Majordomo chef David Chang feels more conflicted than ever about the role of restaurant criticism, a thought he shared publicly on last week’s episode of The Dave Chang Show, his new food and culture podcast produced by The Ringer.
For the first time, Chang spoke publicly about the less-than-effusive Jonathan Gold review of Majordomo written last month. He says:
“This process with Gold has been really interesting, because I’m trying to take the high road. I was telling my wife that I wish that Robert Mueller could intervene and investigate this, because I want to go on the record, I want to tell everyone exactly what happened, but I feel like if you talk about it, it’s going to come across as petty. The critic will always win.”
Chang also mentions that he did not talk to Gold during or after the review came out. He hints at some disagreements with specifics of the Gold piece but doesn’t elaborate much, instead jumping into a broader discussion of criticism overall. He wonders aloud if the form is still necessary in this day and age, while also dissecting the pain of opening oneself to criticism, sometimes negative. He says:
“Criticism to me is something I’m still wrapping my head around. It’s necessary, because it’s a check and balance. But we live in an age where it’s more and more ruthless, where the walls are sort of blurred between the critic and the person that’s making the food. So many people know everything and everyone, it’s hard to distinguish if it’s useful anymore.”
Chang also adds:
“I’ve always found, whatever field you’re in, when you’re trying to endeavor to do something new and different, it really is on that razor blade edge of being something that’s junk or that’s totally transcendent. And that’s that nauseous feeling that I’m sort of addicted to and terrified of, and I never want to have the criticism.”
Chang recorded the podcast with writer/director Rian Johnson and longtime film critic Karina Longworth, who also spoke at length about the nature of criticism in any art form, film, food, or otherwise. There is one particular exchange that stands out, with Chang saying: “What if someone gave it their best effort, and it was all that they had, and it just didn’t live up to your expectation? How do you reward that effort, without ripping them up?”
Longworth replies: “I don’t think that’s the job of a critic, to care about the artist’s feelings.”
As for Gold, he hasn’t spoken too much publicly about the review since it debuted last month, but did manage to take a couple of jabs at the topic in a Daily Beast interview published a couple of weeks ago.