The Voice’s Rebecca Marx asked Richman why he had written the infamous bad 2008 GQ review of Bourdain’s former restaurant, Les Halles. You know, the one that inspired Bourdain to devote an entire chapter to Richman in his new book, Medium Raw, entitled “Alan Richman Is a Douchebag.”
Richman surprisingly answers that Marx was the first person to ask him about why he wrote the bad review, when, as she put it, the restaurant was “not a new restaurant or even a particularly distinguished one,” despite rampant blog speculation. He then goes on to confirm the worst: He wrote the review in part to get even with Bourdain for “his unending onslaught of slurs and insults, not just at me. For better or worse, I believe in an old-world system of honor, which doesn’t involve turning the other cheek.”
Richman also said he wrote the review because he was shocked to learn that Les Halles was turning 600 tables a night: an astonishing number by any measure. When he called the restaurant where Bourdain used to be chef, they said he was now merely “consultant,” and “to be honest, Bourdain is such an untalented cook that I expected it to be better than it was when he worked there,” says Richman. Instead, he found “one of the worst [restaurants] in New York.”
Choice bits from the GQ review: “The restaurant reminds me of the grubby spots I used to visit in Paris, the ones that titillated me because they appeared to be in violation of health codes.” And: “A flavorless and fatty house terrine tasted like truck-stop cuisine.”
Richman defends the review as ultimately unbiased: “Nothing I wrote about the food or the service or the ambience is based on what I thought of Bourdain. Everything is based on what I experienced.” And goes on to opine that “I should be carried around on the shoulders of chefs for standing up against Bourdain.”
It’s all pretty funny, especially when Richman’s speaking his piece; the guy’s clever. But these are lofty sentiments for what amounts to a pissing match between two big food people egos. How about that chef in Portland who attacked the pig cookoff promoter because he wasn’t using local, Oregon-raised pork? Now that’s a fight for real honor.