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When Restaurants Fight Back


jpschust
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Check this out!

As a fan of letter writing I love this:

http://gawker.com/news/dining/jeffrey-chod...runi-238396.php

Should be interesting to see his 'reviews' as compared to Bruni's. Nothing like one restaurant owner trashing someone else's place, although I think it will be more like him pointing out why Bruni's comments are wrong when he doesn't like something.

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Should be interesting to see his 'reviews' as compared to Bruni's. Nothing like one restaurant owner trashing someone else's place, although I think it will be more like him pointing out why Bruni's comments are wrong when he doesn't like something.
I agree. The comments on Gawker are hysterical. I don't think I'd change my reservation from eleven madison park tomorrow night to Kobe Club, but this is way more fun than watching the Anna Nicole saga.
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What's funny about this ad, is that it helps to pay the salaries of the NY times staff.
Yes. But this is easily the top restaurant story of the moment, and the resultant pub, including crossover stuff, may have been worth it. Chodster also was playing to his audience, who probably see his smack at Bruni as wacky but righteous.
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Yes. But this is easily the top restaurant story of the moment, and the resultant pub, including crossover stuff, may have been worth it. Chodster also was playing to his audience, who probably see his smack at Bruni as wacky but righteous.
Sounds like the same audience as all his other Manhattan operations - "on weekends, the clientele is 99 percent New Jersey, said General Manager Philipp Posch"...
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This story has provided me with some good, entertaining reading. But I can't help but feel ooky every time I think about the maintenance involved in keeping 2,000 samurai swords hanging point down.

This is America. Stuff breaks. [shudder]

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I don't think either of them have any prior food industry experience (other than perhap slinging pizza in the case of Sietsema); they both are journalists.

I believe Tom had some prior food writing experience on the west coast before he got the job at the Post. He also trained under the previous food critic for the post. The passage below struck me as odd, for the food critic from The Paper of Record. Outside of being a journalist, it looks like Burni has as much experience with food, as most well traveled bloggers.

Bruni says he has long loved food but underwent no formal training. After he was named restaurant critic, he read books on cuisine and did a quick tour of New York, Paris and Hong Kong to "have some fresh memories on the palate."

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What were Todd Kliman, Johnny Apple, Calvin Trillin, or Jeffrey Steingarten's qualifications before they became food writers? (writer and professor, NYT bureau chief, journalist for the New Yorker and The Nation, and lawyer, respectively.) For that matter, what are DonRock's qualifications? (I know, I know...don't ask.) What kind of formal "food critic" training does one need? One travels, eats, learns, writes.

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What were Todd Kliman, Johnny Apple, Calvin Trillin, or Jeffrey Steingarten's qualifications before they became food writers? (writer and professor, NYT bureau chief, journalist for the New Yorker and The Nation, and lawyer, respectively.) For that matter, what are DonRock's qualifications? (I know, I know...don't ask.) What kind of formal "food critic" training does one need? One travels, eats, learns, writes.

Ah, and there's the key point. Just about anyone can travel, eat, learn, and write. But only very very few can travel, eat, learn, and then WRITE WELL AND ENGAGINGLY about the first three, and that is what separates successful food/restaurant critics who get paid for it (such as Todd Kliman, Johnny Apple, Calvin Trillin, or Jeffrey Steingarten) from the rest of us.

Rockwell came at it from a different angle.

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Is it just me or does it seem like Donna is starting to crack? Opening that craphole known as Bebo, firing off at a reporter...

I just wish he would focus more of his time and talents on the food and he would have a winner. Although the blog should provide some good reading, if it every gets done.

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I just wish he would focus more of his time and talents on the food and he would have a winner. Although the blog should provide some good reading, if it every gets done.
Exactly. Bebo could have been a great place, but the service and inconsistencies in food need serious help. I love to linger over a 3 hour dinner, but not because the service is inattentive.
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Exactly. Bebo could have been a great place, but the service and inconsistencies in food need serious help. I love to linger over a 3 hour dinner, but not because the service is inattentive.
Careful what you say, lest Donna start blogging about you, too.
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Careful what you say, lest Donna start blogging about you, too.
Best news I've heard all day. Someone wasting their time to blog about me. They'll find out I eat out too often, occasionally drink too much, and just got a Nintendo Wii which I think my girlfriend is going to hate.
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I wish people would start blogging less. I can't follow it. Shouldn't that dude be in the kitchen or fixing those gray walls? It's just silly.

Best news I've heard all day. Someone wasting their time to blog about me.

Who are you? I like your bear.

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Careful what you say, lest Donna start blogging about you, too.

With as many complaints as I've read (and had myself) about Bebo, he's going to be doing a lot of blogging.

Isn't there an old bromide about not picking a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the roll?

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I applaud Roberto for firing back. I'm also surprised that so many on this board are so quick to criticize him and so eager to pile on. There are hundreds of posts on the Bebo thread from it's first one that talk about outstanding food at incredible prices. Have people also forgotten the two Rockwell dinners at both Galileo and Bebo as well as the three Lab dinners that I organized? Or lunch at Galileo which was the inspiration for Bebo?

