On Pete Wells, Guy Fieri, and Low Hanging Fruit

Guy Fieri in all his highlighted hair, red convertible glory

Like many of you, earlier this week I giggled and snickered at Pete Wells' New York Times all-question takedown of Guy Fieri's Times Square behemoth, Guy's Kitchen and Bar. It's the most emailed Times article right now, and why wouldn't it be? In it, Wells asks, "If you hadn’t come up with the recipe yourself, would you ever guess that the shiny tissue of breading that exudes grease onto the plate contains either pretzels or smoked almonds", "What accounts for the vast difference between the Donkey Sauce recipe you’ve published and the Donkey Sauce in your restaurant?", "And when we hear the words Donkey Sauce, which part of the donkey are we supposed to think about?", and my personal fave, "Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?" Zinger, zinger, zinger, zinger, zinger, zinger.

The review's been passed around Facebook, dramatically recited on the radio, been written about to within an inch of its life on Eater, you get the idea.

But, hmmm.

A little context is helpful, I think. The New York Times food critic job is the pinnacle. Not just in New York, but in the country. It's the restaurant critic job. Some might argue that local food critics are powerful. But this is a whole other level.

And so, as time has passed, my snickers have turned to questions. Like Wells, all of the sudden I've got lots and lots of questions.

Are New Yorker's helped by knowing that Guy's Kitchen and Bar is "Poor"? Or is it likely they already guessed as much? Who was Pete Wells writing this review for?

Who is Guy's Kitchen and Bar's likely customer? Your aunt? A cousin? A family visiting the Big Apple for the holidays, unfamiliar with the area, with hungry young kids to feed?

Has the group of college kids from upstate, who've just gotten off of a bus in Times Square, read the New York Times food page? Are they now collectively changing their minds, heading to Roberta's instead?

Is the person ordering a watermelon margarita at Guy's Kitchen and Bar expecting freshly muddled watermelon, tart lime juice and excellent tequila? Wouldn't that person be disappointed if the drink wasn't sweet?

Is the New York Times restaurant critic's time best spent picking on a ginormous tourist trap? One that zero gastronimically inclined New Yorkers would step foot into (well, maybe if the bathrooms are clean and accessible; you know how that goes)? Or are the New York Times food critic's choices about what to review as important as his verdicts on those restaurants? 

Shouldn't the nation's most powerful food critic see the opportunity for smashing some low hanging Times Square fruit and instead shrug and shake his head? Say, "nah, what's the point?"

Did I just write a think piece on Guy Fieri? When's the weekend?


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