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Restaurateur Declares Blog War on New York Times

In the Web 2.0 world, when you get angry with the mainstream media, you have some recourse.  You can blog to communicate your unfiltered message.  But how do you equalize the audience for your message with the audience for the outlet that wronged you? 

If you’re Jeffrey Chodorow, known to some as Rocco DiSpirito‘s business partner in the NBC TV reality show “The Restaurant,” you declare a blog war on the New York Times.  In a costly full page ad in today’s paper, Chodorow savages restaurant critic Frank Bruni and the rest of the crew in the food section.  He announces that he’s started his own blog to shadow their work (and presumably ridicule them).

Furious at a scathing review of “Kobe Club” by Bruni in the February 7 edition of the Times, Chodorow decided to get even — or at least fight back.  Here’s how he describes his blog:

This blog was born partly out of my love for food and for great restaurants (from neighborhood joints to the world’s finest) and partly in response to an increasingly negative, downright nasty climate that has surfaced in the world of restaurant journalism. My intent is to provide a different perspective—from a restaurateur’s point of view—as well as to share some of the great food experiences I have been exposed to because of my success in the business. I’ve also made it my mission with this blog to comment on reviews that I feel are not-fair, not-objective and not-constructive.

Certainly Bruni poked his finger squarely in Chodorow’s eye in the review:

Kobe Club occupies the Midtown space once inhabited by Mix in New York, Mr. Chodorow’s cheeky, ill-fated collaboration with the French chef Alain Ducasse.

Mix wasn’t even Mr. Chodorow’s flashiest recent failure. Who can forget Rocco’s on 22nd, scene of “The Restaurant,” where Mama’s meatballs were sauced with acrimony and eventual litigation? Or its short-lived successor in that location, Brasserio Caviar & Banana?

Brasserio Caviar & Banana — the name really does bear repeating — tried a grill-from-Ipanema approach and foreshadowed Mr. Chodorow’s fascination with sharp objects. Meats came on disturbingly, dangerously long skewers.

No doubt Chodorow has many in the New York restaurant community silently rooting for him, while others are cringing.  It will be interesting to see what approach the Times takes.  They can try to ignore it; seek retribution using the pen as a sword; or they can tone down future reviews.  One certainly wonders whether Bruni — or anyone else at the Times — can objectively review a Chodorow establishment after this broadside.

As a “foodie” and a proponent of blogs as a medium to circumvent the mainstream media, I find this story fascinating and look forward to watching it continue to unfold.

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