The same chef was responsible for all of these, people.

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I applaud Roberto for firing back. I'm also surprised that so many on this board are so quick to criticize him and so eager to pile on. There are hundreds of posts on the Bebo thread from it's first one that talk about outstanding food at incredible prices. Have people also forgotten the two Rockwell dinners at both Galileo and Bebo as well as the three Lab dinners that I organized? Or lunch at Galileo which was the inspiration for Bebo?

The same chef was responsible for all of these, people.

Exactly, that is why I said that I wish he would pay more attention to Bebo. He has shown that he has the ability. The outstanding food posts are not that plentiful.

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I applaud Roberto for firing back. I'm also surprised that so many on this board are so quick to criticize him and so eager to pile on. There are hundreds of posts on the Bebo thread from it's first one that talk about outstanding food at incredible prices. Have people also forgotten the two Rockwell dinners at both Galileo and Bebo as well as the three Lab dinners that I organized? Or lunch at Galileo which was the inspiration for Bebo?

The same chef was responsible for all of these, people.

No offense, but these are all atypical situations from doing regular service at a restaurant. You are doing an organized dinner for a bunch of people you know are going to write about the event- so you are going to give the best service and the best food, but unfortunately that's not how it has translated to Bebo. I wish it had, but the service is terrible and in our case food had to be sent back more than once for improper cooking. Does he have the ability to produce? Absolutely. Is he producing? Not even close. So if he wants to get mad and blog himself about restaurants by all means do so, but when someone gives accurate criticism to your crappy service and food that isn't being prepared well you might mention that you've been blogging about it (instead of being in the kitchen and FOH fixing the problem).
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I have never eaten at one of Roberto Donna's restaurants, and cannot comment on the quality of the food or service at any of them, obviously. But this business of "fighting back" against a food critic makes Donna, like Chodorow, look exceedingly foolish. There is such a thing as bad publicity, and this is it.

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Food and service issues aside, if a monthly magazine with wide distribution made false statements about my business's financial soundness, I'd seek redress too.

True, but he was talking about the negative comments on the food and service. That said, if there were inaccuracies in the statements on the financial situation I hope that they are corrected as publicly as the original article.

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I applaud Roberto for firing back. I'm also surprised that so many on this board are so quick to criticize him and so eager to pile on. There are hundreds of posts on the Bebo thread from it's first one that talk about outstanding food at incredible prices. Have people also forgotten the two Rockwell dinners at both Galileo and Bebo as well as the three Lab dinners that I organized? Or lunch at Galileo which was the inspiration for Bebo?

The same chef was responsible for all of these, people.

Joe,

I take your point, and I wanted to LOVE Bebo Tratoria! But my two experiences there: a week-day lunch and a Sunday brunch, were so awful that I did not post about them and will not return. The Sunday brunch felt like a skit on Saturday Night Live, it was so bad.

I don't tend to post my negative experiences on DR.COM, but focus on the positives. I think many folks post this way, so I wouldn't interpret the number or proportion of positive remarks about Bebo Tratoria as being representative of patrons' experiences there.

There is no doubt in my mind that Roberto is a great chef. But something is standing in between his talent and his clientele. I have no idea what that is.

For their part, the wait staff that I encountered on my Sunday brunch foray were absolutely awful. The bartender who waited on me when I went for lunch on a weekday was just as bad.

There were certainly problems with the front-of-house, but I'm sure there were problems in the kitchen as well.

What I do know is that after two visits, I won't return. There are too many restaurants that are better than Bebo Tratoria, IMO.

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... and on DC's card, Donna vs. Kliman: Reliable Source: A Scorching Response to a Food Critic (Cue Michael Buffer?)

You obviously have no sensativity as to the power a food critic holds. If you own a business, doesn't it make sense to protect it if you are slandered for no apparent reason. Food critics around the country have been responsible for hard working people in restaurants to lose their business. Make no mistake, personal slander and negative comments is NOT theis job. They are suppose to be a GUIDE and not a James Beard wantobe. WAKE UP!!!

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You obviously have no sensativity as to the power a food critic holds. If you own a business, doesn't it make sense to protect it if you are slandered for no apparent reason. Food critics around the country have been responsible for hard working people in restaurants to lose their business. Make no mistake, personal slander and negative comments is NOT theis job. They are suppose to be a GUIDE and not a James Beard wantobe. WAKE UP!!!

[This having been said, I think it's a REALLY good time to remind people here that they should disclose their affiliations if they're in the industry. It takes less than two minutes:

1) Click on "My Controls"

2) Click on "Edit Signature"

3) Write your affiliation (and preferably your name) in the box

4) Click on "Update My Signature"

Cheers,

Rocks]

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You obviously have no sensativity as to the power a food critic holds. If you own a business, doesn't it make sense to protect it if you are slandered for no apparent reason. Food critics around the country have been responsible for hard working people in restaurants to lose their business. Make no mistake, personal slander and negative comments is NOT theis job. They are suppose to be a GUIDE and not a James Beard wantobe. WAKE UP!!!

