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Mike Isabella Spike Mendelsohn Celebrity Chefs

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#101 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 06 March 2012 - 09:42 PM

Poivrot, someone wrote me a note today that pretty much nailed it: "They're not chefs; they're restaurateurs." If you think of it that way, it's a whole lot easier to swallow, no? No different than that guy singing "Yooou always get your waaay ... at Ourisman Chevrolet!" Or for that matter, Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Passion Food Hospitality, Great American Restaurant Group, or Think Food Group using José Andrés as their pitchman (I honestly don't mean this to be derogatory). It's all just chasing after a pot of money, and has nothing whatsoever to do with skill, talent, or craft. Start thinking of it that way, and you'll be able to sleep at night. I know, I know, they're wearing chef's whites which is what's so bothersome to people like you and me, but at the end of the day, there are a lot of people out there who will do anything for a buck. And that pretty much sums it up.


Precisely why I don't see why we have to respect it. I'm a lawyer. Who the hell thinks lawyers are respectable? At least I'm pretty good at what I do. I would not patronize a restaurant that doesn't put out good food and I'm going to rail against restaurants built on hype. I think it's actually public service to denounce shitty restaurants.

#102 JimRice

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 10:43 AM

I swear to fuck, I think the Washington Post is trolling us. Articles about Spike Mendelsohn's, Mike Isabella's, and Brian Voltaggio's home kitchens, on the same day as an article about the return of the Piratz Tavern. (I expect someone to put up a troll-face here shortly saying "Problem?")

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#103 Sundae in the Park

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 02:26 PM

I swear to fuck, I think the Washington Post is trolling us. Articles about Spike Mendelsohn's, Mike Isabella's, and Brian Voltaggio's home kitchens, on the same day as an article about the return of the Piratz Tavern. (I expect someone to put up a troll-face here shortly saying "Problem?")

Looks like it's time for judicious use of PLEASE STOP!

#104 DonRocks

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Posted 02 April 2012 - 03:22 AM

An absolute must-view here, Morley Safer's brilliant, lethal piece on modern art.

Please do us ALL a favor, and watch it all for its absurdity and sad vacuousness, but pay particular attention at around 9:00 where they start talking about "poor old" Jean-Michel Basquiat, redoubling your attention at around 9:35 where they mention a piece ironically called "Graffito"

Over and over again, the critics essentially say that the emperor has no clothes. And yet, the public continues to buy into the media-driven hype of these vacuous opportunists with a talent only for figuring out how to make money from the masses.

An acerbic, absolutely brilliant documentary which needed to be aired on national television but didn't deter the determined from buying, buying, buying.

Enjoy your burgers!
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#105 dcs

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Posted 08 April 2012 - 10:13 AM

Over and over again, the critics essentially say that the emperor has no clothes. And yet, the public continues to buy into the media-driven hype of these vacuous opportunists with a talent only for figuring out how to make money from the masses.


I am not sure this issue is quite so simple. Counterpoint. Not everyone understood Bitches Brew or Miles Davis at Fillmore when they came out in 1970. I think they are classics. He was breaking barriers most people did not even know existed.

Safer's critique has its genesis in Tom Wolfe's slender classic The Painted Word. He did not care for modern art either, but he is such a good writer that it really makes no difference whether you agree with him or not to enjoy the read.

#106 DonRocks

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Posted 10 May 2012 - 11:55 PM

Another good dinner at Graffiato. I think I might just live a charmed life or . . . something. I went here, in part, because of the recent negative reports, and had basically the same good experience as before. The people working tonight were flat-out fantastic and the pizza was nice and crispy, with a good char on the crust. We also got the pepperoni sauce, which is like I imagine crack to be, and the crispy lamb, which was, indeed, crispy (and particularly lamby, which I like). The only semi-dud we got was the octopus, which was fine, but I've had it better here. I just don't think they got great octopus in today. It happens. The zeppole dessert is fantastic, too.

If Mike Isabella hadn't been on Top Chef this place wouldn't exist. Whatever. In my experience, it's always been good, and it makes me wonder if the haters are just hating on fame in general. If so, they're disrespecting the great staff because their boss was on TV. But I think this is probably not the case. Rather, I can see how this place could get overwhelmed and maybe put out some sub-par stuff when slammed, particularly pizzas (they cook a lot of stuff in that oven, and space is at a premium). So, I guess my advice would be to try it at an off time, or a slow night.


(Hey, you forgot to mention I asked you to post this!)

