ROUND 2: Chodorow opens Wild Salmon, another flashy big-box serving—you guessed it—salmon, mostly. Despite Bruni being “banned” from all 27 of Chodorow’s restaurants—something eventually “repealed” a week after Chodorow announced it—he still found time to review Wild Salmon (he later revealed in his memoir, Born Round, that he had to visit in a wig to avoid risk of being booted or confronted during his meal). Bruni’s August 2007 review was tepid at best, and still brutal at worst (“If a posse of tough shellfish were mugged by an unruly fruit salad, the crime might look something like this”). Chodorow took out yet another advertisement in the Times, hitting Bruni and referencing his review by beginning with the line “The penguin has returned to the South Pole where it belongs.” With the context of the review, it makes (some) sense. Without the context of the review—which it didn’t have anywhere near it—it could appear totally insane and unhinged. Which it did.
AND THE WINNER IS? Bruni. Sure, Chodorow’s dining empire still spans the globe, but Kobe Club and Wild Salmon both shuttered within two years of the reviews. Bruni’s memoir was a best seller, and he got the last word in during a Q&A with Times readers a few months before his departure from the post: “I stand by that review, but I also respect his right to let the public know how strongly he disagreed with it. My position at the Times gives me a big, loud megaphone. I can’t and don’t take offense when someone affected by a review wants to fashion and use a big, loud megaphone of his or her own.”
COMBATANTS: Former Grub Street and the Feedbag blogger/Time magazine food critic Josh Ozersky vs. Robert Sietsema of The Village Voice
THE CRITIC: Ozersky once regularly tortured the service industry’s biggest names as the original blogger for New York magazine’s infamous Grub Street blog before branching out on his own with another blog, an online television show, and then a gig as the dining critic for Time. In other words, the inmate got to the top of the asylum.
THE BLOWOUT: Ozersky’s come under fire for the typical offenses food bloggers come under fire for: favoritism, hackiness, certainly nothing anyone who’s ever written about food has never heard before. It wasn’t even his wedding—which was catered by a team of boldface-name chefs including Michael White and Michael Psilakis—that set the hounds of critical hell upon him. It was when he wrote about it in Time, and failed to disclose that he got those services for free, that Voice critic Sietsema let loose on Ozersky, bemoaning the lack of disclosure in Ozersky’s piece and furthermore panning the culture of food writers being corrupted by free meals on the whole.
AND THE WINNER IS? Sietsema. While he did get to keep his job, Ozersky had to issue a public apology for the lack of disclosure (however lacking contrition: “It was a mistake, but I was hardly trying to trade column space for goods, as Sietsema is pretending to suppose”). Furthermore, the debate about pay-for-play writing flared up again. If you’re going to vouch for an ethical cause, provoking conversation is always a victory.
Foster Kamer is a senior editor at The New York Observer. His work has also appeared in Esquire and The Village Voice and on Gawker.com, BlackBook, The Awl, RollingStone.com, and BBC Two’s The Culture Show. He’s currently down to five a day. His last feature for Gourmet Live was “The Postmeal Smoke.”