Guy Fieri takes his lashings, but was it fair?
BY J.M. HIRSCH Associated Press
Saturday, November 17, 2012
11/17/12 at 5:43 AM
Guy Fieri may not realize it, but being ravaged by a New York Times restaurant reviewer might have been the best thing that could have happened to him.
Sure, the Food Network celebrity probably laments the lashings Pete Wells doled out this week to his 500-seat Times Square ode to down home grub, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar.
Even the upshots of Wells' review probably were tough to take. Such as, "The well-meaning staff seems to realize that this is not a real restaurant." Or this gem, in which Wells references what he says were the best cocktails on the menu: "Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?"
Well, perhaps "best thing" that could have happened is too generous. But it certainly is a survivable thing. Here's why.
I'll be the one to say it - people who care about food and people who heed the Times' reviews, were never going to eat there. Never. And Fieri knew this, or at least he should have.
You don't build a three-story monstrosity of a restaurant smack in the tourism heart of New York with the goal of attracting people looking for great dining. People go to the restaurant, which opened earlier this fall, for an experience. Somewhat comically, that experience has morphed into a game of, "Is it really that bad?"
It's a question that burned on the Web within minutes of Wells' review going viral Tuesday night. Even Fieri's fellow Food Network stars were jumping on that train. "I am planning on visiting Guy Fieri's NYC eatery this weekend because it can't be as bad as all those snooty New Yorkers say," tweeted Alton Brown, adding the hashtag "wishmeluck."
Of course, Fieri does indeed take issue with Wells' thrashing.
"At my restaurants, we always try to live by a very simple notion: that food brings people together," Fieri said in an emailed statement. "I've learned that not everyone agrees with my style. The Times' critic, Pete Wells, clearly did not enjoy his experience. I normally do not respond to reviews or critics, however, given the tone of Pete's piece, it's clear to me that he went into my restaurant with his mind already made up."
Wells, who visited Fieri's restaurant four times before honoring it with his first no-star (and "poor") rating since taking over as the Times' restaurant critic a year ago, denies any agenda.
"I did go in hoping there would be good things on the menu. I would have liked to write the 'man-bites-dog' review," he told Margaret Sullivan, the Times' public editor.
The reality is, that doesn't much matter, either. In plenty of food world circles, the Wells-Fieri slapfest is being billed as the hoity toity Times beating up on the blue-collar guy who just loves him a good feed of beer and wings.
But I don't buy the argument that Wells shouldn't have reviewed it, either because the restaurant was so bad it didn't warrant a review, or because the very nature of the place (and the man behind it) places it outside the league of "real" restaurants that merit reviews.
Fieri has built his career touting the foods of everyday America. If that's what he's going to serve in his restaurant, it seems only fair that he be held to answer for the quality of that food.
Original Print Headline: Was 'poor' restaurant review for Fieri blessing in disguise?