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Critic Ryan Sutton 'Saddened' By Alan Richman's JBFA Win

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M Wells, NYC (now shuttered)
M Wells, NYC (now shuttered)
Photo: Krieger

Bloomberg restaurant critic and Bad Deal/Price Hike blogger Ryan Sutton hits up Facebook to protest the James Beard Foundation giving GQ's Alan Richman the "Craig Claiborne Distinguished Restaurant Review Award" on Friday. Sutton wrote that Richman's "one-sided tirade" is "arguably the most irresponsible piece of restaurant criticism I've read in a long time."

Richman's nomination included three reviews — "The Very Tasty Liberation of Paris," "I Heart SF," and "Diner for Schmucks" — the last of which was a bizarre takedown of M Wells in NYC.

Here now, Ryan Sutton in full, by permission:

I'm saddened that Alan Richman has won a James Beard award for what is arguably the most irresponsible piece of restaurant criticism I've read in a long time. Allegations of impropriety and inappropriate touching are treated with self-righteousness instead of evenhandedness, and I can't find evidence that the restaurant gets to tell its full side of the story. The fact that this one-sided tirade against a small restaurant was published is shocking and embarrassing. It's a dark day for food writing.

Backstory: Richman was gearing up to write a rave of the now-shuttered Quebecoise diner in Queens, but things went off the rails on his final visit — his party was forced to wait a long time, they got a bad table, and the service was sloppy. The next morning, he received an email from co-owner/general manger Sarah Obraitis which stated that a waitress claimed to have "received a hardy pat on the ass" from the critic that night.

Richman vehemently denied anything of the sort, and launched into a takedown of the diner and the state of service in the restaurant world in general, noting: "I will tell you what else is extraordinarily self-defeating: We empower popular restaurants, and M. Wells is very much one of them... Such restaurants are rarely held accountable, no matter how uncaring they might be."

If anything, it's just a bizarre choice for the James Beard Foundation to give Richman an award, even in part, for what is basically a rant (and not a review at all).

· Ryan Sutton on Alan Richman [Facebook]
· Winners: 2012 JBF Book, Broadcast & Journalism Awards [-E-]
· All Critics Coverage on Eater [-E-]

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