OPINION: What We Can Learn From The Pete Wells Vs. Guy Fieri Showdown

[Image from Stop Podcasting Yourself]

Last week, the internet exploded when Pete Wells of The New York Times completely slammed Guy Fieri’s NYC restaurant to the ground.  I know this reaction is a bit late (the article was published last week) but since then, a myriad of response posts fired across the internet (here’s Guy Fieri’s answer), and I’ve been reading as many as I can, sifting through the facts and opinions presented by many people of the food industry, and trying to craft my own educated response.

I honestly can’t stand Guy Fieri’s on-screen persona, but I am a fan of the concept of his show.  Travel the the country and highlight the small eateries, who simply have the goal of putting out delicious, no-nonsense food?  Who isn’t interested in that?  Once, I even dined at The Redhead because my mother told me to go after she saw it on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and I had one of the best dining experiences while living here so far.  So, although Guy is a little too much for me, I believe he does know what he’s talking about, to some extent.

I remember reading the review with eyes wide open because I’d never read one like it before.  Restaurant reviews don’t have the reputation of being riveting pieces of journalism, and as I read Pete Wells’ article, I’m pretty sure my eyebrows raised higher and higher with every question of attack.

Did he need to slam Guy Fieri so badly?  I mean, come on – it’s a restaurant in Times Square, tourist-trap capital of the world.  No one is expecting those restaurants to be high-brow and refined anyway.  Ironically, the article is so over-the-top it’s almost funny, kind of like Guy Fieri himself.  I am sure that Pete Wells went into Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar with the article already written in his head, and whatever, that’s fine, if he was at least honest about the food and didn’t just have some vendetta against Guy Fieri.

I do admire this about Mr. Wells, though – he achieved what every journalists’ goal is – to get everyone to read and/or talk about the story.

With the birth of the Internet, and Yelp, and blogs, there are opinions flying around in every direction, slapping you in the face whether like it or not, and it’s your choice to filter which ones influence your decisions, even something as simple as where you should eat tonight.  Kat Kinsman wrote a great article that surveyed readers on whether or not they would still go to a restaurant, despite scathing reviews in a high-profile publication, and the majority stated that they would still go, just to check it out after the hype of the review – another example of how no publicity is bad publicity.  I guess we’ll see how the review affects the Guy’s restaurant in the near future, if it affects it at all.

If Guy Fieri’s food really is terrible, then the article should serve as a wake-up call.  If it doesn’t, well, that’s his problem really, and good for Pete Wells to bringing it to everyone’s attention.  Likewise, if the food is good, one article isn’t going to kill it.

My takeaway from the whole debacle, in a nutshell.

Pete Wells, if you truly hated the food and your experience at Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar, keep doing what you’re doing, because at least you have the balls to be completely honest and let your true feelings out.  If you ripped someone apart just because you’re paid to, well, have fun with that life.

Guy Fieri, if you truly believe in your food, that it is delicious and made with care, and if your goal is to bring us “big flavors and good times,” then stand behind it and make sure you do it.  I understand that you’re not the one cooking the food and making the drinks and serving the people, but it’s your responsibility to make sure you are represented well.  Do that.

Everyone else, form your own opinion.  As a food journalist, I know it’s ironic that I’m saying this, but a review is just one person’s review.  You don’t have to go to S’Mac and believe it’s the best macaroni and cheese in the city.  You don’t have to believe anything I say at all.  Don’t just listen to one person about anything, go experience it for yourself (sorry if this is getting too deep).

Hopefully, that article in The New York Times serves as a lesson to everyone involved in one way or another.

As for me – am I going to mosey on over to Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar?  I was never planning on it, Pete Wells’ review or not, mainly because I don’t trust any restaurant that advertises “Donkey Sauce” on their menu.  But hey, if you want to, then by all means, go for it, and then tell me what you think.