One of the things that makes the false dichotomy between elitists and the “rest of us”—a specious narrative of which the left is guilty as much as the right—so pernicious is its portability. It can be unpacked anywhere, for any cause, so long as the “rest of us” is no more narrowly defined as “anybody who’s not an elitist,” a definition that high-fives its own premise.
So, we have the inevitable backlash to Pete Wells’s takedown of Guy Fieri’s new “restaurant,” a review that went superviral. As with anything good, it took only twenty-four hours for people to argue that it’s actually Bad In Disguise:
Of course Fieri’s restaurant is crap, people said, so why expend the energy and column-space to deal with it so harshly? From @MikeBodge: “NY Times absolutely brutalized Guy Fieri’s new restaurant today, but it’s a wasted review. Why not review Bubba Gump and Red Lobster too?” And since we supposedly live in a country divided between elitists and populists—Joshua Stein explained back in October that Fieri has built his career shamelessly pandering to the latter camp—some haughty New York reviewer isn’t going to persuade those REAL Americans anyway.
Big elitist Times, bullying the bumpkin tourists as they furrow their brows in a vain attempt to understand their Yelp apps. Never mind the condescension implicit in the argument that none of Fieri’s customers can read a review and decide for themselves where to eat; the Times picked up Fieri’s new spot like a used tissue and took it out to the curb, lest it get Donkey Sauce on anything.
There’s one glaring problem with this: Guy Fieri, celebrity chain restaurateur, is hardly poor, and his schtick, accurately diagnosed above as pandering, looks down on the bumpkins from a significant incline. To believe that Fieri is a tribune of working class tastes is to take his bleached goatee at face value, which is to miss entirely the point of a bleached goatee. And as The Awl concedes, Fieri’s eatery ain’t cheap; regardless of the amount of mayo-based sauces, cuisine is only democratic to the extent that it doesn’t require emptying your pockets to consume it. American Kitchen is all artifice and manipulation, a high-PPA restaurant pretending to be aw-shucks authentic while fleecing its customers.
Meanwhile, the Times reviewer called it as he saw it. Who’s elitist here?
UPDATE: Fieri goes the woes-me route, as none of us doubted he would:
“I just thought it was ridiculous,” Fieri told the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie. “I mean, I read reviews. You know, there’s good and bad in the restaurant business; but that to me went so overboard it really seemed like there was another agenda.”
Without elaborating, Fieri went on to suggest that Wells was trying to “make a name” for himself, and figured that the best way to do that was to “go after a celebrity chef who’s not a New Yorker that’s doing a big concept, and in its second month.”
Note he toots his own horn (“celebrity chef”) while affirming his outside status (“not a New Yorker”). It really seemed like there was another agenda there.