Altamarea group owner fires back at New York Times critic after scathing review

A New York City restaurateur had some choice words for a well-known New York Times food critic after receiving a negative review about his latest restaurant.

Pete Wells, perhaps best known for the scathing 2012 review of Guy Fieri’s Times Squares haunt written entirely in questions, visited Altamarea’s new French restaurant in New York called Vaucluse. Altamarea Group is owned by Ahmass Fakahany and Chef Michael White who have over a dozen restaurants around the world.

Wells, who gave the new restaurant one-star in a review that was published last week, began with a biting opener: “A critic could run out of new ways to express disappointment in Altamarea Group restaurants if Altamarea didn’t keep coming up with new ways to disappoint,” wrote Wells.  He continued to knock various dishes as “underwhelming” and something that you could “safely serve to a patient on a no-flavor diet.”

Fakahany Monday posted a rebuttle of his own  lambasting Wells for bringing the New York Times to "its lowest point" and called him a "dinosaur" that's desperate to be relevant.

Fakahany, addressing the food critic directly, wrote that, “you need to know you are losing credibility and, in a sense, degrading the very institution that gave you the privilege and mandate to be a food critic.” He calls Wells “desperately anxious to be relevant” and tells him that he will never share the ranks of food writers such as Ruth Reichl, Craig Claiborne, Mimi Sheraton, or Frank Bruni.

But it wasn’t just Vaucluse’s negative review that prompted Fakahany to fire back at Wells.

"You cut corners in your haste to develop preconceived notions and to get quickly to silly childish jabs," Fakahany says.  He accuses the writer of  not only being a bad reporter but being ignorant about food—pointing as evidence to Wells' fact-checking questions from previous Altamarea restaurant reviews --and says that Wells lacks a desire to understand how and why dishes are prepared.

“This is all not sour grapes and personal disappointment,” says Fakahany urging The New York Times to rethink the way it reviews restaurants. He suggests featuring a rotating chefs council or implementing a ratings system that amalgamates the opinions of multiple food writers.

The restaurateur gives Wells a “0” star rating for “effort/credibility and finishes, “Come on, Pete, you are better than this. The New York Times deserves better, your predecessors deserve better, and your readers deserve better.”

Read the full text of the letter below.

Open Letter to Pete Wells from Altamarea Group by Eater NY