The problem with "Mike" is that he's too closely linked with "Spike."
One can cook like a journeyman professional cyclist can ride a bike.
(Let's not forget, he was Chef de Cuisine at a restaurant people like.)
The other cooks sloppy, greasy garbage, and needs to take a hike.
And that is why haters gonna hate, sure as a tyke gonna ride a trike.
The difference is the difference between a gutter ball and a strike.
These two chefs, despite appearances, are simply not at all alike.

You know, I really don't enjoy being a prick to this gentleman, but to issue false praise would be like endorsing McDonald's just because it's famous and popular. Despite its playful nature, this is a deadly serious restaurant website, and I owe our readership nothing less than honesty and integrity. Spike Mendelsohn may well be one of the five most famous chefs in the Washington, DC area right now, and that is nothing short of a fucking joke, and it's an absolute insult to the 1,000 unknown, hard-working line cooks in this area supporting their families while making $15 dollars an hour who can cook circles around him. Yes, that's right, I said one thousand.

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#107 frogprince

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 02:27 AM

(Hey, you forgot to mention I asked you to post this!)

The problem with "Mike" is that he's too closely linked with "Spike."
One can cook like a journeyman professional cyclist can ride a bike.
(Let's not forget, he was Chef de Cuisine at a restaurant people like.)
The other cooks sloppy, greasy garbage, and needs to take a hike.
And that is why haters gonna hate, sure as a tyke gonna ride a trike.
The difference is the difference between a gutter ball and a strike.
These two chefs, despite appearances, are simply not at all alike.

You know, I really don't enjoy being a prick to this gentleman, but to issue false praise would be like endorsing McDonald's just because it's famous and popular. Despite its playful nature, this is a deadly serious restaurant website, and I owe our readership nothing less than honesty and integrity. Spike Mendelsohn may well be one of the five most famous chefs in the Washington, DC area right now, and that is nothing short of a fucking joke, and it's an absolute insult to the 1,000 unknown, hard-working line cooks in this area supporting their families while making $15 dollars an hour who can cook circles around him. Yes, that's right, I said one thousand.


oh wait this aint facebook, i suppose i cant "like" this, let alone LOVE IT

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#108 DonRocks

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 10:37 AM

oh wait this aint facebook, i suppose i cant "like" this, let alone LOVE IT


Don't forget, you guys can always link to my posts on Facebook. Who knows, maybe one day I'll go viral! (To get the URL, for example, you'd go up to the top-right of my post and click on #62, and no, I'm not asking that people do this, but that's how it's done. Easy, right?)

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#109 Mark Dedrick

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Posted 11 May 2012 - 02:18 PM

I essentially agree with Don on this. I really liked Zaytinya when Mike Isabella was there, and all three meals I've had at Graffiato have been very good. Spike isn't in the same league as Isabella from what I've seen them put out. Mike has certainly used his fame to further his professional ambitions. Graffiato probably wouldn't exist without Top Chef, and it certainly wouldn't have generated the same amount of hype leading to a second (and third) restaurant this quickly. But I can't really hate on him for that. I'd do the same thing were I in his position. At least his popular restaurant is good.

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#110 Lori Gardner

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 08:03 AM

Don- your little ditty is hilarious! and I agree with most of it, except I don't think Mike is closely linked to Spike at all. They were both on "Top Chef" and both portrayed as essentially the "bad guys" but comparisons end there. (or they should) I think most people in this town understand the difference in the quality of their cooking. Does anyone really think less of Mike Isabella because he is friends with - or on the same television show- as Spike?

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#111 DonRocks

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 10:04 AM

Don- your little ditty is hilarious! and I agree with most of it, except I don't think Mike is closely linked to Spike at all. They were both on "Top Chef" and both portrayed as essentially the "bad guys" but comparisons end there. (or they should) I think most people in this town understand the difference in the quality of their cooking. Does anyone really think less of Mike Isabella because he is friends with - or on the same television show- as Spike?


Lori, I suspect entire books can be (and have been) written on this same subject, but even though I suspect no individual would admit to such a primitive, media-influenced line of thinking, there is indeed a groupthink mentality going on, both among the fans (who frequent both restaurants) and the "haters" (who take personal swipes at both people). Both men have names that rhyme, both "showed up" around the same time, both are suddenly two of the most "known" culinary figures in the city, both came from Top Chef, and both appear in an awful lot of photos and publicity events, always smiling for the camera (I almost desperately want to have a beer with these gentlemen just so I can see them *not* smile - those of us who know them primarily through the internet will know what I mean. Amanda and Nycci, you can come too. B)). So yes, I think that as illogical as it sounds, "Spike and Mike" (which even sounds like a candy) are linked like "Kirk and Spock," "Bird and Magic," "Haut-Brion and La Mission Haut-Brion," take your pick. I'd say that Mike would be doing well do divorce himself from this, but that may not actually be true - there is no arguing with the success and popularity of both men, and they're sure doing something right. Honestly? Despite me being critical of Spike's food (what else am I supposed to do?), I say, good for them and God love 'em both. And on a much larger scale, it's the same with José Andrés. You won't see me pimping them just because they're famous, but I do try and discuss their restaurants on unbiased terms. Do they hate me? I don't know, I hope not.

