a bird and a bottle

Is Frank Bruni Sexist?
May 9, 2007, 11:11 pm
Filed under: food, frivolity, news & views, NYC

So, A Bird and a Bottle is a feminist, progressive, foodie blog. At least nominally, though lately the food writing has been lacking. Part of that is due to the mass amounts of studying i have had to do, leaving little time for cooking or eating out (thank you, frozen lasagna). And part of that is due to the fact that there’s been so much action on the feminist and criminal justice fronts recently that the food blogging has fallen by the wayside.

But today, I get to take on food and feminism in a single post.

And here’s why: A few weeks ago, Frank Bruni, the NY Times’ chief restaurant critic, panned restauranteur Keith McNally’s new place in Manhattan, Morandi. The pan (1 star but the review sounded like no stars). McNally, who also owns Balthazar – a Spring Street haunt of the Soho elites – was understandably disappointed. His chef, rising star Jody Williams,must have shared his dismay. Though at that point, with the bad reviews piling up, they couldn’t have been surprised.

But yesterday, McNally bit back, accusing Frank Bruni not of poor taste, but of sexism. According to McNally’s research, Bruni has never given anything more than one star to a restaurant whose kitchen is headed by a woman chef, as Morandi is. In a letter planted with food blog eater, McNally wrote:

One can only wonder whether Bruni would still have his job at The Times if he himself was a woman. Based on the unremittingly sexist slant of his reviews one has to say no. The surprise is that The New York Times continues to condone it. But until it refuses to, its message, through Frank Bruni, is loud and clear: If you’re a woman and talented, the one place you’d better get out of – and fast – is the kitchen.

Ouch. And way to turn that old stereotype on its head, Keith.

NY Mag’s food blog, Grub Street, fought back, defending King Bruni:

The complaint goes on for a long time and seems unlike McNally, who has almost always stayed above the fray. What’s especially unseemly is the way the letter dwells on Bruni’s attitude toward gender (“…when the chef is a man Bruni often makes quite a song and dance about it.”). Given the amount of food-world speculation about Bruni’s sexual orientation, this seems like a low blow, especially since the Times’ review echoed a near-universal critical consensus about Morandi

I have to say, I’m not surprised at McNally’s complaint. This is not the first time Bruni has exhibited a sort of wink-wink-nudge-nudge boys club kind of attitude. What I am surprised about is NY Mag’s retort: He may be gay so he can’t be sexist?

I have no idea if Morandi deserves more than one star (though in fairness, McNally does not assert that it does). But I do have to say that it’d be interesting if McNally’s research is proven true. I’m willing to wager that it’s not that there aren’t any two or three or even four star female chefs in our fair city. Lord knows, it wouldn’t be the first time the NY Times’s sexist underbelly were exposed.

3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

You gotta love McNally’s tactics. “Okay, we admit it, our food sucks, but we also happen to have a female chef who you’d pan even if she made good food.” I’m not saying Bruni isn’t sexist – the stuff he wrote about the Penthouse steakhouse is already worse than the jokes the people I went to middle school with told – but McNally’s a natural politician.

Comment by Alon Levy

A low blow? Oh right, cause gay men can’t be sexist!

Comment by milbydaniel

I know! I love NY Mag but they really lost me on that one!

Comment by bean

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