In a rant posing as a review of both Modernist Cuisine (which barely gets mentioned) and chef Grant Achatz's memoir Life, on the Line, Esquire's restaurant features writer John Mariani goes on a rant against Achatz, whom he calls "insufferable" and "ego-driven." Why? Maybe because Mariani asked to have a section of the book he claims was fabricated removed and was denied.
The story in question has to do with the time Mariani ate at Alinea — this is told in the first person by Achatz's business partner, Nick Kokonas, in Life, on the Line:
"It was then that he started going back through his notes, which were, to my horror, written on our wine list...'Mr. Mariani, perhaps I can bring you a notebook to use?' I asked. Mariani ignored me completely and kept writing. I was appalled and getting angry. Critic or no critic, this was simply rude and entitled behavior....John Mariani walked out the front door of Alinea that night carrying our wine list and a hand-made, one-of-four stainless steel binders."
Apparently Mariani asked to have the account removed from the book after he read a galley and was told by the publisher's attorneys that "We will give Mr. Mariani's contentions serious consideration, and make changes in the MS as we may deem appropriate."
Well, the story's still in there. Mariani says that the whole incident calls Achatz's integrity into question and ponders whether the "self-serving" book shouldn't be called "Life, on a Lie."
He says the cover of the book looks like Achatz is "stroking his greasy little goatee before cooking your food." Mariani also delivers this remarkable criticism of the book's subtitle, which is "Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat":
"The first part of that line might better read "Chasing pop culture stardom"; the second refers to his horrifying bout with cancer, from which he is, thank God, now recovered; the third line is completely hollow, because Achatz has had no influence on anyone's cooking at all, unless I'm missing scores of young cooks out there hanging limp bacon from silver clotheslines."
Pretty harsh! Achatz, at least, has a sense of humor about it, and responded on Twitter by saying: "Mariani reviews memoir. I think he is trying to avenge the truth, but I am not sure..Regardless its a fun read!"
Update 7:45PM: Nick Kokonas replied to John Mariani. In a statement, to Eater, he said, "I stand by everything in the book."
Update 3/21/2011: John Mariani Responds to Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas