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Feb 28, 2007 12:00 PM

The Politics of Food

I'm not sure if you saw recently, the one page advertisement in the NY Times from Jeffrey Chodorow of China Grill Management, to the Editor of the Times regarding Frank Bruni's review of Kobe Club. The gist of the message was two-fold: 1) That the Bruni owed the employees of Kobe Club an apology because the review was more about Codorow than actually the quality food that the employees were creating; and 2) That while Bruni is an accomplished writer, Chodorow suggests that he is not qualified as a food critic.

Clearly, in this world, the politics of people affect most everything. It affects government, it affects industry, it affects the way we think about issues, etc. Ultimately, though, politics is driven by people, and frankly good marketing. So who do we believe?

This little tiff between Chodorow and Bruni reminded me of the single star that Bruni gave to Morimoto. From what I heard through the rumor-mill, New York and Philadelphia restaurants and restaurateurs don't get along. Hence, because Morimoto is a Starr restaurant, Bruni seemed to give Morimoto a review based on, like Chodorow is suggesting, the restaurateur, rather than the food. Disregarding Bruni's review and wanting to be in the presence of an Iron Chef, I decided to take several different friends there on several different occasions. Every time I went, I got the Omakase and have to admit, some of the dishes weren't great, but were nowhere near a one star rating. Not to forget the fact that Morimoto is an Iron Chef!

This time, though, Bruni's review did have an impact on me and I haven't gone to Kobe Club, despite my affinity for steak. However, who's to say that Bruni's opinion is the end-all, especially now that I know that he's not a "trained food critic." Chodorow makes a very important point here. How is the NY Times restaurant critic, with one of the largest readership bases in the US, not someone with a food background. Instead, as Chodorow points out in his letter, Bruni wrote about politics in Italy before coming to the US. Clearly, as Chodorow once again points out, Bruni is an excellent writer (in his last review he used the word: pulchritudinous, which I had to look up and means: Characterized by or having great physical beauty and appeal. He clearly is a good writer for using a world like that) but how can I now trust his taste buds when I know they are no longer trained in the subtle art of taste distinction? I feel cheated now want to see Bruni's resume.

What did I learned from this entire episode? Go and try it for myself, and see what I think!

What did you learn?

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  1. i doubt that many food writers are "trained in the subtle art of taste distinction." how on earth could something like that be taught? in any case, this is probably a topic for not about food or food and media news.

    1. The original comment has been removed
      1. oes on go about getting trained as a food critic? Does one actually go through a formal training to be an MFK Fisher? There is, of course, the talent for writing, but how does one train the palate and more importantly translate the palate's sensations into word? R. W Apple was a writer befor he became a food critic, Calvin Trillin was a writer, Jeffey Steingarten was a lawyer. There is no such thing as a "trained" food critic. You eat, you appreciate, you gain knowledge, and then you learn to put what you tasted and your food knowledge into words. Chodorow is asking for too much if he is asking for a trained food critic. Perhaps he means to ask for an unbiased food critic. That is different, but similarly imposible.

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. Bruni lived in Rome for some years. What better training is there?

            3 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Living all over the world would be much better training if being able to understand the diversity of cuisines is an important attribute.