Friday, February 23, 2007

Dear Jeffrey Chodorow

Re: Mix, Las Vegas

February 22nd 2007

Dear Jeffrey Chodorow

A couple of days ago I watched the story unfold about you paying an estimated $40,000 for an Ad in the New York Times denouncing Frank Bruni's damning review of your new restaurant, Kobe Club. I see you are a man who believes the restaurateur should have the chance to publicly respond to the critic, in which case I hope you might understand that your paying customers deserve an equally public forum too.

At the end of last year I went to Las Vegas where I visited your restaurant, Mix. I could not have been more excited at the promise of this glamorous experience when I walked through the stunning bar with its incomparable vista of the strip into the futuristic white room where we sat down to eat.

Alain Ducasse's menu did not immediately appeal to me. I had difficulty choosing, not because there were too many options that made me curious, but because there were too few. Eventually I settled on a Cauliflower Soup, Wild Mushrooms and croutons ($21) which arrived with much pomp and ceremony. A deep white bowl bearing vegetables and croutons was placed in front of me by one server as a broth was ostentatiously poured from a spouted silver pot by another. After the theatrical wait staff had had bowed and made their exit I dug in my spoon. Waaah! Save an accidental gulp of sea water, this was the single most salty thing I have ever tried not to swallow. For the next ten or so minutes I sat, miserable, unsatisfied and peckish as my dining partner finished his Tender Potato Gnocci, fresh chanterelle and asparagus ($27). His was too salty, too, but not quite so much as to be inedible, like my dish, and as he was very hungry he suffered through it. No one should have to suffer through a small dish they are soon to pay $27 for.

After what seemed like eons, and after the Gnocchi were quite finished, our Waiter eventually noticed my predicament and asked if there was a problem. "The soup", I explained, "is so salty I can't eat it". My dining partner mentioned his dish had been too salty, too. The waiter made an apology and hurried my bowl off to the kitchen for its post mortem. When he came back, he had good news. He explained that the chef had tasted the soup and that I was quite right. Apparently my complaint caused them to discover that an entire vat of stock had been spoilt and since the stock was used in so many of their dishes apparently I had saved them from further embarrassment. "The chef will look after you", our waiter promised.

At this stage I will fast forward through our main courses. The Crispy Thai Snapper, fried rice, soy glaze ($39) and the Beef Filet Mignon, stuffed Piquillo, BBQ Marmalade, Pomme Pont-Neuf ($55) were decent enough but neither were as memorable or as satisfying as the perfect side dish of Elbow Pasta, Ham, Gruyere Cheese ($11).

What I really want to discuss with you, Mr Chodorow, is the notion of your chef 'looking after me' as a thank you for having helped avert a disaster in the kitchen by pointing out the error of their over salting. Instead of allowing me to choose my own dessert, or even giving us the opportunity to have a dessert each, the paltry way in which the chef chose to 'look after me' was by presenting us with one twelve dollar dessert of his choice to share. I was gutted. From the entire menu, the one item that had been causing my mouth to water at the future thought of enjoying it was the Coconut Ice Cream Lollipop with Caramel Sauce, seconded by a Maple Syrup Napoleon. I wanted and would have tried both. But oh, no, no, no. I was not permitted to have any more fun. My grand reward from the Chef for my appetizer disappointment was to have my dessert choice taken away from me and instead a safe Chocolate Dome, Mango Compote and Passion Fruit Sorbet ($12) was plonked down between us. Gee whiz, thank mate, are you the kind of guy that picks up a bunch of wilted flowers from the gas station for your girlfriend on Valentine's Day? I save the restaurant's ass and this is my reward? The Chocolate Dome was actually very good, but your restaurant's presumptuous treatment of me left a bitter taste. A taste that could not even be sweetened by the complimentary, warm, Madeleines served straight off the baking tray with a bowl of dipping sauce that accompanied the $260 check. Is this Nutella? I asked. Yes, it's Alain Ducasse's way of making a joke, it was explained. A joke? A joke! Oh, ha! The whole wretched experience was a not very funny joke in my opinion. You could have done better than that. Don't ever assume you know what your customers want. They know it better themselves.

This review was a first impression.

