the casual sector, has led to a jumble of incoherent ratings, particularly at the two-star level, and occasionally at other levels.
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well, Grimes is the preeminent historian of the cocktail.  he's also written about food on and off for 20 years.

Hmm. I'm not sure I agree that Grimes has paramount importance as a cocktail historian -- unless there's something beyond that one book of which I am unaware. And whether or not he wrote about food off and on for 20 years, according to Chodorow's summary of his conversations with Mrs. Grimes, they almost never went out to dinner before he became the food critic for the Times.

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One could argue that Chodorow's many years of experience in the restaurant business gives him as much or more cred than Bruni, Platt, Grimes, etc.

He might have cred as a businessman, but I don't think he really gives that much of a shit about the food...to me his places are always about the scene - not that he hasn't been successful at various times.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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Grime's one cocktail book is the standard text on cocktail history (as opposed to being a collection of recipes combined with histories of those individual recipes). He has written a couple food books as well.

but anyway, although Richman is my favorite food critic, Grimes is the best Times reviewer I've read (if Reichl were the critic today she'd be skewered here daily for her outliers and mistakes....as far as I'm concerned she simply gets the benefit of generous pre-internet memories).

but leaving that aside, I've never seen the slightest evidence that Chodorow knows anything about food (besides the economics of it).

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I don't think restauranteurs make particularly good restaurant critics, any more than actors make the best movie critics.

But I do think that the best critics are those who have spent many years thinking and writing about their field, as Ruth Reichl and Mimi Sheraton have done, but Frank Bruni has not.

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What I think is interesting is that he's planning on starting a blog called "Following Frank and After Adam" where he plans to visit the restauraunts reviewed by the aforementioned critics and then post a review of the review.

It will be at: http://chinagrillmgmt.com/blog

That should be http://www.chinagrillmgt.com/blog/

And Chodorow's letter? High-larious. I love how it veers between the rhetorical poles of "all our fans can't be wrong" and "won't somebody PLEASE think of the children, er, waiters".

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btw...I didn't mean that as an attack on Reichl.

she's clearly in the top echelon of professional critics.

I just think that she gets the benefit of generous memories (this probably goes for Sheraton and Claiborne as well).

all you have to do is read posts on egullet from four-six years ago to see how the standard base of food knowledge has grown here. now throw in that like minded individuals didn't really have the same access to each other before the internet and it's pretty clear that professional critics simply weren't questioned in the same way in the past.

in other words, the internet has massively raised the bar. just because a critic cleared the bar twenty years ago doesn't at all mean that they would today...I wonder if any would actually.

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Speaking strictly as a reviewer with a pro cooking background, I have to say that what Bruni does for a living is not, alas, an easy gig; I do think that most restaurateurs and chefs FEEL better about reviews when the reviewer actually has a hands-on, pro food background (until, that is, they get a negative review). But let's remember: Ruth Reichl didn't (commune cooking in the late 60s doesn't count unless you're Molly Katzen). Craig Claiborne really didn't, until he hooked up with Pierre Franey. This leaves us with Amanda Hesser, who -- if any of you have cooked from any of her books, you will know -- is a stellar recipe writer and a veritable walking encyclopedia of food. Many "food people" loathe her for the most hideous and innane of reasons: she's thin, incredibly successful, and -- in the words of a well-known, attitudinal cookbook author who shall go nameless here -- "leads a charmed life." But if she writes a negative review, she's suddenly Brun Hilda.

So, hypothetically-speaking, let's say a former pro chef-turned-reviewer had covered Kobe the same way; what would Chodorow's response have been? Likely, the same. Because regardless of our backgrounds, it all comes down one thing: the way it makes the chef/owner "feel." (I was once physically threatened by a restaurateur who took umbrage at the fact that I mentioned her ex-husband's establishment in the same column. The review was actually excellent but it made the restaurateur feel "badly." Poor her.) The challenge that reviewers have is to paint an accurate portrait of the restaurant and the entire dining experience itself from the point of view of the patron; if Chodorow doesn't want anyone discussing the thousands of swords hanging threateningly over the heads of his patrons, he should go minimalist. If he doesn't want anyone covering the insane hilarity of flights of beef that, for a party of four might nudge the bill into the four-figure neigborhood, he might be a little more prudent while retaining his over-the-top sensibility. This isn't food: it's theatre, so it matters little that Bruni is deemed "not a real food person." Why? Because the Chodorow experience is not a "real food experience." For that, diners need to go to Per Se. Or Le Gigot. Or Momofoku. Or The Waverly Diner.

The bane of existence for restaurateurs like Chodorow is the fact is that patrons today are smarter and far better educated about food and the overall dining experience than they used to be; they understand that these 200 - seat megaliths, unless monitored very carefully, can easily become nothing more than glorified airplane hangars more focused on trend than quality of food and/or service. Unfortunately, by the time they hit their stride, the trend is dead and gone.

Bruni's take, like it or not, was right on the money. And Chodorow doesn't like it, of course. Then again, Chodorow is a master at PR....and ANY PR is good PR.

BeefCheeks is an author, editor, and food journalist.

"The food was terrible. And such small portions...."

--Alvy Singer

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Note: I didn't mean to gloss over Mimi Sheraton or Bryan Miller--both are remarkable writers, particularly the former. Sheraton has also written the sine qua non of German cookbooks, and knows food from all sides of the table.

BeefCheeks is an author, editor, and food journalist.

"The food was terrible. And such small portions...."

--Alvy Singer

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