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Nov 13, 2012 08:28 PM

Hilarious: Pete Wells on Guy Fieri, NYT

Hilarious, awesome scathing review in today's NYT.

"Is the entire restaurant a very expensive piece of conceptual art? Is the shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses while you eat it, or don’t eat it, supposed to be a representation in sugar and eggs of the experience of going insane? "

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  1. Ha, just read and came here to look for a thread!

    Loved the ending listings: "SERVICE The well-meaning staff seems to realize that this is not a real restaurant. "

    1. I just read this earlier tonight and was dying laughing. This was probably the worst review I've read, although he absolutely crushed a Brooklyn restaurant a few weeks ago and I found it to almost be personal, being that adjoining the article were pictures of the chef standing outside his place with huge smiles.

      6 Replies
      1. re: jhopp217

        Which one (in Brooklyn) was that?

          1. re: thegforceny

            I went looking for his recent reviews and Talde seemed the only possibility in the search results (on the NYT website) but he still gave it 1 star and it didn't seem to me as if he "crushed" it. That 2nd visit with the "lost" ticket and service/food problems was certainly bad, but it seemed he was disappointed rather than enraged. He had nice things to say about it when it was still new and also when Talde himself was back in the kitchen on his 3rd visit, and he expressed hope for the place.

            1. re: huiray

              I just watched an episode Of "Life After Top Chef" on Demand, were some of The former Contestants went to his restaurant and were quite impressed with his food.

              1. re: dondcook

                Yes indeed. But then, Dale Talde was personally cooking the dishes for them. :-)

                1. re: huiray

                  Yes, after personally choosing for them as well. Not exactly what you or I might receive.

      2. I thought this was hilarious - but I also think that the NYTimes bothered at all to review it for no other reason than for Pete Wells to break out a scathing review. Does the NYTimes bother reviewing the TGIFridays or Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square?

        I am totally cool with the NYTimes taking a swing at food celebs when they open restaurants that are just there to milk as much money as possible due to their celebrity while providing subpar service and food. However, doing this under the guise of a restaurant review seemed disingenuous.

        40 Replies
        1. re: cresyd

          It sells food to diners. It IS a RESTAURANT. How is writing on it "...under the guise of a restaurant review..." "disingenuous?"

          1. re: thegforceny

            You are right Gforce, but I can actually see what cresyd is saying.

            Take one of your top wine critics and have them do a review of a popular box (not boxed) wine. Anything less than a snark pithy review and they'd be laughed off their wine barrel.

            Box wine is simply a volume play. Can't imagine an American Fare Food Factory in Times Square is any different...

            I would have likely never eaten there, but the review was ridiculous and sophomoric.

            1. re: redips

              Right. It's not like the NYT sends its theatre critics to review high school productions of South Pacific just because they charge admission. It's a funny piece. But it's for a blog; not for the Times.

              1. re: redips

                Exactly. What will Pete Wills negatively review next? Tornadoes? Mutually assured nuclear destruction? Going after easy targets is ultimately just lazy.

                1. re: redips

                  "Take one of your top wine critics and have them do a review of a popular box (not boxed) wine. Anything less than a snark pithy review and they'd be laughed off their wine barrel."

                  This isn't true at all In fact, I have read favorable reviews of boxed wine in the Times.

                  For historical reference, Frank Schoonmaker, the departed one time dean of American wine writers, had good things to say about Boone's Farm forty years ago.

                  1. re: redips

                    As a piece of entertainment, the article/review was wasn't sophomoric, it was funny and clever. And I'd dare say it's informative as a review, even if it just reinforces our preconceptions. Take it for what it is.

                    1. re: boingo2000


                      "you need to do more thinking with your brain" That's a good one

                      1. re: carbonaraboy

                        Whoever this Welzein bloke is, he is not funny.

                    2. re: redips

                      Well, IMHO, if a winery tried to put the best wine they could make for the price into a box......... I'd applaud it.

                      Mass-produced wine IS a volume play, but I really don't judge it outside of the context of its intended consumer market. Where I live, in Southern California, the average bottle price of wine is somewhere between $5 and $6 (I've been told). I don't personally consider wine at those prices to be good quality, but there are millions of people for whom it is as good as they can or wish to afford.

                      Sounds like Guy Fieri is in the Olive Garden/TGI Friday's/Chili's business. Those chains seem to do very well, so why is that bad? Is there a requirement that every restaurant in NYC be a major culinary triumph or a great value? I shudder at even the thought of what the rent must be on a mid-town location like that, so the prices are at least understandable if not a good value.

                      IF the food is really bad, then it casts a shadow on his 'discoveries' on Drive-Ins, Diners & Dives. THAT is disappointing, but I haven't had the exposure to any of those spots to venture an opinion on that.

