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The Pete Wells Thread


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We seem to have gotten rather far afield. We are now into presenting the David Chang Lifetime Achievement Award. That's all well and good but that is NOT what the New Yorker article was about.

 

Ian Parker's article was nearly 8,700 words. He devoted almost 2,400 of them, more than a quarter of the article, to discussing Wells' Nishi review and Chang's reaction to it. Double the size of Well's original review.

 

Eater described Chang's reaction this way -

 

Chang was still reeling from it while talking to the New Yorker. He whined to Parker for ninety minutes about his anger and conspiracy theories and then later sent the writer a long email about the same topic. "He’s being a fucking bully," Chang says of the critic.

 

 

This is right up there with bad boys like Keith McNally and Jeffrey Chodorow. I read the Nishi thread here just now. The reaction was not positive. Most people found reasons not to go.

 

The reaction of Chang to Wells' review does not make him look good. He'd be better served by focusing on ways to improve the restaurant.

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According to Eater   Let the grumbling begin.

Even now when everybody has seen pictures of all the major reviewers, there's hope for anonymous restaurant reviewing.

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Oh, come on. He's not trying to write a puff piece on Chang. He probably chose Chang because Chang is an extremely well-known chef, and because it adds to the story to portray the perspective of someone on the receiving side of an unfavorable review.

 

I'm no Chang fan, but I can totally sympathize with his getting defensive.

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Sorry, that was a sort of non sequitur remark. I think Lex is being too harsh on Chang. Chang wasn't cynically trying to serve mediocre food and get by just banking on name recognition. He thought he had something worthwhile. It's pretty natural for him to get defensive when people disagree with him on that. I don't think his behavior as described in the article reflects all that poorly on him.

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I'm not disagreeing with you.

 

But I will say that if Chang's unstated concept for Nishi was to "say 'fuck you' to Italian food," that's both a really bad concept for a restaurant (because negative) and extremely arrogant.

 

And I'm saying this as a fan.

 

(This really has nothing to do with that New Yorker article, I guess.)

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I'm not disagreeing with you.

 

But I will say that if Chang's unstated concept for Nishi was to "say 'fuck you' to Italian food," that's both a really bad concept for a restaurant (because negative) and extremely arrogant.

 

And I'm saying this as a fan.

 

(This really has nothing to do with that New Yorker article, I guess.)

 

It does, because that was obviously in the article. I think that there are a few dishes on the Nishi menu, including the famous ceci dish, where Chang probably had that thought in his mind; it's probably quite Chang-ian to think like that, and then say it aloud to someone when he should probably keep his mouth shut.

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Here's a broader excerpt that puts that passage in context:

 

Our neighbors were taking photographs directly above their bowls of Ceci e Pepe. The dish, a riff on pasta cacio e pepe, using fermented chickpea paste in place of Pecorino, was central to the restaurant’s promoted identity, suggesting technical expertise in the service of amused nonconformity. (Chang told me, later, that he had conceived of the menu as a “Fuck you” to Italian cuisine.) We were given menus with wry footnotes. Wells took off his fake glasses and put on his reading glasses.

I'm pretty sure that's just Chang saying that he's doing a tweaked version of Italian food, but in that stupid deliberately vulgar way that all the rebellious cool kids (and middle-aged people) talk these days.

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Oh, come on. He's not trying to write a puff piece on Chang. He probably chose Chang because Chang is an extremely well-known chef, and because it adds to the story to portray the perspective of someone on the receiving side of an unfavorable review.

 

I am sure that is the reason.

 

Chang's reaction doesn't come across very well; but frankly, very few people do, when the subject is an unfavorable review of their restaurant. It's very rare that they are able to come out and say, "Let's face it, we sucked."

 

ETA: After all that, Pete Wells gave it a star, which is the lowest number that Chang has ever received, but still allegedly means "good".

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Now that I think of it, I can't remember if Boulud was so gracious when Restaurant Daniel got degraded.

 

(I would think that being interviewed by the New Yorker constitutes a response in public.) (Boulud's statement was in response to a journalist's question, not in a press release.)

 

ETA -- Or are you saying that all the stuff about Chang came from reporting, i.e., interviews with other people about what he said at the time? (I've got to just read the article.)

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