We’re surprised it took this long to happen, but “celebrity chef” Robert Irvine, known of late for his lies about his background, has announced that he will not proceed with the opening of two planned restaurants in St. Petersburg. [This Just In/St. Petersburg Times]
Related: Surprise, Surprise: Robert Irvine Gets the Boot From the Food Network
The best way to taste the dishes on Top Chef is to head to the toques’ post-Bravo places of employment in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and San Francisco. [Zagat Buzz]
Frank Bruni muses on the tourist-tipping problem, noting that he’s not a fan of automatic gratuity charges since they prevent diners from communicating their pleasure or irritation with the service. [Diner’s Journal/NYT]
Jeffrey Chodorow has been pretty tight-lipped about his new steakhouse in the Empire Hotel (and given what happened with his last steakhouse, who can blame him?). But General Chod got to chewing the fat with us recently, and let us in on one of the basic concepts of the place. “It will be a classic New York steakhouse, but with one improvement: The whole menu will come in small and large portions,” he says. “Everybody doesn’t want to eat immense portions, especially in a neighborhood restaurant. I’ll have half a lobster, a twelve-ounce sirloin, and I can maintain the quality and at the same time bring the price point down.”
News that Borough Food and Drink was being taken over by Zak Pelaccio had some Chodorow watchers scratching their heads. How could China Grill Management be involved in a restaurant and not control it? General Chod tells us that, far from being a departure from his operating system, CGM’s boutique operation is just his latest innovation. “There’s 20th Century Fox for big projects, and then also Fox Searchlight Pictures. That’s what this would be like,” he says, crediting Pelaccio with the analogy. (How long did he mull that one?)
Earlier this month, Frank Bruni assailed Borough Food and Drink for its service, referring to it as “loopy, stop-and-go befuddlement.” How did that happen in a Jeffrey Chodorow restaurant? Turns out chef Paul Williams took ill and Bruni visited during his absence. Williams has taken a temporary leave from the restaurant, a publicist says, and the kitchen is now under the control of former Asia de Cuba chef Robert Trainor, an old Chodorow hand. No word yet on when Williams will return, but we hope it’s soon.
Related:Dining Briefs [NYT]
While we can’t wait for the Health Department’s regulatory rampage to end, let it at least be said that it treats the great and the obscure alike. Jeffrey Chodorow’s flagship restaurant, China Grill, was closed this afternoon by the DOH for the walk-in refrigerator being warmer than rules permit and a few other ticky-tacky offenses (according to a hastily issued press release). China Grill Management, Chodorow’s corporation, will no doubt pour out some money and have the place up and running in a couple of days, if not sooner. But Chodo, like everyone else who has felt the whip of the city’s clipboard-wielding inspectors, knows who’s boss now.
BREAKING: China Grill Shuttered by Dept. of Health [Eater]
It wasn’t hard to see, after Jeffrey Chodorow’s infamous dustup with Rocco DiSpirito three years ago, that he had about had it with celebrity chefs. Except, apparently, he hadn’t: Chodorow hired Todd English a year later, in hopes, futile, that he’d redeem Tuscan, successor to Tuscan Steak. Earlier this week it was revealed that English Is Italian, the third restaurant to fill that space, will also bite the dust. Finally, Chodorow’s group is determined to avoid celebrity chefs. English Is Italian closes March 17. Wild Salmon, a seafood restaurant with a Pacific Northwest vibe, is slated to open in its place the first week of April.
We recently speculated as to why Jeffrey Chodorow decided against hiring Sumile chef Josh DeChellis to head up the imminent Kobe Club. Could the decision, we suggested, have to do with food costs? DeChellis is a high-concept aesthete, and Chodorow a famously thrifty businessman. But we had it all wrong, the China Grill mogul tells us. "The fact that I'm efficient doesn't mean I skimp on ingredients. The reason we ended up not going with Josh was that he wanted to do something that was avant-garde Japanese, and we wanted to go more mainstream. We're sparing no expense with our ingredients; given how much we're spending on meat, it would be silly to skimp on anything else."
Earlier: Josh DeChellis, Kobe Club Break Up But Are Still Friends