Responses to our compilation of complaints against Esquire restaurant guy (don’t call him a critic!) John Mariani have been extraordinarily varied — from chefs corroborating the story of Mariani’s list of demands to restaurant publicists coming to his defense.
But the opinion we’re most interested in is that of his employer. Esquire articles editor Ryan D’Agostino got in touch with us yesterday, and here we reprint his defense of Mr. Mariani in full:
Dear Ms. Rosner,
I’m John Mariani’s editor at Esquire. I saw your blog post about him yesterday, and of course it was dispiriting. First let me say that in general I think blogs, yours included, have been great for the food world. They get people excited about chefs and restaurants and cooking and eating. I read them. But this post is a bummer because it misrepresents John. I can tell you this as someone who knows him and understands how he works and what he thinks about. It’s fine that John has detractors, obviously — who doesn’t? But I do wonder whether some of the negativity is rooted in a misunderstanding of what he does, or what we try to have him do. Esquire’s annual list is idiosyncratic; we don’t pretend it’s comprehensive or empirical. And as you point out, Esquire doesn’t position John as a critic. What that means, for one thing, is that he doesn’t give bad reviews; rather than evaluate every place he goes, he writes only about places he’s enthusiastic about. He doesn’t use fake names or disguise himself. He just travels an awful lot, eats a ton of meals at restaurants, and makes recommendations. He has a deep appreciation of good food, and he loves to share the highlights of his experiences. He has made a small business out of it. Maybe chefs treat him differently, although that may say more about them than it does about him.
Also, a brief note about the allusions to free meals: John (and Esquire) took it very seriously a few years ago when accusations were made about him praising restaurants that comped him. John has worked very hard to make sure that if he even thinks he’s eating at a place that might make our list, he pays the full bill. Believe me — I see his expense reports.
Anyway, your blog is great. This just felt a little one-sided, so I thought I’d write.
By the way, the thing about printing his daiquiri recipe on his business card? Guilty as charged:
[Image of the back of Mr. Mariani’s business card via Esquire.com]