In response to the searing New York Times review his new Manhattan restaurant received this week (which quickly went viral and made headlines around the Web on Wednesday), Food Network star Guy Fieri fired back on the "Today" show Thursday morning, claiming the food critic who wrote the piece was simply trying to gain attention for himself. In a 1000-plus-word review, which some are calling the worst in the paper's history, writer Pete Wells bashed Fieri's new 500-seat eatery Guy's American Kitchen & Bar in Manhattan with a series of questions-belying-insults like "How did Louisiana's blackened, Cajun-spiced treatment turn into the ghostly nubs of unblackened, unspiced white meat in your Cajun Chicken Alfredo?" and "Why did the toasted marshmallow taste like fish?"
Drinks that "glowed like nuclear waste" and forgetful, unconcerned service were also mentioned via question form.
"I just thought it was ridiculous. I've read reviews. There's good, there's bad in the restaurant business, but that to me went so overboard, it really seemed like there was another agenda," Fieri said in an interview with Savannah Guthrie inside the Times Square eatery. "I think we all know what's going on here. He came in with a different agenda. He came in four times to a restaurant that's been open two months? That's tough times, especially this size of a restaurant."
Fieri also doubted that all of Wells' visits could have been as bad as he claimed. "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 that's doing a big concept in his second month. Great way to hit it!" Fieri continued with a laugh, punching his hand into his palm.
Wells, meanwhile, stands by his review, including the question style he used. "I really did have a lot of questions; there was so much about the restaurant that I couldn't figure out," Wells told a writer from the journalism school The Poynter Institute on Wednesday.
Wells also said that he made multiple visits to Fieri's new business in order to be fair. "We always go at least three times before we do any kind of star rating, especially a negative one. You want to make sure you give it a good shot because the consequences can be damaging," he explained. "I really like and care about American food, and I really like and care about what I call in the piece, 'no-collar' food — buffalo wings and nachos. It should be held up on a pedestal; people love that food and they're going to go to a restaurant to get it because they love it. The kitchen should love it, too."
After Guthrie asked Fieri if the review got him to acknowledge that some parts of his restaurant aren't up to his standards, Fieri admitted he and his staff are striving to do better. "This is an ever-changing, ever-evolving process. New guys in, some guys out. You got different timings that go on. Do we do it perfect? No. Are we striving to do it perfect? Yes."
And what about those below-average reviews the restaurant has gotten from average people who post to the local business review website Yelp, which Guthrie said proves the restaurant is "not necessarily knocking people's socks off"?
"And at this point in time, two months, not really expecting to. We're trying to. We're trying as hard as we can to make it right, to do it right," Fieri insisted, pointing to the eatery's hand-formed burger patties and homemade mashed potatoes created for every service. "Let's see where we are in six months."
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