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Acclaimed Chef Roy Choi Hits Back at NY Times’ Scathing Zero-Star Review With Absolute Class

Restaurant critic Pete Wells of the New York Times is currently on the receiving end of backlash after he gave a zero-star review (a first outside New York) on Locol, a promising health-conscious fast food chain built on a model of “giving back to communities” from chefs Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi.

The review in question was Wells’ assessment of the chain’s Oakland outlet, titled: “Fast Food for Needy Neighborhoods, at Locol in California”, in which he gave a scathing criticism of its food, calling it bland, dry, and unappealing.

“Locol’s chicken is an amalgam of chicken bits invisibly bound together,” Wells wrote. “Inside a thin sheath of fried coating, this composite of ground meat is mysteriously bland and almost unimaginably dry.”

And while he said he did enjoy the burger buns and the $2 coffee, he was not a fan of the chicken soup with rice and the chili over rice.

“One of the bowls is chili over rice with onion, cheese, and crushed saltines. The chili is the bean-and-ground-beef kind, which for some Texans is a deal breaker,” went the review. “I was more bothered by how hard it was to detect any spices other than a shadow of hot sauce. This was less like chili than like a slightly spicier version of the meat sauce my corner pizzeria pours over penne. Supermarkets sell canned chilis that are seasoned more persuasively.”

While it was Patterson and Choi’s mission to create nutritious and delicious meals, Wells expressed that the duo is “thinking about the social dimensions of fast food so much that they now see their target audience as problems to be solved, not customers to be pleased.”

He brings the point out further, stating: “The most nutritious burger on earth won’t help you if you don’t want to eat it.”

Chef Preeti Mistry of Oakland’s Juhu Beach Club took to Twitter to give his opinion on the matter:

Chef Ritchie Nakano called Wells’ review “insane”, stating that the critic missed the point of Locol:

Others have expressed support to the restaurant:

While others are siding with Wells:

Taking the high road, Choi penned an Instagram post explaining how Locol faces such reviews:

Zero stars. I know many of you want me to respond or snap back at him but the situation to me is much more than that. I welcome Pete’s review. It tells me a lot more about the path. I don’t know Pete but he is now inextricably linked to LocoL forever. So I’ll share with you what I wrote to a friend and our team. We got that PMA: “The truth is that LocoL has hit a nerve. Doesn’t mean all people love it, some hate it. But no one is indifferent by it. That’s the spirit of LocoL. It has nothing to do with my ego. It’s something bigger than all of us. Pete Wells is a component to its DNA. His criticisms are a reflection of us and the nerve that LocoL touches. And our imperfections. Also the nerve of challenging the binary structure of privileged thought patterns and how life is not just about what’s a success or failure, but some things are real struggles and growth journeys. We all know the food is not as bad as he states. Is it perfect? NO. But it’s not as bad as he writes. And all minorities aren’t criminals either. And all hoods aren’t filled with dangerous people either. But the pen has created a lot of destruction over the course of history and continues to.. He didn’t need to go there but he did. That’s why he’s a part of LocoL. The power of this change and this nerve that it hits. It compelled him to write something he knows would hurt a community that is already born from a lot of pain and struggle.. Crazy, right? But I see it as a piece to this whole puzzle.” #LocoL #Watts #Oakland

A photo posted by Chef Roy (@ridingshotgunla) on

Choi’s response, while defending the food as being not as bad as Wells writes, simply takes in the criticisms as part of the process. He also dished out some powerful lines toward the end:

“And all minorities aren’t criminals either. And all hoods aren’t filled with dangerous people either. But the pen has created a lot of destruction over the course of history and continues to. He didn’t need to go there but he did.”

Patterson, for his part, simply retweeted Choi’s Instagram post.

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