On June 29, the paperback edition of Frank Bruni’s best-selling autobiography, Born Round, hits bookshelves. (Look at the new, supercute, supersize picture of 7-year-old Bruni!) In honor of the big day, and as we come up on the one-year anniversary since he left his post as New York Times restaurant critic, I asked Frank some questions. Here’s Part I of the three-part series. If you have more questions for Frank, post them below!
On how he sees restaurants differently now that he’s not a critic anymore.
For the five-and-a-half years that I reviewed restaurants, I might not have given a star rating to restaurants that I go to now and that I adore. Then I’d have to try all the dishes at each spot, experience so many different circumstances—shunted to a bad seat, as a walk-in—and report on how a restaurant was all things to all people.
On changes in the restaurant scene since he stopped being a critic. (Or how Keith McNally is Hugh Jackman.)
So much of what is opening now reflects that moment one-and-a-half years ago when the economy was at an absolute nadir. Except for stealth, feel-good stories like Torrisi, it’s all big openings from well-known names. When you’re mounting a play, it’s hard to get investors if you don’t have a proven star. I think we’re seeing that now. If you can’t put on your marquee David Chang (or let’s say Nathan Lane) or Keith McNally (maybe Hugh Jackman), it lessens the chances that you can open for business.
It almost makes me wonder and worry that the NYC restaurant scene will become concentrated in just a few people. I worry about what happens to the George Mendeses of the world. He’s a talented chef with a great resume and no built-in audience. We need restaurants like his Aldea now.
On the small silver lining of the economic downturn for restaurants.
Although in some sense that retrenchment is a little bit of a blessing. I don’t think anyone is disappointed that we’re out of the era where every three months, another 300-seat Asian behemoth opens.
Next: Frank Bruni on NY’s Golden Age of Italian Restaurants