© 2007 Sam Breach at "Becks & Posh", This RSS Feed is for personal non-commercial use only. If you are not reading this material in your news aggregator, or at the aforementioned url, the site you are looking at might be guilty of copyright infringement. Please contact[AT]gmail[DOT]com to report any suspected violations. Thank you.

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Dear Jeffrey Chodorow


  • At 23/2/07 09:12, Blogger Clare said…

    Well stated, Sam! Jeffrey should spend less money on these types of ads and more of it on properly training his staff. I guess the mess that was "The Restaurant" wasn't too far from the truth, eh?

  • At 23/2/07 09:34, Blogger Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said…

    Hooray for you, Sam! Hospitality seems to be a lost art. Your dining disappointment could have been fixed easily and graciously -- how about, "Please be our guests for dinner tonight. We're so sorry your meal started off badly." That's all it takes. Eating out isn't, usually, about the food -- it's about the experience. The best restaurant owners know that.

  • At 23/2/07 09:48, Blogger Acme Instant Food said…

    Well done! Poor Jeffrey is having one bad week it seems. This poorly thought-out PR maneuver in the NY Times has backfired on him with twice the force. This is exactly the kind of arrogance within the industry that makes me long for the days when chefs were not "celebrities." Just bring me my check--don't shove it down my throat please.

  • At 23/2/07 10:07, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    This is a very good story. What a bunch of cheapos.
    It reminds me of a time I saved a restaurant's ass; maybe I'll write about it.

  • At 23/2/07 11:14, Blogger NS said…

    Are you kidding me -- a $21 bowl of soup?! And after so thoroughly screwing that up, all they could see fit to do was to give you a measly $12 dessert on the house? Wow.

    It sounds to me like Mix is built on the same model as Vegas itself: a one-way ratchet designed to separate visitors from their money as quickly as, and to the maximum extent, possible. Perhaps they ought to adopt the casino model in its entirety, and place an ATM machine at each table.

  • At 23/2/07 12:10, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    I had to come back and tell you Cranky's comment: "Eating in Las Vegas is a gamble."

  • At 23/2/07 12:57, Blogger A Few Reservations said…

    This is the best thing I've read all day. You made me laugh out loud, and you're spot on, as usual. Service is everything.

  • At 23/2/07 14:35, Blogger shauna said…

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I'm still gawking with horror at that Chodorow letter. You're the first person to encapsulate it for me!

  • At 23/2/07 14:55, Blogger ChrisB said…

    sam I can't believe you let them get away with treating you like this

  • At 23/2/07 16:18, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Right on, Sam. Your experience was unforgivable, particularly at those prices. Loved the "Sam Breach Management" logo :).

  • At 23/2/07 18:42, Blogger Marc said…

    Unfortunately for MIX, what you eat in Vegas doesn't stay in Vegas.

    Your post brought to mind a few things I have seen on the web or heard on the radio recently from Danny Meyer, who runs a few restaurants in NYC (Tavern on the Green and Union Square Cafe, and is the author of a famous book about restaurant hospitality. He has some interesting ideas about keeping customers happy. In recent days he has been interviewed by the Washington Post, posted about at Serious Eats, and been on KCRW's Good Food. The Interview with the Post is short, but has some interesting ideas:

    Meyer sees a difference between service and hospitality: "Service is doing what you say you're going to do, delivering on your promise," he says. "Hospitality is a measure of how [the customer is] made to feel, regardless of how something was served."

  • At 24/2/07 00:57, Blogger Beccy said…

    Good for you Sam, but why didn't you ask for your dessert of choice at the time?

  • At 24/2/07 09:36, Blogger Sam said…

    clare - I never got to see that show but now am beginning to hear some of the horror stories.

    lydia - I wouldn't have expected a free dinner. I think that would have been too much. But I think a free drink might have been the way to go. Afterall we spent over $100 on drinks that evening including two banyuls with dessert at $30.

    Alternatively they could have said "The chef would like to treat you both to dessert tonight, please take a look at our menu and let us know what takes your fancy".

    That would have been better from the customer pov AND classier to give us BOTH a dessert of our choice.

    Acme Instant Food - I am not sure it will backfire, really - think of the publicity he has gotten from this. I didn't know who he was before, I certainly do now. SOme chefs deserve celebrity but it has all become too contrived. It's like calling ever tall skinny stick who ever walked down a catwalk a 'super model'.

    cookiecrumb - please do - i want to hear. And I love Rob's punny little comment too.

