Chicken, Out: Readers say El Pollo Rico?s birds aren?t so Super.
Chicken, Out: Readers say El Pollo Rico?s birds aren?t so Super. Credit: Darrow Montgomery

As the primary author of the Young & Hungry blog, I release a lot of gas into the ether. Sometimes you readers find it noxious enough to disperse with your own counterattack. It can make for an engaging round of online gasbagging. Just take a look at the four examples below (edited for length but not typos).

In February, shortly after Anthony Bourdain featured El Pollo Rico on his TV show No Reservations, I asked readers if the joint really was the best Peruvian chicken outlet in the area—or just the one that got the most press.

Erin C: Super Pollo is defnitely better. Some friends of mine are having a chicken off in March if you want to observe, it should settle the chicken wars once and for all!

Tom W: I think Erin C forgot to wear her helmet today. Super Pollo is a cheap imitation. It doesn’t come close to the flavor of El Pollo Rico. The line out the door at EPR speaks for itself.

Eric W: It should be pretty obvious to all that Tom W is really a marketing executive employed by El Pollo Rico. Perhaps he should be spending time coming up with a marketing campaign to distract EPR customers from the fact that the chicken is bland and that the salsa is nothing but “green and water.” Also, how about coming up with some sides other than just soggy fries?

Eric: It’s official. In a blind taste test with 16 testers this Saturday in Georgetown, 12 of 16 people chose Super Pollo (also in Arlington) as more delicious than El Pollo Rico. For those of you saying EPR is better because it’s what your friends are saying, do yourselves a favor and actually try some Super Pollo!

Later that same month, I reported that Jérôme Girardot, a respected pastry chef for the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the West End, had committed suicide in Ben Brenman Park in Cameron Station. Readers were none too happy to hear the news.

Appalled: Dear Tim, I’m really appalled that you would show so much disrespect for Jerome’s wife and family, by “reporting” this tragedy and mentioning the cause of his death.

Equally Appalled: Me too! Disgusting, how reporters insist on doing their jobs. It’s a growing problem. Why, just recently I’ve heard on the so-called “news” that soldiers are still dying in Iraq, Roland Burris is being criticized, and John Updike is dead. Where is the respect for their families?!?

Poor Taste: This was just in poor taste. It does not, should not matter how this wonderfully talented friend, father, son, brother, love one died. The fact of the matter is, he is lost to us forever. We will never be able to understand the why of it no matter how it happened, so there was no real reason to report that insightful information at this time. Now his family will have to deal with these tough questions during a time when we all will be celebrating his life, not the absurd circumstances behind his death. By the way, you never once mentioned his family in your “article”, it is obvious you were not thinking of anyone but yourself. He is survived by them. His gift and passion for pastry survives in them. You should issue an apology to his family, if for no other reason than it is the right thing to do.

Respectful and In Mourning: I am writing this because I too, am a fellow Pastry Chef who was heartbroken to hear such tragic news. The article above might hurt the family if it isn’t true—but if it is, then I do think it’s important for others to know. As horrible and tragic as it is—he is not the first chef to allegedly take his own life. No one outside the industry realizes the pressures that all chefs have to deal with on a

daily basis—not only at their restaurant, but trying to balance family along with it. Thanks to the food network and growing interest in “Chefs”—I think much of the general public has been mislead about what really goes into being a chef. Its been glamorized to the point of ridiculousness. Being a chef is your life—and I think more people need to recognize the hazards and downfalls of the profession before jumping into it. (Which has nothing to do with this particular case, but it could help others). In this case, a brilliant mind has been lost and all of the culinary world will mourn alongside his family for it. So sad.

Danny McCoy: To all the folks who think it was in poor taste to report that this was a suicide, remember that this happened in a public place. If this had happened in a private home then of course it would be in poor taste. However, it was public, people could see him, and hence, the public has a right to know what happened. Better to put it to rest now instead of having people ask what happened all the time. That said, my sincere condolences to the Chef and his family.

