Jaimee Rose, I beg to differ
Rarely do I feel like attacking another local writer's work in public -- usually I just share my criticisms with friends and fellow journalists, in private.
But come on. How can a story that contains this sentence in the lede -- "Does anyone hear Phoenix and think yum?" -- make it on to the front page of the daily paper?
Well, it's not just the writing -- about some collective, bourgeois, J Crew-wearing "we," natch -- that bugs me. The sentiment behind it bothers me way more. I am just not buying the whole notion that Phoenix foodies are fickle, and that it's "discouraging" to local chefs. And I know I'm not the only person who laughed out loud when they read it.
Before I even poured myself a cup of coffee this morning, my sweetie handed me the Republic and told me I had to check out this ridiculous piece. We especially got a kick out of the list of former Phoenix chefs who've "moved on" -- an extremely outdated list of luminaries, I must say -- and those who are "up-and-comers."
Hello, James McDevitt from Hapa? That dude left ages ago, and Methode Bistro opened up in that spot last year. (This reminds me of an incident I had with the "new" owner of Hapa four years ago -- you have to read this piece: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2003-06-19/news/spiked/ And the latter half of this: http://www.phoenixnewtimes.com/2003-07-03/news/spiked/)
And I'm sure Nobuo Fukuda of Sea Saw -- who's been a culinary rock star in this city for years -- would be insulted to be referred to as a newcomer. After all, he got his "Top 10 Best New Chefs in America" nod from Food + Wine mag a year before Mary Elaine's departing chef Bradford Thompson did, and Thompson was apparently the only news hook in the article.
By the way, considering how rarified Mary Elaine's is, can anybody really call Thompson our mascot? How many people have actually eaten there? Chris Bianco got his Beard award, too, but I'm sure he's served a much larger, more diverse cross-section of the dining public.
One of my friends -- she of "nerd alert" fame -- emailed me first thing this morning with the funniest rant I've read in ages:
"phx IS a food town..there are SHIT loads of killer, highly respected restaurants here that have been around for years and years : ranchopinot, for one. barrio cafe. pizzeria bianco is going on 10 years fer chrissake. tricks. richardsons. the list goes on....we have no 'food tradition'..wtf? as if sonoran fare doesn't count? someone should tell the people who've been here for thousands of years...the idiot that wrote that article should be pimp slapped..quoting the toolbox from fox restaurants? he can blow me..i hate fox concept joints, they blow!!"
Why didn't Jaimee Rose interview Peter Kasperski? Oh, probably because he'd blow her whole premise out of the water. I can't imagine what kind of cow he's having, if he's even read the thing. The Scottsdale-based indie restauranteur is one of the most ardent proponents of the Valley's way-underrated culinary scene, and I couldn't agree with him more. This Cowboy Ciao newsletter says it all.
Anyway, take a look at Chowhound and tell me that Phoenix foodies aren't as obsessed and opinionated and as fiercely proud of our restaurant scene as any New Yorker would be about Big Apple joints.
I've bitched about Phoenix as much as anybody, but one thing I've never complained about is the restaurants here. Sure, downtown certainly needs more in the way of good restaurants -- or any restaurants, for that matter. (We need to lure somebody like Kasperski down here, or else clone Matt Pool.) Look around the whole Valley, though, and there are all kinds of interesting places to eat, and so many creative people cooking up a storm.
As for chefs leaving the Valley for bigger cities? Who cares -- turnover is inevitable, and it only means new talent's on its way in. Why not focus on that? Why not celebrate the fact that even Phoenix's most elite dining establishments are a hell of a lot more accessible and affordable than comparable eateries in Frisco or NYC? Those cities' best restaurants have chef departures and meltdowns all the time, but I doubt their local writers are calling it a crisis.
People are spoiled here, and they don't even realize it!