This just in from Nick Kokonas, Grant Achatz's business partner and the author of the section of Life, on the Line claiming that Esquire food writer John Mariani took a pricey, custom-made wine list from Alinea: "I stand by everything in the book." Mariani denied this happened (calling it an "absurd charge") and went on a rant against Achatz, calling him "insufferable" and "ego-driven." Among other things.
We reached out to Nick Kokonas for comment, and here now, in his own words:
"I stand by everything in the book. As you might imagine, we keep pretty good records of our guests and keep all of the 'tickets' from the kitchen for our regulars, critics, and other chefs. We also take extensive notes. So while Mr. Mariani dined with us six years ago, we had these notes available from that evening to refer to when we wrote the book. I am not sure who the 'editor' is that he refers to... my recollection is that he dined solely with Jenn Galdes... but we will pull the ticket once again and check. I am certain, however, that he wrote all over our wine list and took it out of the restaurant (it wasn't hefty as he infers) with him as I personally watched it happen. He only dined there that one time.
"His comments are so over the top, inaccurate, and ad hominem that the entire thing is pretty see-through. Ordinarily we don't comment on reviews or reviewers and have a great professional relationship with members of the press. We have not employed a publicist at all for the last 4 years and like to handle everything personally. With Mr. Mariani I make an exception... not because he didn't give us his nod in Esquire -- he seems to infer we are upset he didn't give Alinea his stamp of approval -- but because, well, he's John Mariani."
Your move, Mariani.
Update 3/21/2011: John Mariani Responds to Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas