Eddie Huang: Cheshes a "Clown," Sifton "Felt Like My Dad Talking to Me"
Although Eddie Huang (and his mom) already responded to his no-star Times review on both Twitter and his blog, we'd e-mailed him yesterday morning to get his thoughts on Sam Sifton's disappointed appraisal of Xiao Ye. Huang's currently on vacation in sunnier climes, but responded last night to our questions. In particular, we were curious about the marked discrepancy between his reaction to the Times review and Jay Cheshes' similarly lukewarm review in Time Out new York the previous week. Would Sifton's review be given a place next to Cheshes', right above Xiao Ye's toilet? Here's what he had to say.
I wanted to address the difference between Cheshes and Sifton in my blog post, but it was already too long. Cheshes is a clown. He made horrible comparisons of zha jiang mien to dan dan mien. He obviously doesn't understand how hainan chicken should look and he also attacked me personally by comparing me to Chang. I think its just patently unfair and borderline racist. Sifton really gets the concept. He acknowledges that. He acknowledges that I wasn't "trying". And it honestly felt like my dad talking to me. Which is why I put up my mom's email. Dad speaks, then mom.
As for how he plans to change things in the wake of the review:
Because of internal issues, I ended up doing a lot more managerial/administrative/financial work than cooking at XY the last couple months. I also went through 3 different chefs. I was doing really traditional Taiwanese food and people just don't get it. Its really hard to train people, but I didn't have enough hours in the day to run baohaus, open XY, and cook every day. But, after this review, it helped me a lot to go back to my team and say, "look guys, every one knows I need to be freed up and in the kitchen, so let me do it." My partner Matt Baer is awesome. He gets it and whatever it takes to give me more time in the kitchen the last 3 weeks, he's tried to do it. Hyun is looking after baohaus, but the food is very consistent there since I parked myself in the kitchen for 6 months and most people cooked side by side with me for a while.
Regrets? YES. Not every one gets a crack at the Times. I mean, who knows when I'll get reviewed again? With the price points and counter cultural dining room, its a miracle that we even got one review and I feel I blew it. But, I'm not going to sit around and be upset. I'm going in to cook and win over the people. Look, I fucked up with the Times, I fucked up with Metromix and Gael Green too. Enough is enough, people don't have any more patience so this is my focus. I also think Sifton was fair in identifying the things I DID do well. I got side tracked into the ABC food because I had so much trouble with the former chefs not being able to execute. My beef noodle soup was killer at baohaus. I did it at XY and EVERY time they burnt the sesame paste. So I said, how can I stay true to the palate, have fun and work with ingredients they understand. I still love the cheeto chicken. I made that last year. The grilled cheese, i like that too. The beef ribs, he had the first time we made it. We already changed it to short ribs, did a different braise. its better. That's the thing with the Sifton review, a lot of the things he brought up, I've already been addressing. Too little too late though...
I think I'm going to do a western chinese catfish stir fry, beef noodle soup, venison and scallion stir fry (like beef and onions, but i'm going to see if i can source some good venison. my dad's friend made it at the crib once after he shot a deer. was killer.). I'm still going to work with some ABC food down the line. Its an interest of mine. Plenty of people like it, but I get what Sifton is saying. I should work these dishes longer before putting them on the menu. The Taiwanese stuff, I've done my style of it since college. I need to work harder on the new things I"m doing before I put it out for sale because people pay good money. Everything should be air tight if I accept money for it.
But there's one regret he doesn't have:
As for being caught in the dining room or blogging, I have no regrets about that. The best way to test your staff is to eat in the dining room. I see no problem with that. And blogging doesn't take me that much time. If you notice, most of my posts are late friday after a prep shift or in the morning before going in. or late night when i'm burnt.
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