Monday, November 26, 2007

Bitch and Moan, Bitch and Moan

In a piece I wrote for the Agence France Presse about Steve Wynn that went out on the wire this weekend, Las Vegas Advisor publisher Anthony Curtis boasted of the strong showing of Vegas in the inaugural Michelin food guide: "For Vegas in general, this means the international snobbery regarding things like great culinary offerings here almost has to be swept completely out."

Would that it be so. Now comes the Esquire food critic John Mariani, whining in his weekly online newsletter that Vegas got the Michelin treatment before Chicago or Washington and intimating that the star-ratings for Vegas must be based largely on spectacle rather than culinary achievement. And he quotes a particularly sore loser in L.A. Times food editor Leslie Brenner, whose city got just one or two more star-rated restaurants even though Michelin checked out at least double the number of eateries there as in Vegas. "What shocked me wasn't who did and did not get stars; rather, it was that the book that purports to be the bible of fine dining is so poorly researched and lamely written that the ratings have no credibility."

Mariani, whom I fall in and out of love with routinely and often within his articles, follows up with this brilliant line: "Brenner should know about errors: The L.A. Times prints an embarrassing number of egregious corrections of its own food articles." Yowza!

Why did Michelin come to Vegas now? Maybe because they want to sell books and far more Vegas-goers buy guidebooks than those who go to, uh, Chicago? But that doesn't make their assessments invalid. Clearly, though, Curtis' dream of widespread respectability will take at least a few more rounds.


Anonymous said...

If by widespread respectability you mean that food CRITICS will accept Las Vegas then I don't think it will ever happen. I think the reason Michelin did Las Vegas is purely economic. People from everywhere go to Las Vegas so there is probably a larger market for this book than any other except maybe New York.


i agree it's economic, but i also don't think that impugns the ratings they made. and i disagree about the food critics thing -- i believe they'll catch up sooner or later. keep in mind that a decade ago the idea of great hotel hospitality and service was not something vegas was known for and there was great skepticism among HOTEL commentators and critics. Now the former GM at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, the very top of the hotel industry, has left and works for Steve Wynn.

Unknown said...

It'll be a different breed of food critics that catch up, not the old guard who have problems with celeb chef "branded" places where they still do good food.

The funniest thing is that as a celeb chef expanded in to his own local area, the "branded" place wasn't looked down upon. Emeril, Bobby Flay or Mario Batali were free to open places in a metro area without speculation and be able to "control" the places while still maintaining public appearances and countless hours taping for TV. But as soon as they expand to Vegas, they've "sold out" and the concept is cheapened.

It may have been an economic decision, but it is also a good decision. There is a lot of good food happening in Vegas.