                      What I DO find interesting about all this, is that his celebrity has allowed him access to appear on just about every early morning network TV show to defend himself. Way to reach out to your base, Guy!!!!!

                      1. re: Midlife

                        "Sounds like Guy Fieri is in the Olive Garden/TGI Friday's/Chili's business. Those chains seem to do very well, so why is that bad? Is there a requirement that every restaurant in NYC be a major culinary triumph or a great value?"

                        No one has come close to arguing that last in this thread.

                        Fieri's media home is a network that purports to be about making and finding *good* food, which comes from all levels of sophistication, from basic and homey to upscale cuisine. This has nothing to do with culinary snobbery.

                        Folks who've visited his DDD reccos have reported the food to be flat out awful, and consumer reviews of this new venture are below par as well. That means that his "base" thinks it sucks, too. I doubt his base is populated by food snobs.

                        1. re: mcf

                          i think that the problem is that the food is both bad and expensive though to tell the truth, i doubt that i will make the effort to findout.

                          Some of the places on DDD are in NYC so trying them is not too difficult. And many of them are places that have been doing the same thing for many years; I like that sense of continuity. If the place is still rocking after 50 years, they must be doing something right.

                          I doubt that Guy's restaurant will be in Time Square long after his show is off the air.

                          1. re: mcf

                            I'm not sure that what you said isn't the same as what I said. I thought I was saying that Fieri's food has an audience just like boxed wine, Olive Garden, etc.. Whether or not I find value in it is important only to me. The one thing, as I said, I would take issue with is any linkage between DD&D's "great food finds" and Fieri's food quality. But, then, I've never been to any of those DD&Ds, OR his NYC venue, so I can't know.

                            1. re: Midlife

                              But so many folks who do know say it sucks.

                              I think there's an awful lot of room between reportedly terrible and overpriced food and "major culinary triumph or a great value."

                              1. re: mcf

                                Well I tend to be very reluctant to impose my own value criteria on the tastes of others, especially where food and wine are concerned. Lots of people say Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck sucks, but they sell something like 5 million cases of it a year, and it is possibly the number one selling wine in the US. To the people buying it (possibly the single largest selling wine in the US) I doubt it "sucks". Just sayin'.

                                1. re: Midlife

                                  I agree with that, which is why detailed descriptions of the food/wine in a review is so critical. It helps us to figure out if our tastes are similar to the writer's. Same way I evaluate the reviews and advice of CHers I've been reading over they years, and weight their judgments accordingly.

                            2. re: mcf

                              I have to disagree with the DDD recs. In Jacksonville, Fl he went to 13 Gypsies, which has a very, very good reputation, one of the best restaurants in Jax. I was surprised he chose it as it is not a diner dive or drive in...albeit a tiny place. He also reviewed a local diner that is very popular and serves excellent diner food. It was packed before begin on his show, and packed after. One other place he reviewed in Ga, a barbecue place also has a great reputation. Can't speak to other places, but the ones he chose that I have been to were very very good restaurants.

                              1. re: karenfinan

                                I think he takes price and decor into account much more than it should. By his standards, I think Peter Luger would be considered a dive. I forget the name of one of the diners he went to, but it's considered one of the best restaurants in a 25 mile radius. I believe it's in Jersey. It's technically a diner, but the menu offers things you can't find in any diner.

                              2. re: mcf

                                I also disagree that the places on diners drive ins and dives have flat out awful food. I have been to several of places he has visited (typically) before they were on tv and many are highly recommended, even by 'food snobs'. Just last night i caught a bit on a place I recently visited on vacation because it was named the best by many resources, including numerous CHs. Sure, I thought some places sucked, but that is a given with all recommendations.

                          2. re: thegforceny

                            The NYTimes doesn't review every restaurant that opens. Is there an NYTimes review for the Cheesecake Factory or Panera? When the NYTimes wrote a food artcile about Pret A Manger, it didn't do it as a review but rather just as an article.

                            Also the Dining & Wine section has two types of restaurant review columns. The namesake "Restaurant Reviews" where places get the full weight of critique and one star still means it's totally worth eating there. And (whether on purpose or not) 4 star restaurants always coincide to being amongst the most expensive places to eat. And then "Hungry City" which reviews ramen shops, pizza places, and other less "generically fine dining" places. Hungry City - which is not always glowing - does not give stars.

                            My point of the "guise of a restaurant review" is that if you look at all the Restaurant Review columns labled as such (and not Hungry City or another article to be found in the Dining section) - the vast majority fit under a loose umbrella of fine dining. Which whatever (very real) issues I'm sure Guy's place in Time's Square has - it's not selling itself that way.