The food critics of the 80s made Roberto the rock star that he is. I haven't been to Bebo and so won't comment on the particular review, but whining about the unfairness of it all after revelling in the adoration for decades strikes me as disingenuous.

Like running for Congress, playing third base, conducting an orchestra, or any number of professions, cheffing involves passionate, public criticism. I don't blame Robert for being pissed, but any person with any ambition who gets into a kitchen and can't handle the occasional bad review, should change jobs.

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Can someone link the Kliman? I can't find the article to which Donna is reacting.

It doesn't look like they've posted it online as yet. They tend to wait a month to a month and a half before making their print content available online. If I remember it correctly, the Reliable Source piece excerpted the relevant criticisms in large part. The inclusion of bankruptcy bit struck me as a little odd at the time, but the service criticisms seemed pretty consistent with what many folks have been saying here and elsewhere all along.

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It doesn't look like they've posted it online as yet. They tend to wait a month to a month and a half before making their print content available online. If I remember it correctly, the Reliable Source piece excerpted the relevant criticisms in large part. The inclusion of bankruptcy bit struck me as a little odd at the time, but the service criticisms seemed pretty consistent with what many folks have been saying here and elsewhere all along.
Thank you. Donna is very touchy about his bankruptcy (as are his former creditors, I assume). Believe me, I understand completely. Of course he is a public figure and fair game. That is why I wanted to see the context in which Kliman raised the subject.
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Thank you. Donna is very touchy about his bankruptcy (as are his former creditors, I assume). Believe me, I understand completely. Of course he is a public figure and fair game. That is why I wanted to see the context in which Kliman raised the subject.
It's been a while since I last read New York Times v. Sullivan so I'm not sure that the heightend burden of proof required in defemation cases brought by a public figure would apply in a case involving the tort of business disparagement.
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It's been a while since I last read New York Times v. Sullivan so I'm not sure that the heightend burden of proof required in defemation cases brought by a public figure would apply in a case involving the tort of business disparagement.

Damn lawyers. :o

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I agree with Donna that Kliman's reviews are frequently filled with inaccuracies with regards to actual food preparation and ingredients. Whenever I read a Kliman description of a dish that I am familiar with, it is often not quite right, and this has been going on since his City Paper days. I remember when the City Paper had to publish a list of corrections to his Palena review.

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I agree with Donna that Kliman's reviews are frequently filled with inaccuracies with regards to actual food preparation and ingredients. Whenever I read a Kliman description of a dish that I am familiar with, it is often not quite right, and this has been going on since his City Paper days. I remember when the City Paper had to publish a list of corrections to his Palena review.
Interesting.
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I wonder if a paralell issue has arisen in either film or stage production. It seems as though, like restaurants, these two entertainmetns are subject to professional and amateur criticism and thusly are subject to the economic impact criticism can have. Many restaurants have gone on to great economic success after a poor review, while other critical darlings have had to shutter their doors. I like Roberto's food and likewise respect Kliman's criticism but perhaps both parties have erred. Kliman by means of failed recollection and Roberto by tilting at windmills. I can't imagine how difficult it is to face a harsh criticism of one's own work and feel impotent by means of recompense, but a rather impulsive response in a competing publication and the aforementioned printing of bumper stickers seem to be of the "closing the gate after the cows are out" response. Ther is no easy answer, but as long as a critic has a voice they're going to piss off a lot of people and the best a restauranteur can do is operate as effficiently and professionally as possible.

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Interesting response to a question from the Sietsema weekly chat:

Washington, D.C.

Hi Tom,

Last Friday's Reliable Source column was about a chef who was infuriated about inaccuracies in a Washingtonian magazine restaurant review. Your own reviews don't seem to suffer from these kinds of factual errors. What kind of fact checking do your Sunday magazine reviews go through before the ink hits the newsprint?

Tom Sietsema: Before I hand in a story, I fact-check my copy. That's simply part of a reporter's job.

Do I ever make mistakes? I'm sure I do. I produce an average of three to four columns a week, sometimes more, and there's no way I'm not going to slip up on a name, an age or some other detail now and then.

However, I think it's crucial to correct any error as soon as it's discovered. (Note to the people I cover: If I make a factual error, bring it to my attention. Believe it or not, I really want to know!)

Fortunately, I have a big safety net in my immediate editor, the Magazine's first-rate copy desk and everyone else who sees my stuff before it goes to the printer. I'd estimate that at least seven sets of eyeballs examine my work before it's published in the Magazine. I'm grateful for all of them.

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is it me or does ts lace his fact check comment with an inelegant slap at kliman himself or at the entire editorial staff at washingtonian

that was my initial response as well. but then i thought it inconcievable that tom would issue an unprofessional back handed slap in public forum. surely this is the product of a rapid fire response rather than a deliberate attempt to insinuate that a colleague/competitor does insufficient fact checking.

:o

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Bebo is handing out bumperstickers that say "Don't Believe the Washingtonian" and has the 'DC Chef's Blog' URL.

That URL would lead you to believe it's a site devoted to chefs in DC and their experiences, but it's not; it's Donna's blog (and it's practically empty).

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