Times Picayune's Brett Anderson responds to Alan Richman
I tried to post this earlier but it was moved to the Media forum. I wanted to get some reaction from New Orleans folks on Alan Richman's GQ article (no link) on new orleans, a related podcast.
Brett Anderson response in the Times Picayune
I haven't read Richman's piece (just Anderson's response) b/c I couldn't find it. . . But:
The description of the article made Richman seem very mean spirited and showed that he doesn't comprehend the concept of "regional" food. I'm originally from Los Angeles and have been to many fine restaurants there and all over the country/world. The only "bad" part about New Orleans' food is the lack of variety. For instance, I have yet to find a very good Chinese, Japanese, or Thai restaurant. But the actual New Orleans' food is solid.
I think the food here rivals any great restaurant outside of the city - but you have to go in understanding that all you will get is good traditional New Orleans' style food. You're not going to get fusion cuisine or anything avant-garde or anything new. I'd say chefs (like at Dick & Jenny's and Jaques Imos and Emeril's) play around a little with the ingredients and sides - but it is basically all cajun/creole New Orleans food. And it's good. Can you eat it day in day out forever? I can't. But I like it when I have it.
I think the good restaurants in town serve quality ingredients and flavorful food. I wish everything wasn't fried or served in a reduced butter/cream sauce (being from LA - I'm used to grilled food no butter aded) - but that's just not this town's style. It's not what the food is. Richman's complaining about the food here is like me complaining that sushi is served with rice. It makes no sense - that's what the food is. If you don't like it - don't eat it.
Alan Richman's ignorance of his subject makes the review laughable. Was it supposed to be comedic? I’ve read his reviews before and agreed with a few recommendations. I thought “Stick a Fork in Jean-Georges” was an excellent piece of work, but after having heard the offal passed off as a podcast on www.odeo.com I can’t really take this critic seriously again. Our tastes change as we age. As a 35 year old reader of QG I ask you this: is it time to “Stick a Fork in Alan Richman”?
The last time we were in N.O. (January 2005), we certainly had dishes at The Bombay Club and Herbsaint that weren't "traditional Cajun/Creole", and were definitely inventive and wonderful, in addition to having great traditional food elsewhere. I think Mr. Richman needs to get out more.
interesting post. got me to look up arcadia/acadian and found some great but regrettable history of the exile of the French settlers (originally from the Loire Valley)from Nova Scotia, ultimately to Louisiana. Cajun is a derivation of Acadian, I understand.
12,000 French Acadians were deported to Louisiana in the mid 1700's hence the French influence on the area cuisine. So maybe not too far fetched to say Cajun cuisine was brought [at least in part] from Canada.
He does think Emeril is a Cajun, although he is from New England, with Portuguese roots.
Something else from Richman:
"Supposedly Creoles can be found in and around New Orleans. I have never met one and suspect they are a fairie folk, like leprechauns, rather than an indigenous race." This after he spoke with Leah Chase.
The criticisms of the food are no insult, but the fact that he calls himself a journalist after writing such an ignorant piece is amazing. I can't understand how some of this stuff survived the editorial process.
Some good reading here:
"I've never had much luck eating in New Orleans." is the first sentence in Richman's GQ article. The third paragraph is: "I think people either take to the city or they do not. They buy into the romance, or they abhor the decadence. I know where I stand." Now we all do as well. Still, I read on, although I think he could and should have stopped right then and there. That, at least, would have been fair.
He has taken on alot in this article, in my opinion. He muses that he is not certain the dining was ever as good as its reputation, because many who admire NOLA were probably not sober when eating it.
If a writer doesn't 'get it', never has, then perhaps he isn't worthy of evaluating it. He lays much responsibility on the cuisine and restaurants to help restore NOLA. Pretty big burden if one asks me, especially considering that NOLA is a shell of its former self, the much needed tourist industry only trickling back (he doesn't really take to tacky tourists, as if there aren't any in NYC filling the coffers of many a fine restaurant there. That any of the restaurants, big and small, shacks or Commander's Palace, had the courage to come back is amazing!
I will finish with this. Richman writes: "New Orleans, to me, is a city of crooks and cooks. When I went down there for a week in July, I made a point of going to most of the important restaurants that had reopened." He mentions very few of them, reserving his praise for August, which is praise worthy. And Cafe du Monde! Hey, not everybody loves po boys.
I could go on and on and on. Enough to say NOLA is not his kind of city, not his kind of cuisine (however it is defined) and wasn't before the unprecedented devastation of Katrina, one of the worst natural diasters ever to happen in this country, if not the worst, which took away much more than fine dining. I say Richman, stick to your comfort zone, where ever it is.
If as you say "He muses that he is not certain the dining was ever as good as its reputation"
then why does he have Commander's Palace listed as the #1 restaurant on his 10 RESTAURANTS THAT STILL MATTER????
If it was never that good, why is it there written by his own hand?
and he states "They all deserve your everlasting respect, to say nothing of your patronage. If you pass them up, you’re missing a taste of history."
Everlasting respect, or at least until next year? He obviously "did get it" at one point, but now says just the opposite.
Beats me! He does mention Commander's in GQ. He writes: Commander's must return to business for no other reason than to safeguard its Creole bread-pudding souffle. I doubt that it's Creole, but it's one of the few variations of that dish worth eating." Maybe the guy has had a few too many bottles of whatever vintage of whatever he prefers? (he comes down hard somewhere for being served the right wine he ordered, but the wrong year!) I think his placing Commanders on his "10 Restaurants That Still Matter" list has more to do with its historic value than the cuisine. He holds it high as it has never served Cajun food, no matter what "tourists" think. He has a distain for tourists.
What I have quoted from the article in GQ really isn't the full story. He would like to see restaurants in NOLA raise up to come standard he has set in his own mind as part of the rescue of NOLA. I think. Please, grab a copy and read it!