How to Trash a Brand with Storytelling

How to Trash a Brand with Storytelling

I am a big fan of The New York Times Dining section.

Donut drama.

Importing Mom instead of the pasta.

Hunting for “treasures” in restaurant laundry.

And the list goes on.

The NYT Dining journalists know how to shape story lines beyond the – “chef showed restraint, allowing the flavor of the fresh [fill in the blank] to take center stage” – and do it with clever wordsmithing.

Peter Wells’ review of a Guy Fieri restaurant last week is right up there with the best.

The fact that the piece triggered more than 1,000 comments (not a typo) shows I’m not the only person who noticed.

I thought this comment nailed it:

The rhetorical device of structuring this as a series of questions really shows you how in writing, you have to make a judgment call sometimes. When something goes colossally wrong in a restaurant, you need to go colossally off script as a writer, and do something different in order to really convey the egregious nature of what has happened.

And convey Mr. Wells did.

I’ve captured my favorite passages:

Somewhere within the yawning, three-level interior of Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, is there a long refrigerated tunnel that servers have to pass through to make sure that the French fries, already limp and oil-sogged, are also served cold?

Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?

How did nachos, one of the hardest dishes in the American canon to mess up, turn out so deeply unlovable? Why augment tortilla chips with fried lasagna noodles that taste like nothing except oil? Why not bury those chips under a properly hot and filling layer of melted cheese and jalapeños instead of dribbling them with thin needles of pepperoni and cold gray clots of ground turkey?

As a general rule of thumb, you don’t want the noun “clot” to show up in your restaurant review.

Naturally, Team Fieri went into damage-control mode, putting Guy on a plane to New York to appear on the Today Show (video below).

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I thought it was a savvy decision for Team Fieri to fight back from NYC where the review originated.

The preparation for the interview also came through with Guy disagreeing with Mr. Wells and still maintaining a “we’re not perfect” tone.

As for Mr. Wells, I’m sure his observations of the NYC dining scene will continue with entertaining narratives.

Wishing everyone an enjoyable Thanksgiving (with no blue drinks).

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4 comments

4 Comments so far

  1. Ae Jin Yoon November 23rd, 2012 2:05 am

    I really enjoyed this post especially because I love watching Food Network, recipe blogs, etc.
    I agree with you that Fieri was very smart with that interview especially at the scene where the article harshly criticized!

    But still…I’m one of the people who finds his show a bit unpleasant as he seems too excited for eating food that doesn’t look too good…The article is bold and Wells’ anger/criticism is very genuine.

    Oh the blue drink… I use the same term when I’m at a humble cocktail bar in Seoul where they don’t make authentic western-style drinks. I say “Can I have some blue taste?” or “red taste”? haha

    Happy thanksgiving! hope you have a wonder rest.

  2. hoffman November 23rd, 2012 10:51 am

    Good hearing your perspective.

    Like you, I enjoy the Food Network. In fact, I called my wife the “Iron Chef” yesterday morning (Thanksgiving) and told her the secret ingredient was jicama.

    Thankfully, she ignored me.

    Fieri comes across as media savvy so I’m guessing he’ll be able to diffuse this situation over time.

    Of course, that assumes his restaurants serve a good product.

  3. Ae Jin Yoon November 26th, 2012 1:52 am

    haha I can’t just pass by your comment. I love how you called your wife the “Iron Chef”! I did that too to my boyfriend and of course I got ignored.

    I’m not sure whether Fieri serves a ‘GOOD’ product, just simply being suspicious about the star chef’s restaurant… but how he acts with the media is brilliant and no wonder why he’s famous.

  4. hoffman November 26th, 2012 8:33 am

    No question, Fieri has built a strong personal brand.

    Toward this end, he seems very savvy when it comes to the media.

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