Banker-turned-restaurateur-turned-letter-writer Ahmass Fakahany has a lot of opinions about the state of criticism today, social media's influence on business, and the lasting power of word-of-mouth recommendations. In a conversation with OpenTable, Fakahany apologizes for writing his open letter to Pete Wells after the one-star review of Vaucluse, because it's not "Altamarea style." But he decided to do it because his "people were hurting" and he'd been "humbled times ten watching how hard these people work."
The restaurateur says that most of his customers don't really know about the letter, but the ones that did read it are supportive, and it might have brought a few new people to Vaucluse as well. He also shares his rosy vision of what the Times dining section could be:
It’s been the same writers and editors at the Times for years— Wells, Sifton, Florence, Melissa Clark, Maureen Edgerly — so I say to myself, what’s wrong with having them all coming together as a panel and reviewing the restaurants? That could be fun, and also it’s more fair and objective because it’s three or four voices.
And maybe you can add a rotating chef or two who can add a real culinary piece. It’s logical because I know they will all have different opinions. And I come from a background where including different opinions creates a better product and one that is more credible. I am a big inclusion guy. That system creates checks and balances. I don’t think they are serving the industry at this time to the fullest.
This is a good time to remember that the Times is not a hospitality trade magazine, but rather a news publication that also functions as a consumer guide. In the interview, Fakahany also remarks: "I built Altamarea with my bare hands."