    Johanna - this was my first experience of Ducasse, so I had nothing to compare him with. I do have to say that I was much much more comfortale with the Robuchon experience though.

    NS - no kidding - this was for real. I wasn't chareged for the soup of course, even so, my meal was spoilt twice - once by not having an appetizer and secondly by not being able to enjoy the dessert of my choice. And I am still fuming at them memory of this treatment 3 months after the fact.
    love your summary of vegas!

    a few reservation - the server was nice enough although her irked me by saying "pardon my reach" in a theatrical manner every time he leant over to hand me something, in - the sound of his annoying phrase is still echoing in my ears.

    shauna - its a tough call - he may have made the PR manouever of the decade - maybe it will work for him, myself - as someone who dosen't care how stupid they look if they are standing up for something they believe in - I can identify with why he did it, but nevertheless it makes me squirm and cringe with embarassment for him.

    chrisb - although it occurred 3 months ago, you can tell it has been playing on my mind. I guess now - I am not letting them get away with it. Just like Mr Chodorow isn't letting the NYT get away with writing a bad review, I as one of Chodorow's customers am not going to suffer in silence any longer.

    shelly - I like my logo too but I am a bit worried - maybe he'll sue me for parody. If you read a bit about him it seems like he sues left, right and center.

    Marc - you bring up an extremely interesting point - thank you - something I didn't really think about before. In this instance I have no complaint really with the service, (apart from the annoying phrase repetition mentioned earlier in my commnet) it was the hospitality management that was the let down.

    Beccy - when you are told you are going to be looked after and you are served a dessert without knowing it is going to be served to you and you don't get dessert menus, it would be a tough call, when someone is gifting you something to turn round and say I don't want that thing you are presenting me with. It is intrinsic in my makeup to be polite and have good manners, and tough to go against the grain and be assertive in that situation. But I wish I had done what you suggested now. I need to toughen up.

    I would also like to note at this point - I posted a comment on Chodorow's blog asking him to come and read this letter (with a link) but he chose not to publish my comment on his blog.

    What would I like him to do now? I would like him to personally write to me and genuinely apologize. Not too hard, and it won't cost him anything apart from a few minutes of his time.

  • At 24/2/07 09:54, Blogger Sam said…

    PS - I would also like to note that we were NOT comped the $27 gnocchi dish, presumably because fred had eaten it, this is depite us telling them that it had been too salty and as such he had not enjoyed eating it, proven by the fact they themselves admitted the spoilt stock was the basis of many of their dishes. So we still paid $27 for a dish which by their own admission was unacceptable.

  • At 24/2/07 14:14, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hot topic! It would seem that his move was a smart one, considering the amount of buzz it has generated thus far... regardless of whether it makes him look like an ass or not. I don't think JC is afraid of controversy - as long as there is a big audience to watch the fight!

    Oh, and your comment has been posted to his blog, Sam - near the top, with the link. :-)

  • At 24/2/07 15:05, Blogger Sam said…

    aha - maybe the latest comments post to the top of his blog not the bottom where I was looking for it.
    I take back what I said about that then.

    I agree with you jennifer. he doesn't really lose in what he has done. I can totally relate to someone not afraid of controversy, but I think I prefer a much smaller audience for those moments when I make a fool of myself!

    All critics and other issues aside regardless of anything else- even if it was the best restaurant world beyond any doubt - I know I would feel nervous and uncomfortable sitting there under all those knives. I admire the bravado, but I wouldn't enjoy sitting beneath them.

    Yes I am clearly a big wuss.

  • At 24/2/07 15:12, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hells Yeah Sam... Thank god someone finally said something to that pompous ass. Seriously, when I saw the news that morning, even the news reader was poking fun at his ego... I absolutely HATE when restaurateurs think they know what's best for me. It's my money, it's my choice. Oh, and that logo you made? genius.

  • At 24/2/07 15:22, Blogger Sam said…

    Hey - perhaps Jeffrey will put a full page in The NYT next week to apologize to me for the sucky time I had at Mix??!

    That would be totally awesome.

  • At 25/2/07 21:35, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    "The chef will look after you", our waiter promised.

    I'm rofling here, as I sense further doom.

  • At 24/3/08 20:05, Blogger Unknown said…

    I got sick as dog eatin at the china


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