                            Last week, Talde in Park Slope (of Top Chef fame) got a pretty frosty review basically telling him that running a restaurant is not like being on a reality show and that consistency of good food is very important and not just when the cameras are on you. But Dale Talde is a pretty minor star among the Top Chef crowd, let alone the food celebrity world and while the food could be good, it was mostly just inconsistent from visit to visit.

                            I thoroughly enjoyed reading Well's review - I just think it shouldn't have been presented as a restaurant review. Because all of his points regarding service and laziness of the menu and food served would have been more interesting and more honest journalism if approached as something other than a review.

                            I liked it, I thought it was funny - but the idea of this as a Restaurant Review (the way the NYTimes editting staff has defined 'restaurant reviews') felt unnecessarily snide.

                          3. re: cresyd

                            Is there something sacred about a restaurant review? I really don't believe so. Peter Wells is having a bit of fun, and whatever forum he chooses is his business. I happen to appreciate the nature of the pieces as well as the forum he chose. This won't ignite World War III, this won't cure cancer either, so why get all hot and bothered?

                            1. re: Phaedrus

                              I'm not hot and bothered, I said I liked it. I just think it was done strictly for buzz and not as a genuine restaurant review.

                              Had Wells really wanted to say something significant, there are lots of ways he could have written about Guy Fieri, the restaurant and the culture of celebrity restaurants. If he really wanted to write a review highlight how awesome a good burger, chicken wings and fries can be - he could have found that restaurant. But he didn't.

                              1. re: cresyd

                                I disagree: I think he did exactly that. He absolutely nailed what's amiss with this whole Celebrity Chef thing, especially when the CC in question assumes he can just phone it in and the masses will come flocking. Those questions, snide as some seem to be, very accurately surrounded and exposed each significant failure of Fieri's efforts, or more accurately his lack of them. His flailing counterattack today amounted to, "Oh, yeah? Sez who?"

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  If this had been another zero star rating from a nondescript restaurant, the review would have died a natural death. But Wells understood that eviscerating a celebrity chef would go nonlinear for sure. He's feeding off of celebrity to make himself a celebrity, and he did so rather cheaply. As Rick once said said to Ugarte, "I don't mind a parasite. I object to a cut-rate one. "

                                  1. re: carbonaraboy

                                    reviews dying natural deaths don't sell advertising. he's not feeding off celebrity to make himself a celebrity, he's trying to sell newspapers. that's his job.

                                    as to him doing it cheaply, i'm sure he got paid as much or as little for this review as he did for the reviews of le bernadin, etc.

                                    1. re: linus

                                      OK then: it's wanton commercialism on a bed of yellow journalism with a little celebrity on the side. Everything's just ducky as long as we sell papers, regardless of the means. Where's Machiavelli when you really need him?

                                      And the "cheap" to which I was referring is not monetary but related to style, as in cheap shot. And the cut-rate means that there are many celebrity parasites but some sink to the level of cut-rate by their style.

                                      1. re: carbonaraboy

                                        one man's commercialism is another man's capitalism, and unless you'd like to dispute an opinion piece with some facts, it doesn't fit anyone's definition of yellow journalism.

                                        me, i'm dying for an example of a NON cut rate celebrity parasite.

                                        1. re: linus

                                          A noncut-rate celebrity parasite would someone who is justifiably famous in their own right (as in having accomplished something on their own) who then attaches themselves to another celebrity. Bruce Jenner comes to mind. Or the Ali-Cosell relationship. (I can still hear Ali at a press conference: "I made you Cosell!")

                                          Your point about yellow journalism in the current context is right. Can I replace it with "voyeuristicly violent journalism"? Not sure what to call it, but it's like those beatdown videos on Youtube capturing somebody getting their ass kicked, and the pernicious delight that people get from watching them (and I'm as pernicious as the next guy).

                                          I love capitalism but not all capitalism is the same. It depends on how you do it. As in, are you a robber baron or the president of Ben and Jerry's?

                                          1. re: carbonaraboy

                                            I'm a journalist, Wells had every right to write this review. It's not yellow journalism, it's an opinion piece. But thanks for your cheap denigrating shot.

                                            1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                              I'm also a journalist and I totally agree with you. He reviewed a restaurant that was getting a lot of attention - that's what critics do. He did his due diligence by going four times. The fact that it's a chain restaurant, in Times Square, and owned by Guy Fieri doesn't exempt it from review.

                                              1. re: TrishUntrapped

                                                Yeah, that was a poor choice on my part -- I did change my mind about that term (above).

                                                "Cheap denigrating shot"? Maybe. But one could also argue if the use of snide hyperbole to review others work is any different.

