The chef who won the 2017 James Beard Award for outstanding chef is taking criticism of one of his restaurants. Daniel Boulud owns more than three dozen restaurants around the world, but most famous is one in New York City: DBGB Kitchen and Bar. When the dining review appeared in The New York Times’ Monday food section, the pastry chef behind the pastry kitchen at the restaurant responded.
The restaurant received a scathing review by veteran food critic Pete Wells.
It wasn’t just one bad review, per Wells. “Sixty-six-year-old Mr. Boulud is going to break your heart with, and bury with, 20 second-rate dishes he doles out ‘made from scratch with incredible passion, talent and lots of love.’ Not easy, you’d think, to make a double cheeseburger, fries and a drink last a hundred years. Not easy, anyway, to do so from any kitchen in America.”
Good old-fashioned praise of his kitchen: “His kitchen is no less sophisticated than his restaurant is glamorous. But … when Mr. Boulud’s customer service flows more like a commercial florist than a major restaurant operator, Mr. Wells is wrong.”
Wells also slams “some of the worst ‘comfort food’ the editors of Food & Wine magazine have ever put into a restaurant. And, let’s be honest: Anyone who’s bought a letter opener at D.C.’s Abraham Lincoln-style store may have gone there with a side of regret.”
In a Medium post, pastry chef Zach Schneider describes the review as “insensitive,” “uninformed,” and unfairly “interpreting what the neighborhood restaurant should be.”
“We weren’t on his list of best places to eat or to go and it was a complete surprise to us when it showed up,” Schneider writes. “We didn’t feel the review was fair.”
Schneider says he didn’t read the review and makes the case that the dish specifically is not “comfort food.”
“This one is fully charred and thus tastes sweet and juicy,” he writes. “The burger isn’t topped with buns or cheese. It’s topped with all of the bread, it’s top bun-less, and the cheese isn’t served on the burger. Some of the American classics being peddled today, like ‘bacon, lettuce, and tomato’ are served inside it.”
Boulud released a statement defending his restaurant’s cuisine and talent. “The author of the NYT review doesn’t know us and our commitment to food, and neither of us are surprised by the language of the review.
“We have grown over the years and are excited about a bright future with so many new and exciting possibilities for both of us. We thank and respect the editor of the New York Times for publishing this review; its review of our fine dining PUMPKIN CAFE restaurant has been validated. “