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Bruniocalypse: Reactions From the Restaurant Industry

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We'll return to the BruniBeat tomorrow with some memoir highlights, but to wrap up our extensive Bruniocalypse coverage, we offer a cross-section of reactions from around the restaurant industry. Have something to add? That comment section beckons.

[Morimoto's Frank Bruni signage]

Eric Ripert, Le Bernardin: "Back in 1989 when Le Bernardin was about to be reviewed for the second time by Bryan Miller, Maguy and her brother Gilbert were supposed to spend the Christmas holiday in Mustique. However, they knew that he had been in at least once and so Maguy decided to stay in NY and be at the restaurant for Christmas. Gilbert went to Mustique anyway. Sure enough, Mr. Miller came in on Christmas Eve and shortly thereafter his second 4-star review came out...

... Fast forward to Christmas time 2004. The week before Christmas, Maguy told me this story about Bryan Miller. We also had a feeling we were close to being re-reviewed (for the fourth time) and so I decided to stay in NY over the holidays and be at Le Bernardin, while Maguy did go ahead with her holiday plans and left town. She told me it was my turn to stay behind this time. Strangely enough, Frank Bruni showed up on the 24th of December. Our Christmas gift came a few months later, another 4-star review."

Mauro Maccioni, Le Cirque: "All in all, the Maccioni's feel that both of Bruni's reviews were fair. We were overjoyed to get the three-star review because we worked very hard for it. For us, he did a good job."

Robert Sietsema, Village Voice: "Frankly, I was shocked when he first assumed command five years ago. Not because he spoke fluent Italian, or that he'd worked in the Times' Roman bureau as a reporter, but because he'd written a semi-adulatory Bush book, which showed very bad judgment. But I was also equally offended when, as soon as he started, many foodies dog-piled him with pummeling fists. Give the guy a chance, I thought: He's a good writer, though sometimes a little over the top. Gradually, he became a towering figure in the claustrophobic world of upscale New York restaurants. He turned out to be a much better critic than the dyspeptic William Grimes. His review of Charles I took as a sign of incumbent insanity. I was glad he trashed the place, but his persona of an elderly rich woman was a little too Bates Motel."

Cobi Levy, Charles: "Bruni is gone. He hasn't been relevant for downtown restaurants for sometime. Ask Bar Blanc how far his approval went. Meanwhile his 1 star or less for Freemans, Charles, La Esquina and the Waverly: I think I can safely say we/they aren't hurting. So he's gone, diners have been too smart for him for sometime."

Kate Krader, Food & Wine: "Although you want to celebrate the great 4-star reviews I always loved the bad ones. I committed some of them to memory. From the Cipriani no star poor review: 'Over the years the Cipriani restaurant family and its employees have faced charges of sexual harassment, insurance fraud and tax evasion, but the crime that comes to mind first when I think of the Ciprianis is highway robbery.' And I was in Atlanta the day the Ago review came out. People were walking around quoting that line about the conflated veal chop: 'the special rack of lamb veal chop.' I also love the way he approached his reviews as a features writer—smart, timely ideas and themes. I thought last year's survivor series of new restaurants was just brilliant. I'm sad he's leaving."

A rep at Beacon Restaurant: "Save money, eliminate position?. No one reads the paper anyway.. go online!"

Noel Cruz, Elettaria: "We were definitely disappointed with the result of his review on Elettaria. Some points he was correct on but on others he was just incorrect. It’s hard to quantify in the long run how much it affected business. As far as changes, we listen to our guts and make whatever changes necessary to bring in business and please our guests."

Danyelle Freeman, Daily News: "One of my Bruni favorites was his review of Prune: 'A beer and a chaser. 'Goooood morning!'' That was a wonderful piece. He reminds us that eating really is just about enjoying life. He has a great and sometimes wicked sense of humor. And I did love his fashion analogies, comparing a restaurant to a poodle in Prada scarf."

Karine Bakhoum, KBNetwork News: "I look forward to reading his book and wish him well. It's a very trying job to have and I think each critic has brought unique and interesting perspectives. For me two things stand out during his tenure his tributes to the smaller neighborhood restaurants and his stint as a waiter which he recounted in his Critic's notebook; I thought that was brave and showed character. Each individual restaurant experience is subjective so taking that into consideration there is no way that any critic can avoid scrutiny or criticism as there is no way every reader will agree. If one could sum the last few critics by their favorite cuisines you could say Miller favored French food, Reichl Japanese, Grimes America and Bruni Italian."

Joshua David Stein, Out Magazine: "Bruni's send up of the Robert's Steakhouse at the Penthouse strip club was a real watershed moment for me. The review was a brilliant if inadvertent illustration of why gay men shouldn't frequent strip clubs. The danger isn't necessary just for their own sake (the drunken homophobic violence of drunken horny oafs) but for dignity of the strippers, whatever shred they have. In this piece, the stripper Mahagony is demeaned by the sexual inattention with which she is greeted."
(NB: The Robert's write-up was mentioned by four other industry folks not quoted here.)

· All Bruniocalypse Coverage [~E~]

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