Remember how yesterday the New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells, like many before him, went and reviewed Guy Fieri's Times Square restaurant Guy's American Kitchen & Bar? And did so in a spectacular, all-question slam? Did you know that since then the review of a restaurant by a restaurant reviewer has become such a significant "thing" that this morning the Today Show actually called it a "controversy?" And that this means we're going to keep talking about a second-rate Times Square eatery for the next few days? Who knows, maybe Obama will stop by when he visits town today.
"I thought it was ridiculous, that to me was so overboard," Guy Fieri, who flew into the city to milk the review for all it was worth, told The Today Show's
Eve Harrington Savannah Guthrie in his first interview since his restaurant got more international press than it could have if he'd featured it on his hit show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Apparently he felt that Wells had come "in with a different agenda" ("I think we all know what is going on here," he added, throwing a little class warfare into the mix).
"Great way to make a name for yourself, go after a celebrity chef that’s not a New Yorker," Fieri said. Because really, Pete Wells—who was the Dining editor at the New York Times for five years before becoming its restaurant critic—was a total nobody before he took on the Next Food Network Star star. Further, Fieri was upset that Wells reviewed the restaurant when it was open only a few months (he must have hated our day two peek).
The thing is, Fieri is just wrong on this one. Wells was doing what a restaurant critic is supposed to do, and in spectacular fashion. What makes his review sting so bad is that he makes valid points both about Guy's and, as Saveur's Helen Rosner eloquently notes, about Fieri himself:
So what Pete isn’t saying in his review is what you might get on a surface read: “Ha ha, Obviously Shitty Restaurant is obviously shitty.” What he’s saying to Guy (and can we pause for a moment to acknowledge the rare successful deployment of the open-letter format in this review? If nothing else, Pete Wells, you are a champion for that) is hey, dude, no one is expecting Le Bernardin here. No one is even expecting Shake Shack. But Guy Fieri is the champion of the terrible-wonderful, he is the guy who lifted the veneer of shame from the chili-cheese-bacon-slaw-dog and taught us—not the “us” that is the five thousand of us who read food blogs and debate the relative merits of different types of hipster vermouth, but the “us” that is, like, actually everyone in America—that you can get your fix of soul-satisfying, sort of intimidating, deeply wonderful, calorically-dense, artery-freezing food without having to go to a soul-sucking chain restaurant.
And unfortunately Fieri’s actual restaurant "in its extraordinary culinary ineptitude—its disrespect for both its product and its patrons—undoes every bit of that incredibly powerful, very pro-food, very pro-human-scale action that Guy has engendered with his television show and his public presence."
Anyway, suck it up Guy. Maybe even take some of Wells's criticism to heart. Because all this review has done is made more people, even famous people, aware of/eager to try your restaurant:
I am planning on visiting Guy Fieri's NYC eatery this weekend because it can't be as bad as all those snooty New Yorkers say. #wishmeluck
— Alton Brown (@altonbrown) November 14, 2012