We'll Take Our Accolades Without Your Pity, Thanks
By Laura Oppenheimer in Food on Oct 18, 2007 4:30PM
Not a single Chicago restaurant made it onto Esquire's list of the best new restaurants of 2007, chosen by Esquire Food Critic John Mariani in the magazine's November issue. MenuPages suggests that Mariani has a thing against Illinois restaurants and that's why he didn't choose any Windy City restaurants either this year or last. Time Out Chicago critic Heather Shouse takes it a step further and essentially accuses him of being unethical in how he chooses restaurants that make the list. (To recap: last year Mariani apparently requested that restaurants send him a limo to pick him up from the airport and then comp his meal, something moto chef Homaro Cantu refused to do). These types of demands are no more appropriate from famous food critics than they are from Yelpers and bloggers.
We decided to read a little bit more of the November issue; after all, there was a lot of food coverage in the magazine, and it seemed unlikely that Mariani could skip over our fair city entirely. And of course, we were right—in "Chefs to Watch," Mariani lauds NoMi's Christophe David. But before he can say anything nice about David, or about Chicago, he has to say something nasty.
"You can't blame a town derided as the Second City for trying to impress," is how he starts his piece.
Derided? Perhaps Mariani has spent one too many lay-overs at O'Hare, but we haven't been feeling derided—especially when it comes to eating out—in a long time. And it seems like the rest of the country, including a fair number of people who know what they are doing, think highly of us too. Not to mention a recent Travel + Leisure poll of 60,000 people that names us the best city for dining in the country. But then again, read any of Mariani's stuff closely, and you discover you might not want to be complimented by him anyway. His write-up of Santa Monica's Abode restaurant says you should eat there because Chef Dominique Crenn is a hottie. Not really the kind of culinary recognition we're looking for in the first place.