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#112 hmmboy

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 10:14 AM

Honestly, I find all this Spike bashing distasteful and, frankly, a bunch of crap. He has opened up very successful restaurants catering to the masses and I think they were executed exactly as he envisioned. Why is his decision to pursue commercial success (which he has, by any measure, achieved) looked down upon? Because of a few inartfully phrased quotes in the press? Have all of you not uttered things you wished you had reflected further upon and wished you could retract. I dare say that the ditty scribe himself has retracted dozens, if not hundreds, of errant comments on this board after further reflection. I, too, had my favorite meals at Zaytinya when Chef Isabella was at the helm. But it is absurd to make comparative judgements on their respective cooking skills. I am in no position to do so and neither are any of you. The fact is that Spike cooked his ass off during his 2 seasons on Top Chef and made many dishes that looked scrumptious, and by the comments of Tom, Eric, etc., were just that. I am quite certain that he could cook circles around all of the bashers, blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back.
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#113 DonRocks

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 10:36 AM

Honestly, I find all this Spike bashing distasteful and, frankly, a bunch of crap. He has opened up very successful restaurants catering to the masses and I think they were executed exactly as he envisioned. Why is his decision to pursue commercial success (which he has, by any measure, achieved) looked down upon? Because of a few inartfully phrased quotes in the press? Have all of you not uttered things you wished you had reflected further upon and wished you could retract. I dare say that the ditty scribe himself has retracted dozens, if not hundreds, of errant comments on this board after further reflection. I, too, had my favorite meals at Zaytinya when Chef Isabella was at the helm. But it is absurd to make comparative judgements on their respective cooking skills. I am in no position to do so and neither are any of you. The fact is that Spike cooked his ass off during his 2 seasons on Top Chef and made many dishes that looked scrumptious, and by the comments of Tom, Eric, etc., were just that. I am quite certain that he could cook circles around all of the bashers, blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back.


I figured you might chime in, and your comments are thoughtfully considered, if, shall we say ... errant. :) His "decision to pursue commercial success" is looked down upon because it has come at the expense of quality, as it so often does. Speaking for myself only, I have never seen either person on Top Chef (or, for that matter, anyone else on Top Chef), and personally refer to *only* what I see being offered to the public at their restaurants. I haven't been much more critical of Good Stuff Eatery than I have Five Guys (and I will add that I was pretty much the first "media" person (if you can call me that) to criticize Five Guys), and I couldn't name one single individual associated with that organization. I am uninfluenced by fame, and try to call things as I see them, and I definitely see a link in public perception between these two individuals, whereas the qualities of food coming from Graffiato and Good Stuff Eatery are not at all alike, and that's *all* that matters from my perspective. Both men are responsible (in my eyes) for their own kitchens and what is coming out of them. Can Spike Mendelsohn cook, or run a kitchen, like Haidar Karoum? Maybe so, and I look forward to supporting him when I see it being offered to the public. Want an example? Joe's Pizza and Pasta Place vis-a-vis Il Canale.

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#114 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 11:52 AM

Honestly, I find all this Spike bashing distasteful and, frankly, a bunch of crap. He has opened up very successful restaurants catering to the masses and I think they were executed exactly as he envisioned. Why is his decision to pursue commercial success (which he has, by any measure, achieved) looked down upon?


Mickey D's has served billions of burgers, and is much more successful than Spike, yet do we not snicker at people who eat there like we snicker at the people of Walmart? In 'n Out is another burger franchise but it gets raves. Why shouldn't Spike be subject to derision when he's serving crap? Why is criticizing him any more crappy than people praising your restaurants? At the end of the day, it's just people expressing their honest opinions, which they have every right to do without you telling them it's a bunch of crap.

The fact is that Spike cooked his ass off during his 2 seasons on Top Chef and made many dishes that looked scrumptious, and by the comments of Tom, Eric, etc., were just that. I am quite certain that he could cook circles around all of the bashers, blindfolded with one hand tied behind his back.


