Thursday, February 22, 2007

Somebody Call the Waaaaaaahmbulance!

Jeffery Chodorow, the successful (just ask him) Manahattan restauranteur who brought us such gems as, well, Rocco DiSpirito (!) has lost his mind. How best to punish the New York Times for a bad review of Kobe Club , Chodorow's latest adventure in bad judgement? By placing an expensive (between 40K and 115K reportedly) full page ad of course!

Pissed off from one too many bashings from Times critic Frank Bruni, Chodorow snapped. He challenged Bruni's credibility, a tired subject at this point. "The drama critic is probably not a plumber," Chodorow writes. "The art critic is probably not a CPA. The fact that he's a good writer does not make him an expert on restaurants." Chodorow makes his point by noting that in Rome Bruni covered Italian politics, not food. Don't you just love the egomaniacal self-importance infused in that sentiment? Sure, this Bruni guy might be able to make sense of the arcane political systems that underpin all aspects of Italian life, but understand what goes on in a kitchen? Naaaaaaah!

This tearjerking excerpt is the best part of Chodorow's ad, though:

"Ever since my ill-fated collaboration with Rocco DiSpirito on the TV show, The Restaurant, critics for the New York Times (and certain other publications) have been very hard on me. This was no exception. Admittedly, there was that one errant clam (out of a 3-tier seafood tower). Unfortunately, bad clams happen, occasionally, but how does a review in which the main player, Kobe beef, is acknowledged by Mr. Bruni to be perfectly prepared, warrant zero stars?

I don’t know what I actually did to engender these personal attacks on me. I opened Rocco’s with the best of intentions. After all, what’s a better story than a talented
avant-garde chef going back to his roots to cook the food he grew up on with the mother he loves. I also love my mother so it was easy for me to be seduced by the
idea. I don’t think anybody could have predicted that outcome."

Allow me to explain, Mr. Chodorow. How does a perfectly prepared Kobe steak warrant zero stars? When it is served in an ugly room and is laughably overpriced. Personal attacks? I did not percieve this review as an attack on you, but if you did perhaps it is this narcissim that contributes to the underwhelming performance of your restaurants. For example, a "better story" than an avante garde chef cooking old favorites with his beloved mother is an an avante garde chef cooking great avante garde food! As for no one seeing Rocco's collapse coming, I vividly recall an episode where Eric Ripert and Anthony Bourdain visited and sampled the food. I'll quote Bourdain: "This utterly blows." How's that for fair warning that that your restaurant might suck?

"I fully understand why Jeffrey Chodorow would be disappointed by the review I gave Kobe Club and some of his other restaurants," Bruni said in response to Chodorow's attack. Ha! Me too! In giving Kobe Club zero stars, Bruni dismissed the restaurant's design (which features 2000 samurai swords hanging from the ceiling) as "bad theme park" and said while the swords shouldn't scare diners, "the food and the bill should." Oh, Snap!

OK, so Bruni can be a bit harsh. He's pretty much on point. Mr. Chodorow can't say the same, although The Restaurant, which was filmed on Spoon's block, was awesome train-wreck TV. But restauranteurs like Mr. Chodorow should really trhink twice before attacking food critics for not being chefs or kitchen professionals. After all, Mr. Chodorow, who do you think eats in your restaurants?--F

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