The New York Times’s Pete Wells has started feuds with celebrity chefs before, and he’s done it again, this time going after Alta Marea Group. He gave their new Upper East Side restaurant Vaucluse a one-star review, and Altamarea Group’s CEO is fighting back.
In his review of Vaucluse, Wells says that he “could run out of new ways to express disappointment in Alta Marea Group restaurants if Alta Marea didn’t keep coming up with new ways to disappoint.”
He admits while certain dishes are “virtually perfect,” but says that with a couple of missteps the meal can be “oddly off kilter,” and that most of the food lands “somewhere between inspired and depleted.”
But the CEO of Alta Marea Group, whose other restaurants include uptown institution Marea and Osteria Morini, a downtown pasta destination, will not take the review lying down. He wrote a scathing, lengthy open letter to Wells, and published it on the company’s website.
Ahmass Fakahany writes: “you need to know you are losing credibility and, in a sense, degrading the very institution that gave you the privilege and mandate to be a food critic. The New York Times Dining review section is at its lowest point…Congratulations. You have managed to do a fantastic job of getting it there.” He says that Wells does not have a love for or appreciation of food.
He defends Vaucluse against certain criticisms. For example, he points out that Wells poked fun at the fact that they have plastic battery-powered votives, saying that they will be replaced with real candles as soon as they have the permit from the fire department, which can takes a while.
Then, he takes personal jabs at Wells, telling him, “you will never be a Craig Claiborne, Mimi Sheraton, Ruth Reichl, Frank Bruni, or a Florence Fabricant.” Inviting him back to the restaurant, he offers Wells the opportunity to learn more about them. “It takes just a little journalism,” he says. “Try it, you might like it.”
He concludes with his own review of Wells’ write-up:
Effort/Credibility: zero stars Food Knowledge: one star Creating Confusion: 4 stars
Neither Wells nor The New York Times has issued a response at this point. We’ll let you know if there’s more!
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