On Monday, CEO of Altamarea Group Ahmass Fakahany posted an open letter to New York Times food critic Peter Wells in response to a scathing review and one-star rating of Altamarea’s first French restaurant, Vaucluse.
Fakahany writes, “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.” He continues by saying that the New York Times Food review section is “at its lowest point” and that the rating star system has become a random process that “increasingly falls on your whims and moods.”
Fakahany tells Wells to sharpen his food knowledge and revisit the basics of journalism, saying, “Please take the time to do the proper job for the reader and the New York Times.” Fakahany comments on Wells’ “embarrassing lack of knowledge” regarding the food and restaurant industry, as evidenced in Wells’ fact checking methods and questions.
As an example, Fakahany points to a review in which Wells calls Altamarea Group cheap for having temporary battery-powered votive candles, not bothering to ask why or knowing the group was waiting on a flame permit from the Fire Department, a process that often takes several weeks.
This letter is not all “sour grapes,” according to Fakahany. He writes, “What we all do know is the system is broken and its approach. It is random and lacking any credible substance,” and suggests including other food writers and a rotating chef’s council. Fakahany continues, “There are many options to consider, and like many aspects in life, there is a time for recalibration.”
In closing, Fakahany tells Wells to, “Take a deep breath, focus on food writing and its joys and get back to the fundamentals.” Fakahany rates Wells Effort/Credibility: zero stars, Food Knowledge: one star, and last of all, Creating Confusion: 4 stars.