Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Aug 16, 2011 07:43 AM

Alan Richman's Scandalous Review of M. Wells in Queens, NY: via GQ

I happen to love his writing, and this article indicates some severe idiocy on the part of M. Wells' owners and staff.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Not quite the type of publicity that the former sous-chef of APDC needs.

    1. Very odd experience.

      On a side note it is my understanding that the place is closing (rent issues). They are however hopping to reopen at a new location. Perhaps that's why the staff didn't care.

      1. The M. Wells owners sound strange. And surely knew they were in legal trouble or on their way before any of this a** slapping occurred. They didn't care.

        1 Reply
        1. My thoughts:

          First off, I don't know the restaurant in question. But I don't trust Alan Richman (I am willing to take his word for it that he probably didn't touch a server inappropriately, though). And while I can understand why he would be troubled by this experience, it's sort of dumb and obnoxious to turn the article into a rant against almost all servers these days, as though poor service in restaurants was only invented in 2003 or so.

          I think a reading between the lines of Richman's article reveals the most likely scenario for what actually happened. My entirely speculative account: the server was slow after their first course. By Richman's own account, one of his dining companions was 'out of line,' which probably translates into pretty nasty behavior when not translated by said diner's friend (Richman). This of course did not endear them to the servers, who made the situation even worse by further avoiding their table. Richman admittedly said something a little rude, making it even less likely the servers would distinguish his behavior from that of his companion.

          Then there is the allegation. I'd bet the server really did tell the owner that Richman patted her behind. Maybe she was afraid of losing her job and made a false allegation. Or maybe even she brushed against a chair or something and honestly but mistakenly thought that one of the belligerent jerks at the table she was passing had given her a pat. I don't know. The owner, hearing this accusation, most likely along with an account from every server on that night about how rude the table was, and also knowing Richman's reputation as, frankly, a dick - she would likely take her server's word, especially if that server was otherwise well trusted.

          Richman makes a big deal of how the owner dealt with the situation, how it might be a ploy to prevent him from writing a bad review. Maybe. But to me, it looks more like a restaurant owner who believes her server's allegation but can't prove anything. She called him out for what she believed he did and indicated that she had no wish to speak with him or see him again - that doesn't seem that odd to me.

          Basically, when Richman admits in print that his friend and dining companion was 'out of line,' I really doubt that the poor service he received was as one-sided as he otherwise made it out to be.

          3 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            That sounds about right to me. Except, I think, once grilled a bit more, the waitress confessed it wasn't a hearty pat really, and maybe wasn't even him. Thus the owner's subsequent softening of the description of the alleged harassment.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Totally agreed. In fact, the bad-service aspect was hardly egregious—desultory dawdling happens all the time. The accusation occurred by e-mail in a journalism-related situation (setting up an interview), not a dining-related one (say, making a reservation).

              In short, the drama of the story had *nothing* to do with service, nothing to do with his dining experience. He could as easily have saved that whole episode for an opinion piece. Instead he included it in the review. Why?

              He doesn't mention that he, too, had a potentially ulterior motive for bringing all this up to his audience, just as she did to him. His was that if the owner really believed all this, she herself could've taken it to the press after his review came out as a way to cry foul. Could he have been preempting her to get his side of the story out there first? And if so, is that what a review should be for?

              Lately it seems critics like AR and Mariani are having to spend entirely too much time defending their demeanor. It does not make for trust on the reader's part.

            2. Doesn't Bourdain have some some beef with this guy?

              5 Replies
              1. re: Evilbanana11

                Yep. Richman gave a poor review to the restaurant scene in New Orleans post-Katrina, which Bourdain thought was a cheap shot. So at the Golden Clog awards (which is something Bourdain and Michael Ruhlman came up with as a joke at a food festival), he gave one to Richman - which called him a ... certain name. Richman retaliated by going to Les Halles and giving them a poor review (which he claims was honest and fair). So Bourdain shot back by devoting a chapter in his book Medium Raw to Richman - and calling him an even worse name.

                Here's a little article about the whole thing, which doesn't make Richman come across any better, imo:


                1. re: romansperson

                  I've been reading GQ and Richman since the 80s. I love his writing. On the other hand, I think Tony Bourdain is a one trick pony. Bourdain's talent isn't in cooking, but in comic exaggeration.

                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                    Different strokes. I happen to like Bourdain quite a bit, but it's obvious he can be an a**hole.

                    But after reading that blog interview, wow. Out of one side of his mouth Richman says that he reviewed Les Halles "with the intention of getting even with Bourdain" then out of the other side of his mouth assures us that everything he wrote was truthful and that his "conscience soared" because of writing that review. I can say with a good bit of confidence that Bourdain was right about him. It makes me even more skeptical of his "scandalous review" here.

                    1. re: LurkerDan

                      "I happen to like Bourdain quite a bit, but it's obvious he can be an a**hole."
                      In the best possible way ;)

                      Even putting aside my fondness for Bourdain, it would be hard to take Richman's side on either his post Katrina write up of New Orleans or his scathing review of Les Halles - which was clearly nothing more than a shot at Bourdain by going after his friends and associates rather than him directly.

                    2. re: Worldwide Diner

                      I like both Richman's and Bourdain's writing - but it's become fairly clear that they both have their own sets of ... character flaws (as do we all, it's just that theirs have been put on public display).

                      As someone who used to write for a living, I've known plenty of writers whose work I have liked but whose personalities left something to be desired. It's just interesting in this case they've been so open about showing these less attractive attributes. Maybe that's just how things are now in the age of reality TV and so on.