Saturday, July 24, 2010

Celebrity Chefs - Love 'em or...

Celebrity chefs. Love 'em or hate 'em, I guess they're here to stay. Of course, one man's or one woman's definition of celebrity chef is probably different than another. So I'm sure mine is different than yours.

For instance, to me Thomas Keller = celebrity chef. Because he's a great fucking chef. Eric Ripert = celebrity chef. Because he's a great fucking chef. Tony Bourdain = celebrity. Because even though he was a chef, he was never, in my opinion, a great chef. He turned into a celebrity chef via books, TV, etc. Rachael Ray. Chef? Yeah, right. Celebrity = totally. I'm pretty sure Tony would agree that Mr. Keller and Mr. Ripert are better chefs than he, but (other than food crazy people) who do you think is most recognizable as a celebrity chef? You got a lineup, they're picking out Tony.

Now don't get me wrong; I dine at other celebrity chef restaurants with some regularity, though not Thomas' or Eric's, mainly because I can't afford to. But some celebrity chefs have restaurants which are actually affordable and worthy of dining at, again and again. Take Mario Batali - big celebrity chef. Nascar spokesperson and all. Products in all the kitchen stores. Huge. And you know what - the guy can cook - well, he's not cooking your food any more, but when you eat at Lupa, or you eat at Otto, or you eat at Babbo, you're basically eating his food. His ideas. He made his bones cooking the stuff that's being served in those restaurants, not eating barbecued cockroaches on TV, if you get my drift. Or calling everyone a douche; hell, even I do that.

Anyway, where am I going with all this? Oh yeah, last week in DC, I had the "pleasure" of eating at a celebrity chef's restaurant, that of one Spike Mendelsohn. I'm sure you've heard of him - he was a non-winner (okay, loser) on Top Chef a couple of years ago, he wears a hat, and now he's a celebrity chef. I was trying to eat at Spike's brand new restaurant, but ended up at the older one only because the new joint wasn't yet open, though from all the publicity I'd read, I kinda got the impression that it was. Actually, this was the first tell that it wasn't, on one of the chairs outside...

Well, it is the hospitality industry, after all. So, I was now faced with my second choice, Spike's first restaurant which is right next door, called Good Stuff Eatery. The new restaurant is a pizza joint, called, I kid you not, We, The Pizza. Pretension be thy name...

But, Good Stuff Eatery it was. Because anytime you see crowds like this, lined up, you figure it's got to be good...

And this plaque is posted on the wall outside, so it's gotta be...

Wrong. To say that the burger and fries are an abomination would only do them justice. First I ordered the fries without salt, so that they'd come fresh from the fryer - but to no avail...these were the soggiest, least tasty fries I've had in a long, make that ever. Evidently, Spike thinks that red bliss potatoes are the best for fries, but that's the least of his problems. First, teach proper frying technique - then TEACH PROPER FRYING TECHNIQUE - and then use russets.

The burger was overshadowed by it's mitt-sized bun, but no matter, as it barely had any flavor of its own. Maybe it shouldn't come as much of a surprise as I saw the griddle man loading the flat top with parcooked burgers by the dozen. God, it was awful. This place makes Five Guys Burgers look like Les Crayeres, a Michelin 3-star restaurant in Reims, France, where according to his bio, Spike did his externship from the Culinary Institute.

And you know what? He even worked at one of Chef Keller's restaurants in the Napa Valley, Bouchon. Significant Eater and I once enjoyed a meal there and also at it's outpost in Las Vegas a number of years ago. It's a nice little bistro, to be sure. One of my favorite sides at Bouchon just happens to be the french fries, perfectly cooked and served in a paper cone, if I recall. But Spike must've been working on fancier food, not the fries. After all, as his profile says:

Spike will continue to pursue his professional dream which is to one day bring the
very coveted Three Michelin Stars to his resume.

I guess before he gets the 3 stars, we'll have to settle for the pizza. I can't wait.


  1. We had a less than spectacular meal there, made even less so by the fact that he "how YOU doin"-ed me on my return trip to the mayo bar. Which is the only place flavor exists.

  2. Yeah, it was okay at one point but has gone WAY downhill. Someone teach me the dipping sauces and then there would be no further need.

    Plus, DC has WAY too many pizza places. I'm bored with it. Why cant we have more good cart food and hommus joints? Creativity people!

  3. OK, so you went to a loser's place and you're surprised that the burger and fries sucked.And we're talking burger and fries with a chef who has 3 stars in his eyes and is opening a pizza place.
    I wish Spike well, but just because he got on a TV show just means he has camera skills, not fry skills. I've got a real problem with cooking as a competition, maybe the heat is making me cranky.
    Miss you guys!

  4. Eating foods that are good for your heart doesn’t have to be a punishment. Some of America’s top chefs are cutting down on fat, cholesterol, and salt without skimping on flavor and fun