ON THE SPIT: The knives were flying Wednesday night at Le Bernardin in Manhattan and they were pointed at Alan Richman, GQ’s food critic. The normally elegant, subdued atmosphere of the classic French restaurant was replaced with a ribald roast, as Eric Ripert, Daniel Boulud, David Chang and Anthony Bourdain took turns delivering playful blows at the curmudgeonly critic, who is celebrating 25 years at the magazine. Boulud had plenty of quips about how cheap Richman is, giving examples of corked bottles of wine and the lengths he’ll go to avoid the bill, but it was Ripert who let it rip: “When I say you’re smart, I mean, come on: this guy grabbed the ass of a waitress at a diner and then won the f—ing James Beard Award.”
Former New York Times food critic Sam Sifton spent nine minutes delivering one punch line after another to the crowd, which included fellow roasters Frank Bruni and Lettie Teague. “Twenty-five years at a men’s magazine and he still looks like an extra from ‘Law & Order,’” said Sifton, who recounted the experience of watching Richman at work. One night, they were seated at separate tables at Daniel. “He was at a corner table that could have seated a dozen people, under a sign that said ‘Alan Richman, GQ magazine,’” Sifton said. He added Richman was surrounded by two dozen waiters and had a notebook in front of him the size of a billboard. “He wrote nothing,” Sifton added.
This story first appeared in the May 18, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Chang said he’s never met a man with a more negative view of the world, besides himself: “He’s the only person that I speak to who went to the Vietnam War and speaks of it fondly.”
Bourdain, Richman’s arch enemy, delivered the final blows. “I had said some very bad things about Alan Richman after he dropped the big steamer on New Orleans,” said Bourdain. Following Hurricane Katrina, Richman visited the city and then delivered a diatribe on its cuisine. Bourdain took umbrage with the piece and the barbs have flown back and forth. Since the New Orleans debacle, Richman decided to review Les Halles, the restaurant Bourdain worked at 10 years ago. “He called it the worst restaurant in the universe. Statistically, this can’t be true,” Bourdain said.
Trying to find at least one nice thing to say, Bourdain searched for words. “You know what? At least you’re not [Esquire critic] John Mariani.”