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By: Andrew Zimmern | Posted: 11/21/2012
If you thought the Fieri review that Pete Wells published in The New York Times last Wednesday was rough, check out these beauties from the NYT archive courtesy of Buzzfeed. The Wells review link is at the bottom of the stack. I remember several reviews I wrote with particular glee, a perverse schadenfreude that comes from the divine intersection of doing your job properly and being able to really sharpen the knives to an appropriate edge. It’s rarely the case. If I am reviewing a restaurant and have a bad experience I simply say nothing—most of the time. A restaurant I never talk about is probably a clue that I have a) never gone or b) it’s awful. Sometimes both. I can recall several reviews by David Fhima that I treasured for the level of snark in the prose. Same with a North Coast review, and another about the bozo who opened two restaurants (one in the old Goodfellows space, the other in a mall) and told everyone he was the second coming of Danny Meyer. Come to think of it, his chef was the same one who was coking at North Coast when I trashed it. I forget his name but the food at both places was just terrible. There was the one about an old restaurant at the Hilton called Skywater that my editor wouldn’t publish if my memory serves me right. That was one of the worse meals I have ever eaten in this town.
But my rule of thumb is pretty standard: If you are spending a year in the press telling us all how good you are and how amazing your food is, or if you insist on being ‘in the game,’ guess what, you’re in. I don’t savage small little humble boites. Ever. What’s the point? I would rather recommend places than tell you not to go . . . but sometimes a place is so big, so talked about, I feel obligated to tell you to save your money. My opinion on the Wells piece is big enough to write about in our magazine, but suffice to say I think Guy Fieri is as follows:
A good guy that I like and I spend time with when we are in same place for more than five minutes. We have each other’s numbers, we talk, and we are friends. When he was in Minneapolis last time, we hung out and I shot a Triple D with him at Lola. He is misunderstood. This man won a contest on Food Network with his Kewl, on point, big bowl of awesome ‘tude and his number got called. The Faustian bargain went down and he became the Lambo driving rock star with a gazillion dollar empire. All of that was his choice, I am aware of that; believe me, and he is, in a perverse way, a victim of his own mega success. He can’t turn that off or turn the volume down because his fans would have a shit-fit. And his fans are not mine or Bourdain’s or a lot of other peoples. His fans don’t read the arcane food blogs, don’t know who David Chang or Fred Morin or Seamus Mullen or Fergus Henderson are. They don’t care about the new boom in artisanal domestic ryes or have a food crush on the Food 52 ladies. They want Donkey Sauce.
Guy has a huge heart and has done a ton of good with Triple D for the little eateries around the USA who we would otherwise never hear about. He is a devoted husband and dad and generous to a fault. And he is big enough to laugh at the Wells review in the best sense of the word. But there is something very serious about that review. It’s brilliant on several levels. If you open a big restaurant in the middle of the biggest food town in the world, and you are the biggest commercial food star in America, then you are calling for everyone to take their best shot. Wells had to review the place. It’s culturally imperative. The crowds flocking to Guy’s place despite the awful fare (I have not eaten there, but about 20 friends of mine have and not a single person enjoyed it) are an important part of the story, and with all of Guy’s reach and the size of his deals, I am shocked he didn’t make the food sing. His menu isn’t my cup of tea, but making a loaded burger taste good isn’t an impossible task! The best revenge would be for him to take the next month or two and polish that baby till it’s shiny. Then invite Wells to lunch.
Andrew Zimmern is a columnist for Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and the host of Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern.See bio
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