The almost 400 dollar a pound Wagyu Beef was the smallest part of the story that Giada presented to viewers this morning as a Today Show contributor. The real story took place behind the scenes within the New York restaurant and media world over the last 7 weeks. Our beautiful Everyday Italian gal mentioned nary a word of the controversy that has taken food experts by storm. All her segment showed was a self-serving restaurant owner of The Kobe Club, searing hundreds of dollars of beef on a hot pan as both she and he cut off the chef, Scott Ubert, who had been brought along to cook and talk about crab cakes. Poor television interviewing skills aside, the back drop to this innocent puff piece really has me wondering who at GE pushed for this story. Ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
This morning's restaurant impresario was Jeffrey Chodorow, who brought us The China Grill and Asia De Cuba, as well as the television event of a millisecond The Restaurant, featuring the egotistical talent of chef Rocco DiSpirito - whose main claim to fame may be that he was the one person in the world with more hubris than Chodorow himself.
Chodorow opened The Kobe Club and received such a savage review on February 7th (NO STARS!) from The New York Times' Frank Bruni, that, in addition to blogging about it incessantly, Chodorow took out a full page ad in the paper on Feb 21th (estimates from $40,000 to $80,000) denouncing the review. Unfortunately any attempts to provide you with a link to said ad have proven fruitless (conspiracy or PDF problems?...hhhmmm).
This ignited comment and controversy that lasted for weeks with every qualified (and not) critic and foodie commenting on it: Gael Greene, Mimi Sheraton, Anthony Bourdain to mention only a few. Mimi is funny. She said Abe Rosenthal, The Times Executive Editor in her time, used to say,"We make more money when you give a bad review than when you give a good one." So Chodorow isn't the first restaurateur to buy an ad to defend his establishment.
So...here we have Giada giving him plenty of free publicity about his magnificent steaks, while everyone else is talking about his huge feud with Bruni, and pretty much acknowledging what a blowhard he is.
What do I think? I haven't eaten at The Kobe Club, so I don't know if the poor review was justified. I like Frank Bruni's reviews generally. I LOVED his piece about snotty chefs telling us how to eat. And I do think Jeffrey Chodorow's ad just highlighted the terrible review he got, with not too many people coming to his defense. But, somehow, I don't think Jeffrey Chodorow needs defending. He's got 2000 swords available to him at The Kobe Club and over 1 million results for "The Kobe Club, New York" on Google. No matter how much he paid for that ad, I'd say he got his money's worth.
Oh my, I've forgotten to tell you about the Wagyu beef itself. Read this wonderful background and just remember if it ain't expensive, as in jaw-droppingly expensive, it ain't Wagyu.