Last year, New York Post critic Steve Cuozzo issued a commandment to restaurateurs reeling from brutal restaurant reviews, writing, "A restaurant should suffer its beating in silence." But whether it's Guy Fieri accusing Pete Wells of having an agenda or David Chang waging war with Jay Rayner over dessert, chefs have not been silently bearing their beatings these days — culminating most recently with José Andrés calling out Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema for the critic's tepid Minibar review.
Methods of biting back tend to vary, of course. Most just exchange harsh words on Twitter, others pull stunts at their restaurants, and some chefs just completely ban their new nemesis from the premises. Here now, a look at chefs who bit back at their critics over the past two years:
1) Guy Fieri v. Pete WellsPretty much everyone had an opinion on Pete Wells' brutal goose egg review of Guy Fieri's New York restaurant Guy's American Kitchen and Bar. Guy Fieri had an opinion too, which he shared with the Today Show. Beyond calling the review "ridiculous" and "overboard," he accused Wells of having an agenda and said, "It's a great way to make a name for yourself. Go after a celebrity chef who's not a New Yorker that's doing a big concept, and in its second month."
2) 1058 Hoagie v. Anna RothSan Francisco sandwich shop 1058 Hoagie got creative in responding to SF Weekly critic Anna Roth's declaration that their hoagie flavors weren't "special enough to seek out" — and were maybe kind of boring. For days following the review, 1058 Hoagie and its sister sandwich shop Deli Board renamed their daily specials board "anna roth is boring," "anna roth, still boring" and finally, "onward. talking about anna roth is Boring."
3) Miami's neMesis Urban Bistro v. Lee KleinIn August 2011, Miami's neMesis Urban Bistro chef Micah Edelstein banned Miami New Times critic (at the time) Lee Klein from the premises for writing a mean listicle. Klein had included neMesis in a list of the Six Worst Miami Restaurant Names. Of course, it turns out that having a sense of humor was an actual requirement to enter the restaurant, per a disclaimer posted to the door. Edelstein informed Klein of this policy and wrote, "Please don't bother to come here as you are not welcome at my table with an attitude such as this."
4) Lockhart Smokehouse v. Leslie BrennerWhen Dallas Morning News critic Leslie Brenner took aim at Lockhart Smokehouse in May 2011 with a one-star review, the barbecue restaurant decided to have some fun with it. Not only did Brenner describe the brisket as "dry and underseasoned," but she also complained about the lack of forks, which is a pretty common thing in barbecue restaurants. In response, Lockhart Smokehouse posted a photo of plastic forks to Twitter, declaring it to be, "FORK YOU Leslie Brenner Day." Next, they declared that day's special would be baloney, writing on Facebook that, "Ours will be Smoked, not written." Zing.
5) Mike Isabella v. Tom SietsemaThough he was kind to Mike Isabella's first DC restaurant Graffiato last year, Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema was not so enamored by Isabella's follow-up Bandolero. In this past summer's review, Sietsema bashed the restaurant's design, calling it "one of the grimmest restaurants to open in years." Isabella bit back on Twitter, writing, "You must have hearing like Superman to say how annoying loud @BandoleroDC is." He also sent Eater DC a statement reading, "I've never seen decor and lighting be such a large part of a restaurant review, and Bandolero isn't even close to the noise level at Graffiato."
6) David Chang v. Jay RaynerBritish restaurant critic Jay Rayner has been known to file some pretty harsh reviews, but it was a mostly positive review that started a feud with Momofuku's David Chang. Observer critic published a review of New York's Ma Peche back in March 2011 that was full of adoration for everything but the snails, steak-frites and lack of dessert options — at the time. It turns out Ma Peche had rolled out a dessert menu just after Rayner's visit and an irate Chang took to Twitter to call him out, writing, "Didn't know fact checking was optional This is very silly. It's irritating and utterly British. Bon chance motherfuckers!" Rayner responded, "blimey. What would you be like if it had been a properly bad review?"
7) Isa v. Eric AsimovDuring Eric Asimov's time as interim New York Times critic, he managed to flare some tempers over his supposed takedown of Brooklyn dining, in which he wrote, "The guys in beards and knit hats have their place, as do the tattooed servers, the avant-garde wines and turn-of-the-last-century cocktailians, and all the rest. I love all that, of course. But occasionally I have guests with more uptown tastes." Well, Brooklyn's Isa — which had being on the receiving end of an Asimov one-star review a month earlier — retaliated by creating decoupaged menus advertising "baffling duck breast," "hard to understand calamari" and "confounding cod."
8) Black Sheep v. Time Out ChicagoLast July, Time Out Chicago critic Julia Kramer dropped two stars and some harsh words on The Black Sheep, writing, "there's one not-so-minor detail missing at the Black Sheep: the food." Not long after, a commenter under the name "Chef James Toland" lashed out at Kramer, calling her "a joke of a journalist" and "a vindictive bitch" who he claims announced herself as a critic and was rude to the waitstaff (claims which TOC dining editor David Tamarkin denied). The real James Toland claimed to Eater Chicago that he had been hacked and said, "I want so badly to defend our efforts but ... I refuse to sink to their level."
9) Route 9 v. Lee KleinFormer Miami New Times critic Lee Klein found himself in a heated incident with Route 9 owner Jeremy Goldberg in March 2011 after filing a review that Goldberg claimed was riddled with factual inconsistencies. In his review, Klein wrote that Route 9 had "inconsistent food" — but he also misstated the year in which Goldberg graduated from the Culinary Institute of America, plus some menu inaccuracies. The feud got to the point where Goldberg accused Klein of not having visited the restaurant at all. The New Times pulled the first version of the review overnight and reposted it with updates to denote the errors.
10) Atlanta chefs v. John KesslerThe chefs of Atlanta ganged up on Atlanta Journal Constitution critic John Kessler in January 2011, when the critic boldly declared that the city's chefs, "need to up [their] game." A bunch of chefs wrote Kessler an open letter in which Rosebud's Ron Eyester poked back at the newspaper as being partially responsible for the city's dining situation.