Adding to his jam-packed publicity plan, as part of this weekend’s New York City Wine & Food Festival, Frank Bruni answered questions from Ben Leventhal in front of a packed Tisch Center at The New School last night. We reproduced our favorite bits below, including how to pick a restaurant when you’re not a critic, and whether Brooklyn will ever brag about a four-star restaurant.
On whether we’ll see a four-star restaurant in Brooklyn. "We’re a long way away from a four-star restaurant [in Brooklyn] because I don’t think they have the market. A four-star restaurant has to have destination, special occasion, and business entertainment. There’s a bunch of things that it needs to be used for to survive that level of investment, and I don’t think you’re going to see business people taking clients across the water."
The one thing every restaurant should be attentive to. "I’m shocked to this day by how many restaurants, where you’ll call the restaurant and they’ll put you on hold for so long, or they’ll have someone man the phone that has such a rude, awkward tone. I don’t know why you would do that to your customers, and I don’t know why you would do that to yourselves."
On his successor Sam Sifton’s lack of anonymity. "In 2009, you show me someone who is a proven good writer with a really successful career who doesn’t have a long trail of pictures up. I don’t think it exists anymore. I would hate to see the Times, or any news organization, choose someone so purely based on anonymity and not on that person. I think Sam will take all the steps I did in terms of fake names, fake phone numbers, to make sure they don’t know he’s on his way."
Where he has been eating since having to pick up his own tab. "My first cycle of credit cards since I gave up the job hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m still adjusting, but recently, I’ve been to Peasant a couple times, I’ve been to Vinegar Hill House a couple times, and I was at Bar Boulud the other night. It was interesting, when I was going to Bar Boulud, I was thinking about being a critic you make these assumptions of how we choose restaurants. I like Bar Boulud, and I was happy to go there, but I chose it that night because I was literally looking at a map and looking where everyone was coming from, and trying to find something relative between all of those places, and that would also have a lot of parking, because my father was driving that night. And I remember thinking, those are the sorts of conditions that make a restaurant choice that reviews usually never have anything to do with.