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Scratch Bar Chef 'Dumbfounded' by Two-Star LA Weekly Review

The chef takes to Facebook to ask some important questions

Scratch Bar, Encino
Scratch Bar, Encino
Wonho Frank Lee
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

Top Chef contestant and Scratch Bar restaurant owner Phillip Frankland Lee isn't pleased about the two star review he received this week from LA Weekly critic Besha Rodell. So displeased, in fact, that Lee took to Facebook yesterday to write a rebuttal. The post is only available directly to Facebook friends, but Eater has posted the full text below with Lee's permission.

While the chef says that he has the utmost respect for Rodell and her nuanced criticisms, he can’t quite understand why the writer took him to task for his persona, and not his food.

As you may recall, Rodell was little pleased with Lee’s perceived arrogance — "he’s someone who believes that training [in the fields of baking and charcuterie] is optional" — and noted that the ability to, as Lee puts it, "do whatever the fuck you want," means knowing what you’re doing in the first place. She further generalizes his food as largely flawed, but still dishes out two stars at the end. Still, despite Lee's rebuttal, Rodell does give detailed feedback on food, such as the charcuterie and the brioche for the burger.

For Lee, he considers himself "dumbfounded and a bit let down" at the review, which he says he hoped would help his restaurant to learn and grow. Instead, the review is focused on him as a person, and a television personality. Here's a choice quote from Lee's Facebook post:

But what surprised me is that there was not much mention of cookery or technique in the article, if any at all. Was her steak over? Under? Seasoned? Hot? Puree lumpy? Smooth? Sauce to thick? Loose? Was she greeted with a smile? Did someone pull out her chair when she was seated? Did someone pull out the chairs for her dining companion(s)? How long did it take to get wine? Were the napkins folded uniformly? Silver polished? How was the wine list? The temperature of the wine or beer upon service? Did the music level need to be adjusted? How about the A/C? did we pull off not having servers?

No mention of desserts, drink options, hospitality, or many of the things you would look for in a "review" of an establishment.

In the end, Lee tosses out a few other angles he feels would have been better suited to include in the review, like his ‘no front of house staff’ policy, his tipping system at the restaurant, or his ability to open two restaurants by the time he turned 26. He says that the review "just isn’t fair to my team," and describes them all as "literally heart broken right now."

But hey, look at the bright side: Even at two stars, Rodell’s Scratch Bar review still reads better than her evisceration of Otium last week.

Here's the full rebuttal by Phillip Frankland Lee:

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Scratch | bar

111 N La Cienega, Los Angeles, CA 90211