Recently, a New York Times food critic made headlines by slapping Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson’s Locol restaurant with a zero-star review.
If you’re unfamiliar with Locol, the chefs opened the fast food restaurant with the intentions of bringing wholesome, affordable food to economically challenged areas, referred to as “food deserts,” such as Oakland and Watts, California.
The Times’ Peter Wells was not impressed by the restaurant, at all, and sparked a conversation about whether it was a fair assessment of the restaurant.
From the notion that he was unnecessarily harsh to a “fast food” restaurant, to the defense that the food should be better considering the famous faces behind the restaurant, opinions were flying out left and right.
We reached out to some highly-respected chefs, and also took to social media to get a sense of what the culinary brotherhood had to feel about the review.
Chefs have to deal with critics all the time, from newspapers to Yelp reviews, so they know what it’s like to take on harsh criticism. For the most part, the chefs felt the review was a bit of a stunt to bring attention to the newspaper, but there was also an overarching feeling that there is still a lot of value to what the chefs are trying to do with the restaurant.
Check out some chef reactions below and see if you agree:
“I think we are giving way too much attention to this review. Obviously Wells reviewed this place because he knows he needs to create controversy in order to continue to entice readers. He is one step away from creating click-bait at the expense of chefs like Roy Choi.
With that said, I think all fast-food/fast-casual joints are fair game for reviews — negative or positive, they will draw customers to see what all the commotion is all about and that’s the real chance to win your guests. People saying he shouldn’t have reviewed the restaurant because of Choi’s altruistic perspective is bullshit. It’s a restaurant and should be treated with all the same standards as any other restaurant.
In our digital world, Yelp is more powerful in the long run, so let Mr. Wells try and keep creating fake food news.”
— Eddie Huang (@MrEddieHuang) January 5, 2017
“In my opinion the overall tone of the review was a bit harsh. Anyone who employs at-risk teens in a poverty stricken neighborhood deserves at least 4 stars.
As chefs, we are prepared to envision menus based on demographics, cost, availability and other variables. Reading some of the menu items LocoL provides I can see where the chefs were going based on flavor profiles, availability, and especially food cost. At the the end of the day, they humbled themselves with zero egos , bringing a seemingly impossible idea to fruition. They challenged corporate fast food on their own turf with healthier options at the same price point.
If that’s not ‘punk’ as fuck, I don’t know what is!
Also, The NY Times brought up good sentiments about the restaurant as well as even recommending items at the end of the article. It almost feels that Pete Wells wanted to give LocoL a couple stars. Maybe zero stars was intended to shock and get the article a little more shine.”
“When a reviewer comes in for a chef like Roy Choi or Daniel Patterson, the expectations are set at a certain bar. Any time they open a new restaurant, there’s pressure… the limelight is put on you, the pressure’s on, and you know you really have to nail it out of the gate. You expect, the minute they open that door, that it’s spot-on.
I feel bad when I see a really bad review for chefs. I know it hurts, ’cause I’ve been in those shoes, too.”
David Chang with the subtweet here, but we do all know who he was talking about. He also jumped on Instagram and posted a photo of Locol, hashtagging it #welocol.
What a fucking jerk. You know who I’m talking about…
— Dave Chang (@davidchang) January 4, 2017
“That’s pretty brutal. I feel as if Pete Wells makes a fantastic point, but I think it would have been better not to write the review. These are two great chefs, opening alternatives to the evil of McDonald’s, and getting shit on.
Not only have some people “forgotten” about these demographics, no one seems to be concerned about their health.
I always thought it was very bold of Choi and Patterson to take on this venture. Always admired their dedication to feeding the masses, and didn’t know how it would end up. I certainly didn’t think the New York Times food critic would come out to write about them.”