I saw both seasons and thought he basically sucked. He finished in 5th place in his first attempt, got booted rather quickly in the all-schmucks season, was the first to be eliminated in the next Iron Chef competition. He came across as a first class schmuck.

#115 will_5198

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 02:29 PM

Spike Mendelsohn may well be one of the five most famous chefs in the Washington, DC area right now, and that is nothing short of a fucking joke, and it's an absolute insult to the 1,000 unknown, hard-working line cooks in this area supporting their families while making $15 dollars an hour who can cook circles around him.


You could say the same for certain pop stars, authors of disposable fiction, summer blockbuster actors and lobbyist-loving politicians. They all have more talented counterparts that toil in anonymity, but being talented has never been a requirement for becoming a celebrity in America.

Spike is just a cog in the machine. I don’t enjoy his establishments, but he’s a seemingly shrewd businessman who is capitalizing on our burger reverence (not unlike every other chef in the country). By all means critique the hell out of his food if you want (that's what this site is for), but his celebrity status is simply a reflection of our TMZ culture, not an indictment against hardworking line cooks or the state of D.C. restaurants.

#116 DonRocks

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Posted 12 May 2012 - 06:41 PM

You could say the same for certain pop stars, authors of disposable fiction, summer blockbuster actors and lobbyist-loving politicians. They all have more talented counterparts that toil in anonymity, but being talented has never been a requirement for becoming a celebrity in America.

Spike is just a cog in the machine. I don’t enjoy his establishments, but he’s a seemingly shrewd businessman who is capitalizing on our burger reverence (not unlike every other chef in the country). By all means critique the hell out of his food if you want (that's what this site is for), but his celebrity status is simply a reflection of our TMZ culture, not an indictment against hardworking line cooks or the state of D.C. restaurants.


I agree with virtually all of what you say.

You know, I'm not the biggest Vladimir Horowitz fan, but sometimes fame is well-deserved. I think there are certain people in this world who would do well to watch this entire video and think about things.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZm7OW3ufbc&feature=related

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#117 Bart

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Posted 15 May 2012 - 01:06 PM

Graffiato probably wouldn't exist without Top Chef, and it certainly wouldn't have generated the same amount of hype leading to a second (and third) restaurant


Completely true! Mike himself told me that. No, I don't know him, just ate there once and had a 5 minute conversation with him at Graffiato.

I was a fan of his on Top Chef so we flagged him down and told him so. I don't know how it came up, but he flat out admitted that none of this would be possible without the exposure on Top Chef.

#118 JPW

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 07:54 AM

In related news - the space formerly occupied by the unlamented late Againn in Rockville is slated to become another Chef Geoff's.

Then again it's hard not to be a fan of a guy who goes out of his way to bash speed cameras AND who is married to the delicious Norah O'Donnell.

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#119 DanielK

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 09:18 AM

In related news - the space formerly occupied by the unlamented late Againn in Rockville is slated to become another Chef Geoff's.

Then again it's hard not to be a fan of a guy who goes out of his way to bash speed cameras AND who is married to the delicious Norah O'Donnell.


Can we be a fan of the guy without being a fan of his restaurants? I've never had a meal at Chef Geoff's that I didn't consider mediocre (and overpriced.)

#120 DonRocks

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 10:20 AM

Can we be a fan of the guy without being a fan of his restaurants? I've never had a meal at Chef Geoff's that I didn't consider mediocre (and overpriced.)


That's pretty much where I am. Geoff's a Facebook friend and (assuming it's him updating his profile) seems very nice. Don't forget also that Cesare Lanfranconi is chef at Lia's and the pastas there are good now (and there are half-price bottles of wine there on Mondays).

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#121 zoramargolis

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 10:31 AM

In related news - the space formerly occupied by the unlamented late Againn in Rockville is slated to become another Chef Geoff's.

Then again it's hard not to be a fan of a guy who goes out of his way to bash speed cameras AND who is married to the delicious Norah O'Donnell.


Well, I haven't had that problem since I heard him interviewed on the radio complaining that providing paid sick leave for his employees would cost too much which was mere days after being pictured in the Post in his gazillion dollar new home kitchen.

#122 Barbara

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Posted 16 May 2012 - 11:23 AM

Can we be a fan of the guy without being a fan of his restaurants? I've never had a meal at Chef Geoff's that I didn't consider mediocre (and overpriced.)


On Monday, I was sitting in my Dentist's chair while he told me about the meh Mother's Day meal he had just eaten in the Great Falls Chef Geoff's. Apparently, that opinion was shared by everybody in his party, including his MIL. Had my appointment been last week, I could have steered him clear. Sigh.





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