Earlier this year, NY Times food critic Pete Wells dropped the bong water review heard round the world of chef Thomas Keller's stately Columbus Circle restaurant Per Se. Wells slammed the restaurant's "mangled" food and "sleepwalking" service, ultimately calling the restaurant "among the worst food deals in New York," stripping it down two stars and comparing a mushroom broth to "bong water." At the time, Keller penned an apology to his guests, but hasn't spoken out publicly until an interview with Town & Country in which he admits the review was "devastating."

Unlike David Chang—who hasn't held back his ire following Wells' tepid review of his latest Momofuku entry—Keller has adopted (on paper, anyway) a more amicable viewpoint on the situation.

Six months after Wells's review, Keller tells me he has a strong sense that the critic wasn't out for blood. "Maybe we were complacent," he says. "I learned that, maybe, as a team we were a little bit too arrogant, our egos too exposed." Despite his winking cuisine and insistence on pleasing every guest, Keller has sometimes—as have other chefs of his caliber—been accused of pedantry. Wells, for one, claimed that "servers sometimes give you the feeling that you work for them, and your job is to feel lucky to receive whatever you get."

Immediately following the review, Keller visited each of his restaurants, reassuring his staff of 1,029 that the world wasn't ending. "We make mistakes all the time," he told the magazine. "And a mistake is a missed opportunity. We don't have to totally rethink what we are doing, because we believe in what we do." As Per Se chef de cuisine Eli Kaimeh put it: "You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you."

Coincidentally, the New Yorker published a lengthy profile of Wells this week, in which we learn how the food critic sausage gets made, one borrowed Gandalf robe and Senor Frogs conga line at at time.