Celebrity chef Guy Fieri in Manhattan on November 13, 2012. His NY restaurant, Guy's American, has earned scathing …The New York Times slammed celebrity chef and Food Network star Guy Fieri's new restaurant on Wednesday, running a scathing review that left food purists grinning and Fieri calling foul.
“I wholeheartedly disagree with The New York Times’ review of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar," Fieri told Yahoo! Shine in a statement on Thursday. "I’m proud of the food we put out, and always will be."
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On NBC's "Today" show Thursday morning, Fieri said that the review was especially unfair given that the restaurant had only been open for two months. But it gave him something to think about, he said, and he acknowledged that there's probably room for improvement.
“I thought it was ridiculous, that [review] to me was so overboard,” Fieri told host Savannah Guthrie. “We’re trying as hard as we can to make it right, to do it right. Is it perfect right now? No. Are we striving for that? Yeah.”
On Wednesday, Fieri's fans were furious, and lashed out at the New York Times critic online.
"Your review sucks on Guy Fieri," tweeted Mike Donaghy. "You talk about food like it's a book."
"The NYT's review of Guy Fieri's American Kitchen exemplifies the 'elite liberal media' voice that much of the US hates," Drew Breunig pointed out, also on Twitter.
Pete Wells's public take-down of the 500-seat Guy's American Kitchen & Bar was written as a series of unanswerable questions:
"When you saw the burger described as 'Guy's Pat LaFrieda custom blend, all-natural Creekstone Farm Black Angus beef patty, LTOP (lettuce, tomato, onion + pickle), SMC (super-melty-cheese) and a slathering of Donkey Sauce on garlic-buttered brioche,' did your mind touch the void for a minute?"
"Did you notice that the menu was an unreliable predictor of what actually came to the table? Were the 'bourbon butter crunch chips' missing from your Almond Joy cocktail, too?"
"Were you struck by how very far from awesome the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders are?"
"Why is one of the few things on your menu that can be eaten without fear or regret—a lunch-only sandwich of chopped soy-glazed pork with coleslaw and cucumbers—called a Roasted Pork Bahn Mi, when it resembles that item about as much as you resemble Emily Dickinson?"
"How did Louisiana's blackened, Cajun-spiced treatment turn into the ghostly nubs of unblackened, unspiced white meat in your Cajun Chicken Alfredo?"
"Is this how you roll in Flavor Town?"
Wells ended by giving the restaurant no stars and an overall rating of "poor." He describes the atmosphere as "one chaotic mess" and quipped, "The well-meaning staff seems to realize that this is not a real restaurant."
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"At my restaurants, we always try to live by a very simple notion: that food brings people together," Fieri, said in his statement to Yahoo! Shine on Thursday. "I’ve learned that not everyone agrees with my style. The Times’ critic, Pete Wells, clearly did not enjoy his experience. I normally do not respond to reviews or critics, however, given the tone of Pete’s piece, it’s clear to me that he went into my restaurant with his mind already made up. That's unfortunate. I take comments from patrons, fans and visitors very seriously, and if there is ever a problem with our service, I’ll fix it."
"We’ve only been open a short while, but I’ve seen countless people come to my restaurant – families, fans, tourists, and yes, even New Yorkers – looking to get away for an hour or two, and they’ve had a great experience and a meal that they enjoyed," Fieri, who also owns five Johnny Garlic's restaurants and two Tex Wasabi's outposts in California, as well as a series of Guy's Burger Joints aboard Carnival Cruise ships, added.
There's no doubt that Fieri's intentions are good—he kept Guy's American open as Superstorm Sandy approached, and donated half of all proceeds on Monday and Tuesday to Red Cross relief efforts—and some of his Food Network colleagues are offering their support.
"I am planning on visiting Guy Fieri's NYC eatery this weekend because it can't be as bad as all those snotty New Yorkers say," tweeted "Good Eats" and "Iron Chef America" host Alton Brown.
Wells isn't the first New York food critic to give Guy's American a thumbs down. The restaurants has a slew of negative reviews on Yelp.com, and fellow foodie Anthony Bourdain said in September that Fieri is pulling a fast one on his fans. "All of these poor bastards see him eating cheap food on TV, they go in there and it's what, $18? For a … hamburger?," Bourdain said on SiriusXM radio. "The French fries are like $12?"
In October, The New York Post's Steve Cuozzo wrote, "You expect it to be awful, of course—how could things like 'Unyawns cajun chicken ciabatta with donkey sauce' not be awful?" He described the Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders as "tasting not of chicken, pretzel, or any recognizable digestible matter," noted that the "creamy Parmesan sauce could moonlight as engine lubricant," and lamented "One day soon, I'll go back to reviewing real restaurants with real chefs."
In October, after several other bad reviews, Fieri fired back at critics. "I know what I make, I know how I cook," he told Norah O'Donnell on CBS's "Morning Show. "I know the success of my food. I mean, you can't have eight restaurants and be doing it wrong—or that wrong."
His target audience—out-of-town fans of Fieri's Food Network show, "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," who are excited simply to be in the Big Apple—agree. They think Guy's American is a hit, calling the food "amazing" and raving about the atmosphere.
"We were so excited because we love watching him on TV and we also love great food," Debra Popp of upstate New York wrote on the restaurant's Facebook page in October. "Anyway we got to Guy's restaurant in TIMES SQUARE!!!! And we were led to a table in an upper room. The decor was exciting to look at Rock N Roll memorabilia all over the walls!!… The food was delicious. The service was perfect. We had a waitress take our order and she served our drinks and gave us linen napkins with our utensils and extra paper napkins as well. When our entrees were served a young man wearing this neat looking black cap set them down in front of us. I thought this was great as the plates were heavily laden with a generous serving of food. We ate everything and the food tasted just as we hoped it would. Very satisfying and very much like we would cook ourselves."
She may be onto something. Just as columnist Marilyn Hagerty made clear in her sincere, gone-viral review of the Olive Garden —"the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks"—not everyone is looking for a haute-cuisine experience.
"I'm loving the throw-back to Old-Americana," wrote one recent Guy's American guest. "I'm guessing this restaurant is on its way to being the biggest tourist trap NYC has seen since, well, yesterday. But hey—it's neato looking."
UPDATE: In what may look like an attempt to make amends (but isn't), The New York Times hosted a 160-person dinner at Guy's American in Times Square on Wednesday -- the same day their review was published. After first denying that the event took place, The New York Times later confirmed it. "The Times ad sales department hosted an event for clients at the restaurant last night," a representative told The Braiser on Thursday. "The event was planned two months ago."