In what has to be one of the weirder twists in an already oddball saga, Los Angeles chef Ari Taymor of Alma tells Munchies that being named the Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appétit actually hurt his business, and directly contributed to its failure.
The as-told-to story, published Wednesday, plays Taymor and business partner Ashleigh Parsons as frustrated owners who wanted nothing more than to quietly run a successful tasting menu restaurant for Angelenos, before all this positive national attention got in the way. Without the proper resources — PR, a nice-looking build-out, etc. — Parsons and Taymor were left facing a backlash following the Bon Appetit piece, since they couldn’t deliver the expectations that sort of story demands.
Here's the crux of the issue, in Ari's words:
After the press, people wouldn’t come in with the same open-minded attitude, or just to enjoy a meal out with their friends. It seemed like they came in just to write a shitty review about us on Yelp, or just to tell their friends how we didn’t deserve the award. It became really frustrating to cook in this environment and made me really depressed for a while.
Of course, there were other factors that helped bring about the end of Alma as well: a lawsuit from an alleged business associate, legal documents outlining a bad lease agreement, and rumors of management issues — none of which are mentioned in the Munchies piece.
Even Nick Kokonas of Alinea and the reservation system Tock seemed inclined to point out the disparity between creativity and business survival in a couple of tweets that link back to the Munchies story:
@nickkokonas yeah -- being named best restaurant US in ANY press is awful. Try to avoid that. Or, maybe learn how to do accounting too.— nick kokonas (@nickkokonas) December 17, 2015
In the end, Taymor describes his experience cooking at Alma during that time as "frustrating", adding that "shit-talking about restaurants is also at an all-time high." He’s happy to be handling his three month residency inside The Standard hotel in West Hollywood for the time being; after that, who knows.
UPDATE: Here's Taymor's response, via Instagram:
[Eater] you missed the point. We are firstly very humbled by all the support we have ever received. Ashleigh and I have taken full responsibility for the mistakes that we made as young owners and I feel that for you to point in this way is pointed, personal and unnecessarily negative. It is important to have a lively debate about the role and impact of the media in our lives and the repercussions both positive and negative of hype. I'm sorry that you chose clickbait headlines over honest conversation.