Letter to New York Times Food Critic

:
Peter Wells
December 7th, 2015
Dear Peter Wells:
Though we have never met, I have read much of your work or opinions over the years, much of which does not
necessarily cover food or the joy of food. I am writing you because over the course of time you need to know you are
losing credibility and, in a sense, degrading the very institution that gave you the privilege and mandate to be a food
critic. The New York Times Dining review section is at its lowest point, and the subject of much industry chatter in
this regard. Congratulations. You have managed to do a fantastic job of getting it there. The rating star system has
become a random process lacking any systematic element to encourage chefs and restaurateurs to create, and even
have fun with the adrenaline rush of the process, but increasingly falls on your whims and moods. You need to do
some of the basic journalism and sharpen your food knowledge please -- and actually show you love it as we do. You
cut corners in your haste to develop preconceived notions and to get quickly to silly childish jabs. Please take the
time to do the proper job for the reader and the New York Times. Your fact checking questions reveal consistently an
embarrassing lack of knowledge and show an absence of a natural food interest of any New York Times food critic to
date. It is equally embarrassing for us to write most of the core food section text for you, in response to your emails,
to give the reader a false perception of your knowledge. With regards to diligence on facts let me give you a simple
range. In one review you made fun that for a group like ours we were cheap because we had temporary battery-powered votive candles. Yet, we were waiting for our flame permit from the Fire Department, which often takes several
weeks. But you had no sense of the regulatory process but were exhilarated at the chance to jab, not taking the time to
learn and fact check the business point you chose to comment on. Or even recently, on Vaucluse you smirk at why we
serve the duck for two and charge accordingly double price for the Duck a L' Orange. It has to be served for two, as it
is dry-aged and roasted whole on the crown and cannot be served for one. A simple question on technique during your
fact checking process would have served you well. But you don't take the time to understand fully or want to.
You seem so desperately anxious to be relevant in your time in this post. Is it because you want to develop a personal
profile knowing you will never be a Craig Claiborne, Mimi Sheraton, Ruth Reichl, Frank Bruni, or a Florence Fabricant? Is it because you worry about readership knowing you march on a path of a dinosaur given the age of digitization? Only you and your colleagues know the answer or can adjust for it. What we all do know is the system is broken
and its approach. It is random and lacking any credible substance. The New York Times needs to rethink its stance and
future trajectory here. Perhaps it is time for a composite system including other food writers and possibly including
also a rotating chefs council. There are many options to consider, and like many aspects in life, there is a time for
recalibration. This is all not sour grapes and personal disappointment on your Vaucluse rating as one might think. That
is not so, and you are certainly entitled to your views. But frankly many of us just cannot arrive at your star rating
when reading your own passages (either on the upside or downside). I do not even know what the three star ratings we
have for Ai Fiori and Marea mean any more. It has become false pride given the state of confusion you have created.
Fortunately, we are guided by our clients each day, who are the ultimate voice, our strong belief in quality and our
highly talented team (which somehow you kindly noticed), and our dream and love for this business. We love this city
and creating new dining venues and memories for our clients. This is a personal passion for me, and I have dedicated
myself and all my working hours to it.
With regards to pre-conceived and consistent negative comments on the Altamarea Group that you make, again I
invite you to learn about us and understand our direction, our values, and our team. It takes just a little journalism. Try
it, you might like it.
Please don't be so desperate as you are. Take a deep breath, focus on food writing and its joys and get back to the
fundamentals. Come on, Pete, you are better than this. The New York Times deserves better, your predecessors
deserve better, and your readers deserve better.
Effort/Credibility: zero stars

Food Knowledge: one star

If you get this, thank you for reading and your time.

Ahmass Fakahany
CEO & Owner, Altamarea Group

Creating Confusion: 4 stars