I interviewed Ruth Reichl yesterday for a podcast I do, "New Books in Food." Amongst the many interesting things she talked about on the occasion of the release of her first novel Delicious! was how long Bobby Flay might continue to cook nightly at his new downtown New York restaurant Gato while awaiting a visit from The New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells.
“He should be there for the first few months," Reichl said – you can listen via the podcast link above – "but if he doesn’t think after the first few months that they have those dishes down, he should get a new staff.”
Editor’s note: I recently dined at Gato on a Tuesday evening with a group of four. Flay’s presence was very apparent throughout the entire night, from his working the line in the open kitchen to his meandering around the dining room to check in personally on tables. At one point, he surveyed the scene for several minutes – somewhat hidden from view – leaning on a column near the kitchen. It’s clear that he is serious about taking a hands-on approach and wants it to be known that this is his show.
The food is exquisite. The chef’s scrambled eggs are on my short list for best dish I have eaten this calendar year and the Mediterranean/Spanish flavors play off each other flawlessly throughout the menu. There was hardly a miss all night. — G.E.
Gato, open for two months, has received strong positive reviews from New York magazine, the New York Post and many other venues, but the mother of them all, the Times, has yet to weigh in. I asked Reichl if Wells might be playing a waiting game with Flay, knowing that when the review comes out, the chef and TV personality will breathe a sigh of relief and finally take a day off or head out of town to visit one of his other restaurants. Perhaps Wells wants to try the restaurant when Bobby is not in the house. So far Bobby has been there every night.
“If Bobby doesn’t think that his staff is good enough to handle it without him," the former Times critic answered, "that’s too bad. Because really a chef should have the confidence that it will be fine if he isn’t there."
There's a lot more to our conversation. Listen to the whole 45-minute interview, where Reichl talks about her writing process, the state of food criticism and her tumultuous experience editing David Foster Wallace when he wrote "Consider the Lobster" for Gourmet.
Read more about Bobby Flay on Food Republic: