Chow Bella

Everybody's a Critic, But Some Are Better Than Others. And Yeah, That Smarts.

Typically, here at Chow Bella, we prefer to sit back and let the conversation happen. We break the news, make the pronouncement, share the opinion. Then it's your job, reader, to hash it all out -- and of course let us know when we're wrong.

But after the downright crazy-ness over Laura Hahnefeld's gently critical piece on Tina's Ethiopian Cafe and the hard-core hate generated on Twitter (I'm guessing, given the timing) by her review of Windsor (a restaurant experience she liked, but -- horrors! -- did not love), I'm not the only one (apparently EaterAZ's actually working on a story) asking, "WTF?"

As Hahnefeld's editor -- and the one who watches her agonize over how to best deliver criticism that is constructive and fair -- I'll ask it out loud: What the fuck, people?

Have you never read real criticism? Have you never heard the phrase, "Let's agree to disagree?" Can't we all just get over ourselves? 

Are you that bored?

Look, I'll admit it. I'm old school. I remember the days when letters to the editor actually arrived by mail, hand-written or typed on paper, and while I love my iPhone as much as anyone, I'll also admit that I miss those days. We all had to pause to take a breath before speaking -- both those of us writing the stories and those of us offering our opinions on them.

That might not have been such a bad thing.

Now we've got grown men shrieking on Twitter like Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls and I marvel both at their ability to sustain an obsession with the local food scene (hey people, it's Phoenix -- get a grip!) and the time they devote to writing 140-character posts about it. Hey, at least these guys are willing to share their names. Far worse are those who clog our comments section (and the comments sections on every other blog and newspaper web site they can find) with anonymous messages, full of outrageous vitriol and entertaining typos and, inevitably, their hatred of people who have come here from other countries to look for a better way of life (a.k.a. Mexicans).

Ah, but I digress.

Ty Largo made some good points earlier this week in an open letter about the Tina's debacle (which reads like a Saturday Night Live skit -- seriously, if you haven't taken the time, it's worth the investment to read through these comments) that only led to personal attacks on Largo. (Classy.) But after reading what Craig DeMarco (co-owner/creator of Windsor) had to say in an email to Hahnefeld this morning, I had to continue the conversation and ask DeMarco to share, too. He graciously agreed.

From DeMarco's email:

Hey Laura,

It's Craig DeMarco from the Windsor. Wanted to say thanks on behalf of the Windsor/Churn team (Lauren, Wyatt, Kris and Brent) for the review in the NT. We took a look at the items that you highlighted and made some decisions on how to improve them. We appreciate the objective feedback and will continue to look at our food everyday with a critical eye. Again, thanks for the press.

Craig DeMarco, Upward Projects

That's what DeMarco does on the computer. He does not spend hours on Chow Bella writing anonymous comments about pressing faces against asses or describing himself as "a dorable." (At least, I doubt it.) He probably doesn't even have time to tweet. When I asked him for permission to use his note to Laura, he admitted that his first reaction to the review wasn't so great.

"It's funny how emotions work," he tells me. "We read the article a few times and at first we were bummed but after we talked about it and looked at the two items Laura really disliked (the smorgasbord and the ribs) we decided it was fair criticism. We made some changes to the execution of those items and now they will be even better. We never expected this to be easy and we grow most when challenges arise."

And that's why Craig DeMarco runs a small, super-tasteful empire and you don't. Actually, I think he reacted so well because as it turns out, he and Hahnefeld both love Beastie Boys album "Paul's Boutique."

Hey, whatever it takes.

So what's my point? I suppose it's this: Here at Chow Bella, we're not in it to make friends. But we're not looking for enemies, either.

We're looking for the same thing you are: a good meal and a vibrant food community. We welcome different opinions; heck, we disagree amongst ourselves all the time. We also try not to take ourselves too seriously, though we do believe that running a good, success food-related business is serious business, indeed. As is being a consumer in this market.

One more thing: Laura Hahnefeld's a fucking hell of a food critic and a great writer, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Next month, one of the very first pieces she ever wrote for New Times will be published in a national food writing anthology. Can you say that? I didn't think so. Phoenix is lucky to have her.

And with that, I'll let you get back to Twitter. 

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Amy Silverman is a two-time winner of the Arizona Press Club’s Journalist of the Year award. Her work has appeared on the radio show This American Life and in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Lenny Letter, and Brain, Child. She’s the co-curator of the live reading series Bar Flies, and a commentator for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix. Silverman is the author of the book My Heart Can’t Even Believe It: A Story of Science, Love, and Down Syndrome (Woodbine House 2016). Follow her on Instagram (@amysilverman), Twitter (@amysilvermanaz), and at