Shtick Happens

Food writer dishes up leftovers to Republic readers

Arizona Republic restaurant critic Howard Seftel has been around so long it's tempting to characterize him as being here since Native American Indians settled the Sonoran Desert.

We'll pass, however, because Seftel has a lock on references to Hohokam Indians to describe anything that's old.

The Republic cleverly published The Rep's Best edition four days before New Times published its Best of Phoenix. Republic advertisements warned people not to be fooled by clones trying to copy what they do. New Times has been publishing a Best of Phoenix supplement since 1979, long before the Republic.

Parts of The Rep's 2001 edition, though, sounded oddly like previous New Times picks.

We wondered why.

Maybe because Seftel worked for eight years as the New Times restaurant critic before he moved to the Republic and began cutting and pasting parts of archived reviews he'd written for us into the bits he's writing for them.

Take his constant reference to the Hohokam Indians:

New Times, "Second Helpings," 1999: "I don't know when the list had last been revised, but it must have been when the Hohokam were here."

Republic, "Howard's Q&A," 2000: "Ligidakis, who seems to have been operating restaurants in town since the time of the Hohokam, started up Cafe Nikos in Scottsdale a couple of years ago."

Republic, restaurant review, "Nick's New Nook . . . ," 2001: Nick Ligidakis, who, archaeologists believe, may have first arrived in the Valley about the same time as the Hohokam . . ."

Republic, restaurant review, "Authors' Cafe," 2001: "Popular local restaurateur Nick Ligidakis, who, archaeologists believe, may have first arrived in the Valley about the same time as the Hohokam, is up and running once again with his Greek-accented fare and massive desserts."

Republic, restaurant review, "Sunday Brunch Is Back -- Amen! . . . ," 2001: "The venerable El Chorro Lodge didn't arrive in the Valley at the same time as the Hohokam -- it just seems that way."

The Rep's Best Spot for Old Arizona Charm, El Chorro Lodge, 2001: "This venerable landmark didn't arrive in the Valley at the same time as the Hohokam."

Post-it note to Seftel's editor: Make him stop.

Seftel not only uses the same old references (the term "animal protein" to describe meat appears 70 times, and the constant use of Shamu the whale in seafood reviews), he sometimes lifts the beginning or end of a review from New Times, then presents it as fresh in the Republic.

New Times, "Best Seafood Restaurant," Restaurant Oceana, 1998: "Capt. Renault: 'And what in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?'

"Rick: 'My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.'

"Capt. Renault: 'Waters? What waters? We're in the desert.'

"Rick: 'I was misinformed.'"

The Rep's Best Mexican Seafood, San Carlos Bay, 2001: "Capt. Renault: 'And what in heaven's name brought you to Casablanca?'

"Rick: 'My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.'

"Capt. Renault: 'Waters? What waters? We're in the desert.'

"Rick: 'I was misinformed.'"

New Times, "Best Restaurant to Expect the Unexpected," Razz's, 1999: "But one thing is certain: Razz'll Dazzle."

The Rep's Best Place to Expect the Unexpected, Razz's, 2001: "But you can be sure Razz'll Dazzle."

New Times, "Best Spanish Restaurant," Marquesa, 1997: "At Marquesa the reign of Spain is far from mainly plain."

The Rep's Best Spanish Restaurant, Altos, 2001: "Altos is where the reign of Spain gets under way."

New Times, "Best Appetizers," Havana Patio Cafe, 1998: "You'll be Havana good time."

The Rep's Best Appetizers, Havana Patio Cafe, 2001: "Either way, you'll be Havana good time."

If Seftel writes about a Vietnamese restaurant, he'll likely say no one gets drafted to go there. If a restaurant offers cheap, fresh and tasty food, watch for him to say you've hit the trifecta. If he writes about Cajun food, look for a guy named Zeke.

Republic features editor Kate Nolan defended Seftel, saying, "That's just his shtick. Howie's a good guy, he just sometimes has to be reminded to put puns to pasture." Meaning it's okay for Seftel to recycle the same old material, hoping he'll play to a new audience each time?

New Times' attorney Steve Suskin says Seftel didn't do anything wrong, exactly.

"He's plagiarizing himself," he muses. "Maybe he needs to talk to an intellectual property lawyer."

The fax to Nolan, a former New Times managing editor who edited Seftel's restaurant reviews and his Best of Phoenix copy, repeatedly would not go through, prompting her to call and say she'd never worked so hard on her own crucifixion.

Nah. We didn't set out to crucify her, just point out that she's got a lazy restaurant reviewer.

When contacted for comment, Seftel declined until after he sees this column.

What can he say?

He's busted.


Babes in Thailand: Our recent Best of Phoenix supplement prompted a contretemps with Scottsdale bar owner Mike Field.

Field owns a party bar called Giligin's and we awarded it "Best Scottsdale Branch of a Thailand Whorehouse," which we found by looking at his Web site, www.giligins.com. In addition to listing the drinks that might be had at Giligin's in Scottsdale, it also confided that Giligin's in Thailand offers a lot more than brewskies. The Thailand version sells some of its women employees. People who read the item reportedly began calling Giligin's in Scottsdale, wondering when those women might show up.

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