: views from the Hill

Friday, January 27, 2006

Idea for the Food Editor over at the Chronicle

Here's an idea for Miriam Morgan, the Food Editor over at the Chronicle.

I think Michael Bauer should be assigned to work as wait staff for a week and write about the experience -- the good, the bad, the ugly, and what he's learned about what makes a restaurant work (and how hard it is to make it work) from the exercise.

Have the restaurants he's critiqued for the past year join forces and vote as to which restaurant he gets to work for.

Had an interesting time last Wednesday evening. We walked over to the Ferry Building for a Commonwealth Club Forum. The forum was a panel discussion of the restaurant biz with

PHILLIP ANDRADE, Owner, Goat Hill Pizza
DOUG BIEDERBECK, Owner, Bix, Florio, MarketBar
ROB GOLDBERG, CEO, Plump Jack Group
SUZETTE GRESHAM, Chef/Owner, Acquerello Restaurant
ED LEVINE, Partner, Left Bank Restaurant Group

moderated by KEVIN WESTLYE, Executive Director, Golden Gate Restaurant Association

No one said nasties about Bauer -- would they dare? -- during the forum but there was some mention that reviews can't make or break a restaurant in a town with three thousand restaurants, that word of mouth was more important than a review in the paper, that if you've been open for a year or two and are still relying on reviews to drive traffic, you have problems.

Seems to me that it might've been Rob Goldberg making some of those comments. Hm.

Frankly, I think most people who eat at the restaurants Bauer reviews and who have seen the sideways shove that he sometimes gives restaurants that haven't sprinkled rose petals in his path take Bauer with a grain of salt. We've been known to eat at restaurants specifically because Bauer snubbed them in a review.

The panel discussion was interesting although I didn't much care for Westlye's moderation style. Given a question, he'd only ask one of the panelists to answer and then he'd move immediately on.

Several times another panelist would get the next question and say, 'first, I'd like to make a comment on something he/she just said' and would comment, then answer Westlye's question.

One of the audience questions was "Where do you go to eat? What restaurants do you like that aren't one of your own restaurants?"

Phillip Andrade answered The Balboa Cafe -- one of Rob's restaurants -- and then Westlye went on to the next question.


But no. It was not to be. ...

I came away knowing that I needed to get over to Goat Hill Pizza and Acquarello. Both Phillip Andrade and Suzette Gresham seemed like great people, passionate about their work and their community.

Did I mention that James Ormsby, who quit a while back as executive chef for the Plump Jack Group, has a new job?

According to the foodie scuttlebutt column in the Chronicle this week,

Ormsby has been hired as a private chef in an undisclosed home, with a view "like the Gettys'," he says, cooking for a family of four.

"It really worked out great," says Ormsby. "They want someone who can cook healthy food most days, but be able to entertain on a French Laundry level for guests."

Must be nice to have Ormsby cooking in the kitchen. I'd probably wind up like Christina Onassis though.

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