Chicken tenders that taste like “chewy air.” Drinks that taste like “a combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde.” A “shapeless, structureless baked alaska that droops and slumps and collapses as you eat it.” If the people behind Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar in New York’s Times Square put as much attention, energy and creativity into preparing the food as New York Times critic Pete Wells put into this week’s devastating review of the restaurant, well, we wouldn’t be enjoying one of the juiciest little brouhahas to come along since the married head of the CIA resigned because he was having an affair.
Of course, the CIA story broke less than a week ago, and it’s still puttering along. But the American appetite for fresh “controversies” is at least as strong the American appetite for nachos “dribbling…with thin needles of pepperoni and cold gray clots of ground turkey.” So step aside, David Petraeus, it’s TV chef Guy Fieri’s turn in the spotlight.
Fieri, of course, is the “Guy” in Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, as well as the star of three Food Network series–“Guy’s Big Bite,” “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives,” and “Rachael vs Guy Celebrity Cook-Off,” a competition series with Rachael Ray. His empire also includes five Johnny Garlic’s and two Tex Wasabi restaurants.
But the bleach-blond, vintage-Camaro-driving, fast-talking Fieri has a triple order of bad PR on his on plate at the moment. Wells’s review, written as a series of questions addressed to Fieri, may well be the single worst review any restaurant has ever received from a major publication. And when you consider the competition, that’s saying something.
After the Times review came out, Fieri caught the red-eye from California to defend himself and his restaurant on the Today show, dismissing the brutal critique as “ridiculous.” Of course, he was already being mocked on popular food websites. But as this little tempest in a chili bowl bubbled along, there was an unexpected twist: It turns out, the New York Times hosted a party for 160 people at the restaurant on the same day the review was published. If only David Petraeus had been invited.