                                              2. re: carbonaraboy

                                                Pete Wells was already at what some people might consider the top of his profession: restaurant reviewer for the NYTimes. Now, if he'd used this review to get the job you might have a point, but otherwise I just can't see how this is riding anyone's coattails anywhere.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  Yep. He's basically the most significant newspaper food writer in the nation.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    I also don't think this is out of character with some of his other reviews. Someone else posted his 2002 review on andouillette. Seems like he's always had somewhat of an "edge". It'd be one thing if he normally wrote these boring, bland, reviews and then all of a sudden broke out a new style to generate hype. But that doesnt seem like the case here.

                                              3. re: carbonaraboy

                                                I think when you're in a dying industry, you do whatever you can to stay alive. And yeah, if you need to write a "cheap" review of what is clearly a pathetic attempt to monetize the GF brand, then kudos to him.

                                            2. re: carbonaraboy

                                              BTW, is Fieri really a "chef"? I think he's a cook who got lucky on a TV cooking show, and capitalized on the persona he created. As far as I'm concerned, he's more of a marketer than a chef.

                                              1. re: roxlet

                                                He has no culinary degree, although one of the junior colleges he attended now has a culinary program. His degree from UNLV is in Hotel Management. I Wiki'd...

                                                I think marketer is an appropriate label, roxlet.

                                                And I'm not a Fieri fan.

                                            3. re: Will Owen

                                              I am not arguing that he shouldn't have reviewed it at all -- it's the method he chose. And at some point we have to decide if hyperbolic opinion pieces are equal to journalism. The fact that we have to ask at all is a very telling comment on the current state of things.

                                              What I'm saying is the fact that he could lay a whoopin' on a food celebrity with such a piece was baked into the decision to write it. This was it -- the big chance to go beyond the confines of the food elite. But, in the end, something good may come of all of this (consumption of mass quantities may be bettered), thanks to the Well's decision to use this device. A straight up bad review would never have had this type of run. But that also is a telling comment -- that we need a full bore bully beatdown before we pay attention. I would hope we're better than that.

                                              1. re: carbonaraboy

                                                I personally don't understand people talking about the "right" that Wells had to review Guy's restaurant. Obviously he had the right - but if you look at the history of how the NYT reviews restaurants - this is just not the kind of restaurant they review in the 'serious' context of the NYT evaluating restaurants.

                                                However, what I think is really disappointing is that I think there are other approaches that the NYT Dining & Times section takes for stories that have the crossover of celebrity with food. When Nate Appleman started working at the Chipotle test kitchen - they didn't do a restaurant review of the Chipotle test kitchen.

                                                I think if Wells' point was that Fieri is taking advantage of his celebrity and customers and not even providing a base level of decent food - he could have wrote a far more direct piece. If Wells' point was to review a restaurant and give his opinion of the food - then I don't buy the sincerity of the editorial staff picking that place as worthy of reviewing. If the decision was the put out a flashy review to bring attention to Wells, than forgive me for not being overly thrilled by the piece.

                                                1. re: cresyd

                                                  "I think if Wells' point was that Fieri is taking advantage of his celebrity and customers and not even providing a base level of decent food - he could have wrote a far more direct piece"

                                                  what would be an example of a direct piece?

                                                  i don't understand the concept wells or the nytimes is under any responsibility to publish a "certain kind" of review.
                                                  i understand readers not enjoying the review, the way it was written, etc. that's an opinion everyone posting here has.
                                                  but, again, i don't understand questioning the mere act of reviewing the place. the restaurant is news, it's fair game. it's what the nytimes, or any paper, does.
                                                  they review restaurants to attract readers to sell papers and sell advertising. if this particular review has brought a particularly large amount of attention, shouldn't we be congratulating the nytimes on a job well done?

                                                  1. re: cresyd

                                                    Sometimes things happen that generate so much buzz that news organizations can't ignore them, even if they wanted to -- and I'd argue the opening of this restaurant is one of those cases. It's not like the opening of another Olive Garden. Like it or not, in food circles, this place is actual news.

                                                    And sometimes an event or experience is so absurd that you can't write it straight. Which seems to be what happened here, based on what Wells told Poynter:

                                                    You don't have to agree with his rationale, but I don't think there was any kind of secret agenda involved.

                                        2. (disclaimer, I don't really like the guy, and have not looked more deeply into it).

                                          Funny review!! :-)

                                          To his "defense", he probably just sold his name to some industrial restaurant group wanting to cash in on his celebrity.

                                          Who is/are the actual owners of the restaurant ? Is fieri really involved in this mess ?

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Maximilien

                                            No, he's very much involved. Guy Fieri is the industrial restaurant group, so to speak.

                                          2. Just read it at work and was laughing so loudly that people were asking what I was reading!

                                            Love this: "Somewhere within the yawning, three-level interior of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French fries, already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold?"

                                            The man paints a picture with words; you can taste the disgusting