How burned is Guy Fieri, the Santa Rosa celebrity chef, by this week's New York Times review that sliced, diced and skewered his new 500-seat restaurant in Times Square?
Fieri, whose new restaurant, Guy's American Kitchen & Bar, is housed in the former New York Times building on West 44th Street, wouldn't say Wednesday.
His response last month to a similarly scathing review in the New York Post suggested how he might fire back this morning in a scheduled appearance on the NBC Today show.
"I know the success of my food," Fieri said on the CBS Morning Show last month. "I mean, you can't have eight restaurants and be doing it wrong, or that wrong."
The Times' savage review, published Tuesday, spread quickly across the country through social media and TV talk shows to become the topic of the day among foodies and celebrity watchers alike. One day later, it remained the most read and e-mailed story on the Times website.
The Times' chief restaurant critic, Pete Wells, told the journalism organization Poynter Institute on Wednesday that he visited Fieri's new eatery four times before sitting down to write.
Then he drove a truck through it. Repeatedly.
He gave it zero stars. He panned the service. He said almost all the dishes were "inedible." He lamented that it "treated with so little respect" the homestyle American cooking Fieri celebrates on his popular TV show, "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."
"It was the most vicious review, without an ounce of smirk," said Clark Wolf, a food and restaurant consultant who divides his time between Guerneville and New York City.
Fieri has stumbled badly on one of the world's biggest, most unforgiving stages, Wolf said.
"I'm not sure he and his team knew what he was getting into," he said. "Even the most successful restaurateur knows that getting into New York is very tough."
The review prompted schadenfreude to spare in Sonoma County, where Fieri launched his Johnny Garlic's and Tex Wasabi's restaurants before he became a TV culinary star.
"I'm not going to name names, but everybody I know in the industry — and I know a lot of people in the industry — is saying it's pretty fair," said Noah Bolmer, owner of the Barley & Hops tavern in Occidental.
"Guy Fieri is riding the coat-tails of the American comfort food scene and getting the benefit of it, without producing anything of value," said Bolmer, who termed the food he serves "elevated pub grub."
On the other hand, said Wolf, "The headline is, that not everyone in America knew that Guy had opened a restaurant in Times Square and now they do."
Wells wrote the review as a series of questions.
"Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste?" he said of the restaurant's watermelon margarita. "Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?"
That was just one such sharp query in an approach that delighted restaurant critics around the country.
"It's something that is probably the most difficult part of the job, keeping it fresh and entertaining and not falling into something formulaic," said Leslie Brenner, restaurant critic and dining editor at The Dallas Morning News.
"I couldn't help but cheer and laugh because he managed to break out of it, which is so hard to do, and yet he did it in a way that is once hilarious, but reads as though it is absolutely fair," said Brenner, chairwoman of the Association of Food Journalists' critics committee.