6:25am PT by Erin Carlson
Guy Fieri Calls Brutal New York Times Review 'Ridiculous' (Video)
Guy Fieri is speaking out about the blistering takedown in The New York Times that eviscerated his new Times Square restaurant, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar.
"I just thought it was ridiculous. I mean, I've read reviews -- there's good and there's bad in the restaurant business. But that to me went so overboard, it really seemed like there was an agenda," the spiky-haired restaurateur and host of Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives said on Thursday's edition of NBC's Today, two days after the Times published Pete Wells' review, one of the most negative in the newspaper's storied history.
Dripping with sarcasm, it includes 34 rhetorical questions beginning with: "GUY FIERI, have you eaten at your new restaurant in Times Square? Have you pulled up one of the 500 seats at Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar and ordered a meal? Did you eat the food? Did it live up to your expectations?"
Wells accused Fieri, a popular chef-lebrity on Food Network who specializes in unpretentious, down-home American cuisine, as putting an "an act" in line with his man-of-the-people persona.
In a no-holds-barred blow-by-blow, he targeted Fieri's vast menu with vicious, gleeful abandon. The Awesome Pretzel Chicken Tenders "tasted like chewy air," Wells wrote, while the watermelon margarita "tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde." The French fries were "limp and oil-sogged" (not to mention served cold), and the Cajun Chicken Alfredo contained "ghostly nubs of unblackened, unspiced white meat."
Fieri was not amused.
"Do I think I'm falling short? No. By no means. I'm doing the type of food that America loves and we're doing it right way. Could we have made mistakes? Do we make mistakes? Absolutely. Do we strive to be the best? Yes," he told Today's Savannah Guthrie while surrounded by a giant cheeseburger and other purportedly heart attack-inducing dishes at Guy's American Kitchen & Bar (which, ironically, is housed in The Times' former headquarters on West 44th Street).
"To me it's impossible to have a dining experience and have every single thing wrong -- unless you come in with a different agenda and you want to sensationalize something and you want to blow it out of the water. It's a great way to make a name for yourself -- go after a celebrity chef that's not a New Yorker," he said, his voice rising with agitation.
Not surprisingly, given Fieri's sizable Food Network fan base, much support and goodwill is coming his way to balance out the Internet Schadenfreude from those siding with notable Fieri foe Anthony Bourdain, who's dismissed the three-floor venue as a "terror-dome." (One THR commenter, responding to a previous report on the review, wrote: "Guy's biggest mistake was opening a restaurant in Snobville!")
For his part, Wells responded to the uproar in an interview on Wednesday with Times public editor Margaret Sullivan, who called his piece "a masterpiece of scorn."
"This is important American food that makes a lot of people very happy," said Wells, who dined at the restaurant four times before rating it "poor." "And since that's the case, you ought to do it right."
When Guthrie also brought up middling reviews on Yelp, Fieri acknowledged that things stand to improve. "Without question," he said. "I've been in the restaurant business 25 years. This is an ever-changing, ever-evolving process. ... Do we do it perfect? No. Are we striving to do it perfect? Yes."
Asked whether he aimed to knock peoples' socks off, the California-based Fieri said: "At this point in time, in two months, (we're) not really expecting to. We're trying to. We're trying as hard as we can to make it right, to do it right. We got a pretty big menu."
That said, "I stand by my food. I stand by my team, and we'll continue to do great."