According to the Washington Post, John Mariani—Esquire's resident shady critic—has picked Barton Seaver of DC's Blue Ridge as the magazine's Chef of the Year. Of America!
No disrespect to the young and talented Chef Seaver, but the coronation as the country's best should only increase the controversy that has surrounded Mariani for years. Mariani, who is never anonymous and often one to announce his presence, apparently only visited the restaurant once, for lunch. To make matters even more curious, the WaPo—which gave it just 1.5 stars (out of 4)—quickly points out that nearly all major critics to file on Blue Ridge have been lukewarm, at best.
If this pattern of random Mariani praise for a chef/restaurant that hasn't been well-received seems familiar, it's because he did the exact same thing last year with San Francisco's Dominique Crenn. Like Seaver, Crenn received a decent critical response from various local publications (but nothing particularly extraordinary), and was then named Chef of the Year out of the blue, along with the following declaration: "we doubt that there is a better woman cooking in America right now."
(Then again, Crenn has made it all the way to the Next Iron Chef, so maybe Mariani knew something the rest of his colleagues—Michael Bauer, S. Irene Virbila, et al.—didn't?)
But anyway, Barton Seaver is John Mariani's 2009 BFF Chef of the Year. Please plan your weekend accordingly.
· Barton Seaver: The Country's Best? [WaPo]
· Why Does Everyone Hate John Mariani? [GS: Chicago]
· On John Mariani,