The food world has been abuzz over Jeffrey Chodorow’s paid full-page rant in the New York Times. The restaurateur claimed that Frank Bruni wasn’t qualified to be a food critic and declared that from now on he intends to hold Bruni and Adam Platt accountable on his blog by reviewing the same restaurants. Not wanting to risk a pummeling by meeting him in person, we got Mr. Chodorow on the phone.
What inspired you to do this?
Restaurateurs have no outlets. Where do we publish our commentaries? I can write a letter to the editor, but they probably won’t run it. So this was the only way to get my point across. Meanwhile, they edited it anyway. It went through five different people. If you spent this much time editing what the writers say, maybe the reviews would be different. They just want to change sentences, leave people’s names out. The level of fact-checking is unbelievable. Reviewers aren’t held to nearly the same level of fact-checking standards as the newspaper reporters.
What’s your beef?
I just want them to be fair and honest. The critics are entitled to their opinion. But to see such diametrically opposed views to people who are very respected and who loved the place! I just think the critics lose credibility when that happens. Adam Platt says that we spent too much on samurai swords and that we should buy better tuna. I buy the best, and I can show him the receipts! I’m not cash strapped. That’s an almost libelous statement.
Do you really think that a food background is necessary to be a critic?
It’s not necessarily a decisive factor. But when the New York Times writes that someone is a food critic, it implies that that person has a certain skill set. Supposedly Frank Bruni lived in Italy. In Italy they put lemon on steak. So if he gets a steak and can’t understand where the sour taste came from, and we put lemon on it … Look, if I had eaten beef with lemon in Italy, I would know where the sour taste came from.
What will you do in your blog reviews?
If they go to a restaurant that I haven’t been to, I’ll go to it, and if I think it’s been treated unfairly, I’m going to write about what I think was misrepresented. I’ll find out what’s good about it.