May 21, 2007

Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick

Jeffrey Chodorow a few months back paid $30,000 to place an ad in the New York Times bashing Frank Bruni, the New York Times food critic (and food critics in general), for an unfavorable rating. While I agreed with much of what he had to say, I imagine him to be the kind of guy who would pick up the kickball and take it home if something wasn’t to his liking.

The problem wasn’t his opinions; critics are not the be-all-end-all arbiter’s of taste they’d like to believe they are, especially Bruni. The issue rather stems from the medium he used. Taking out a full-page ad to tell about how great his restaurant was doing despite Bruni’s negativity? Poor form. Take it like a man…all the way to the bank.

While Chodorow may have been outraged at no one fighting for restaurateurs against pompous critics, do it through a proper medium. Write an op-ed, get another paper to write an article (Think the NY Post wouldn’t be a potentially receptive ear to bash the Times?) perhaps another established critic to disagree; all better ways of getting your point across. While I can’t place myself in Chodorow’s shoes, being a lowly anonymous blogger and all, I’d like to think he is a bit better than bullying. While his ad did get the point across clearly, some believe the potential ramifications are less than stellar.

Which brings us to round 2 of Chodorow vs. the critics: Wild Salmon.

Eater has an analysis of Adam Platt’s review of Wild Salmon, yet another Jeffrey Chodorow establishment. While Platt’s article places Wild Salmon in the distinctly “blah” category, Eater believes he never goes for the jugular. Because of Chodorow’s NY Times’ ad coupled with his powerhouse PR firm, critics are now forced, according to Eater, “to find a way to pan the restaurant without really, wholeheartedly tying it to the proverbial train tracks.” Obviously this has problems galore, if it’s true.

But while Eater wants to look at elements of Platt being overly timid, and is possibly right on some counts, they overshot their mark in the name of drama. Some of Eater’s statements are critiques of Platt’s style rather than critiques of his critique (Definitely overused that word). You want the truth? Look to the number of stars Platt gave; 1 out of 5. That’s a pretty clear indication of how he really feels.

While quick little numbers take away from the substance of the overall review (a separate topic all together), they give a great overview of how the author ultimately felt, in this case 20% of an amazing restaurant; not enough to make me want to run out and throw around Washingtons over at Wild Salmon. Yea that’s how I roll.

I’m not ready to believe that critics are going to comprise themselves on Chodorow’s behalf; I’ll be keeping watch on Wild Salmon reviews and we’ll see where the critics stand when the dust settles. Hopefully pompous and pretentious win out in the end; I couldn’t handle myself if the status quo were to change.

Critics: 1 Drama: 0

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