My my, such sensitivity…
I’m talking about some of the reader reactions to Pitch foodie Charles Ferruzza‘s somewhat caustic review of spanking new Prairie Village mini movie and dining plex, Standees.
First, let me say, calling out a restaurant on the basis of poor execution and a substandard finished product is totally fair game. And Ferruzza was right on target there.
Second, based on my recent experience, Standees was in sore need of being called out.
Now on to the quarrelsome commentary by Pitch readers – some with apparent vested interests in Standees or its current chef – which while off topic at times, ultimately proved insightful.
I ate at Standees the first week and the food was excellent.
It was priced well for mid-level, upscale cuisine (think Houston’s) and the execution was all but flawless. A few weeks later I spoke to a Mission Hills woman who’d fallen in love with both the food and the intimate theaters.
So far so good.
However, by the Ferruzza dined there, weeks later Standees food quality had nosedived.
I also experienced that last Sunday evening during the prime dinner hour.
And while Standees “signature” Steak Bacon Burger was quite good – as was the Peanut Butter & Jelly dessert – my foodie wife got the short end of the stick.
“The restaurant had a nice ambiance, but the food sucked,” she says. “I didn’t like the food and I don’t want to go back there. I had the open-faced salmon sandwich (SALMON GRAVLAX) and it was the oiliest, worst grade of salmon I’ve ever had. It was like gristly and oily and the English muffin it sat on was rock hard – I couldn’t cut it with a knife. And the burnt end meatballs came out cold and your French Fries were stale.”
Now for the finger-pointing.
Ferruzza wrote that he didn’t blame Standees chef Greg Pickardt, but clearly he got that part of the review wrong.
After years of being on the local scene, schmoozing chefs and waiters, Charles tends to default to being the nice guy at times and that’s quite understandable.
But who else do you blame when your food comes out stale, cold and overcooked (like Ferruzza’s pork chop) and for piss poor service and servers?
Is it the menu planner’s fault? Don’t be silly.
At some point the people who cook and/or oversee the cooking and hiring and training of servers have to be held accountable
Trust me, those problems were not in evidence when chef Patrick McDonnell was overseeing things during the launch and when the kitchen was run by two hand trained chefs that were later spirited away by former American Restaurant chef Debbie Gold.
“It’s not the guy who designed the menu’s fault,” my wife says. “It’s the chef’s fault. That menu is not complicated at all. It’s the chef’s fault for not executing the menu.”
Ferruzza’s assertion to the contrary was enough to garner a response from McDonnell:
“Charles – There’s nothing on that menu that a competent Executive chef with a well trained culinary team cannot execute, that I can assure you,” McDonnell wrote. “Both the Sous Chef and the Head Line cook who we trained for Standee’s who left, now work for Debbie Gold at Red Door in similar positions. We do this kind of development work for all the majors and many of their line cooks are of the same level as Standee’s or less. Everything worked extremely well during the start up and in spite of what you may have been told, there have been numerous changes since we left. And yes, you should tell your readers if something is not up to standard but it is unfair to focus in on me and my people for the failings of others without verifying the information concerning me that you may have been given. I would have been be happy to talk to you at any time and give you the facts.”
Where he ran afoul was taking a shot at McDonnell while trying to go soft on the dude actually to blame, Pickardt.
And while Charles did not call out McDonnell by name, the obvious proper journalistic thing to have done was to get McDonnell’s response (since he was wrongly laying the blame at McDonnell’s feet). Because at that point, it was no longer just a review of the food, it was a finger-pointing session.
Now the good news…
I finally made it to Standees to see a movie Saturday and can tell you that the theater operation is first class. And the Standees Sundae – as noted by Ferruzza – is excellent.
I can also tell you that Ferruzza’s words did not fall on deaf ears. In speaking to some of the kitchen staff, I was told that a “Come to Jesus” was held to try and make things right.
My only hope is that the movie dudes running Standees don’t place the blame in the wrong place. It’s an excellent menu, but if the head chef is in over his head, they need to remedy that, not dumb down menu.
The bottom line:
Johnson County diners are very discerning.
They flock to new restaurants, causing one to two hour waits on prime weekend nights. However, once they decide a place isn’t up to par, they abandon ship ultra fast.
Standees made some really good impressions early on and the slowed down summer dining out scene may have given the eatery a chance to make things right before too many minds get made up for it to mount a comeback.
They’d better hurry.