Keith McNally, kingpin restaurateur, proud father of Balthazar and owner of the newly one-starred Morandi, dropped off a statement to us regarding Frank Bruni's review of Morandi. The review, of course, read in such a way it could easily have been the text of a zero star take-down, this being something that McNally wanted to address, via the following (also, per Keith, sent to the editors of the Times):
Two weeks ago my restaurant, Morandi, and its female chef, Jody Williams, received a one-star rating from Frank Bruni of The New York Times. Prior to the review I was told by a number of chefs in the business not to expect anything above a token one star. Not because Morandi didn't deserve it (it's not for me to say), but because Bruni had never given a female chef in Manhattan anything more than one star, ever. I found this impossible to believe. (I still do). But after receiving the predicted (and predictable) one star, I read what I believe is every single one each of Bruni's previous reviews for the New York Times.
In roughly 150 reviews Frank Bruni has never given a female chef four stars. Nor has he given a female chef three stars. ( And though he gave owner of Felidia, Lidia Bastianich, three stars, the chef, as Bruni points out, is these days a man). On the two momentous occasions that Bruni saw fit to hand a woman two stars (both outside of Manhattan) he flatly refused to mention that the chef was a woman. This is peculiar, because when the chef is a man Bruni often makes quite a song and dance about it.At present, the Times Dining section editor Pete Wells has declined to comment; we're also told that the Times had not yet received/reviewed the letter when we sought comment. Sidebar: Is anyone enjoying the McNally-Chodorow rebuttal strategy comparison as much as we are?
The categories, however, where women do feature in Mr. Bruni's world are, appropriately enough, at the bottom: The one and no-star categories. Here, Bruni shows no prejudice against women whatsoever, and to prove it opens up the floodgates for them. Twelve (yes twelve!) females are suddenly cited in these nether regions. And no matter that these include the Michelin-starred chef, April Bloomfield of The Spotted Pig, and Prune's esteemed chef Gabrielle Hamilton. For in Bruni's powerful and untouchable world these chefs are women first and professional chefs a long, long way second. How else to explain his record? And for the record, it should be noted that in Bruni's reviews the overall percentage of women to men decreases as the stars increase.
One can only wonder whether Bruni would still have his job at The Times if he himself was a woman. Based on the unremittingly sexist slant of his reviews one has to say no. The surprise is that The New York Times continues to condone it. But until it refuses to, its message, through Frank Bruni, is loud and clear: If you're a woman and talented, the one place you'd better get out of - and fast - is the kitchen.
· Week in Reviews: Morandi Ekes Out a Star [~E~]
· Restaurants, By Star Rating [NYT]