NY Observer article about NYT's William Grimes
Grimes stated intent to revive or restore the star system seems reasonable--Ruth Reichl gave away two stars like candy--and however delightful her prose, we in the business live or die by those stars. Grimes seems a throwback to the good old/bad old days of the ferocious Mimi Sheraton. One star from Mimi and you considered a career driving the big rigs..or maybe mink ranching.Three stars--and you battened down the hatches and dug in for a tidal wave of business. As a previous poster said; Grimes held his own very nicely in the Observer article, and he seems to take the gig seriously--to say the least. He may scare the hell out of me--but I think he's a good thing for the biz in general. I think that however much we may carp about "unfair" coverage by the Times--we chefs at least take them seriously. They have, unlike their shakedown artist/freeloading counterparts at some of the glossies--(and other dailies)--
integrity of sorts. And Grimes IS fun to read--Chefs love nothing more than seeing a colleague get utterly trashed in the Times--however unlovely a character trait that might be. Like it or not--there's a new sheriff in town.
Anyone who is surprised that Grimes has set different standards for his reviews is simply not thinking. Grimes is replacing an icon of the food business. If he attempted to duplicate Reichl's standard, he'd constantly be second-guessed for getting it wrong. This way, he'll still be second-guessed, but only for his own judgement.
Now, as it happens, I don't enjoy his reviews nearly as much as Reichl's. I don't think he's as good as writer. And I since I long ago decided to ignore Reichl's ratings and just read her comments, I haven't really noticed what sort of ratings Grimes is giving.
But it's really far too early to judge Grimes' performance. Give him three or four years and we'll see.
re: Josh Mittleman
I agree with every word you said, Josh. Grimes has the misfortune of following the best prose stylist I've ever seen in a newspaper food critic's chair. I agree with the observers in article who indicate that Grimes has managed to come out of the box with a sense of authority and arrogance.
I also agree that Reichl was too loose with her stars. Not a big problem in and of itself; I agree with Grimes's desire to eliminate "inflation." The only problem is that the ratings of the old restaurants aren't readjusted unless Grimes writes a new reviews. The new restaurants are the ones who need the stars for their survival.
I'm reminded of Frank Rich's reign as theater critic. He was known as the Butcher of Broadway, yet his passion for the theater was manifest; and based on the shows I've seen (and I must confess I'm not a theater maven), he was far too easy. A critic has to be honest, even if it affects the pocketbooks of his or her subjects. And most of all, a good critic must be an effective writer. NY Times readers have been lucky that at least Reichl has been succeeded by a guy with a sense of humor and a little passion who can string words and sentences together -- it could have been a lot worse.
re: Josh Mittleman
I must say that I agree with you in regards to his writing style. I do not think that he has half as much spunk and wit as Ruth (even though I disliked her writing and brown-nosing). As an ex-waiter and manager, he pays no attention to the front of the house, nor the ambiance, which is a major factor for people dining out.
I think the best reviews I read in the NYTimes was one of the writers filling in between Ruth and Grimes. I think his/her name was Mariane, and he/she wrote a brilliantly funny review of an Upper East Side place where the woman was socializing more than running a restaurant (references also to her exposed midrif and hair-throwing antics). I think that they should bring this witty and competent writer back.
re: Jim Leff
Good article in the NY Observer. It reads like Grimes
held his own nicely. I agree with him, Ruth was very free with the Stars. I must admit I love a satisfactory
or less review. They always seem more cleverly written.
That the self important chefs took offense, good! Maybe
but not probably they'll pay more attention to the food and service. But I am sure they'll think it's a conspiracy of one. Like he said he's not writting to please them.