Food for thought…: Yes, it is the right of the people in the community to know what dangers do or do not exist in their neighborhoods. And yes the life [of] a chef is not all glamourous. It is really stressful. I don’t dispute that. I am not concerned with the facts of the article, I am, however, disputing the timing. Due to the sensitive nature, the humane thing to do was to wait until after the families services before releasing information. It doesn’t hurt to exercise some judgement every once in a while even if that means you don’t get to break the story first. At least you could look his kids in the eye and be proud of what you have done. Just a little food for thought….

In May, I reported that burger man Spike Mendelsohn and his business partner, Mike Colletti, had been evicted from their Capitol Hill apartment after owing more than $8,000 to his landlords, Brian Wetzler, a U.S. Coast Guard commander stationed in Colombia, and his pregnant wife, Elizabeth. Mendelsohn’s sister, Micheline Mendelsohn, tried to explain that it was all a simple misunderstanding: Her brother had moved in with his girlfriend and transferred his share of the lease to another Good Stuff Eatery cook. Readers were none too sympathetic toward the meat man.

Anthony Guglielmo: Spike Mendolson is a disgrace to the restaurant profession. In business, when you sign a contract it actually means that they are accepting responsibilty to the outlined business relationship. He obviously is a man who does not honor his obligations which makes every part of his business suspect. I would recommend a night where all their customers come into his restaurant and not pay for their meal. They can say that they subleased their food to a homeless guy outside and suggest for Spike to collect from him.

rachel beth: This story is not telling the truth. Spike lives with his girlfriend, they’ve lived together in capitol hill for almost a year. They’ve never been late on rent, they have a beautiful, happy home and their landlords are dear friends. I know this because my sister is his girlfriend. He originally lived with those guys, but shortly after, he moved out. And when he DID live there, he paid rent on time. This entire story has become distorted.

John G.: I don’t see any controversy here. If you lease a property, and then hand someone else the keys, that’s just bad judgment, not to mention illegal. And guess what; you’re still responsible for paying the lease, nice guy or not; “other lease” or not; girlfriend or not. If Mendelsohn and Colleti own this debt, they should pay it, take away a valuable lesson, and get back to making burgers. Of course, they could instead decide to stiff an active duty military family who is serving overseas in a hostile fire zone, expecting their first child, and trying to pay their mortgage. Yeah, that would be a genius public relations move; at the same time as they’re talking about opening another restaurant? Are you serious? Why don’t they just hand that one to Five Guys on a platter, and scratch the First Lady off their list of return customers. Come on guys, act like upstanding Hill residents; pay your debts and move on.

Keith: Why the heck did the owner have to call the newpaper and report the eviction? It really is no one’s business anyway. It sounds like the owners were out to be rude and selfish for no appearant reason called the paper to report the story. They should stay in Columbia.

Antonia F.: I’m wondering how Keith would feel if he were over seas serving his country with his pregnant wife, and he rented his home to an upstanding couple of guys who then turned out to be complete and total deadbeat, douche bags? Would he try several times to contact them giving them the benefit of the doubt, before having to drag their sorry asses into court? Would he call the local papers and let them know what kind of people these two “upstanding” local business men really are? Would he sit on his hands and not do anything, because after all, when some rich jerk off rips you off while you’re serving in the military overseas, it’s no one else’s business?…No, he’d probably drop trou, bend over quietly, and take it.

On Oct. 1, I contacted Blue Ridge chef Barton Seaver for a comment about a report that said Esquire would name him chef of the year. Seaver begged off on a response since he hadn’t yet received the honor (he did, three days later). Readers were not so eager to withhold comment.

Dumbfounded: It’s a slap in the face to all who work so hard to prefect their craft…I only hope that this doesn’t further ruin the honor that it takes to be called a “Chef”. What a fool. To all the prep-cooks, line cooks, sous chef’s, chef’s, to all those in our kitchens, keep working hard, learn your craft, take pride in yourselves. It is better to be respected by those you respect than to be handed fake honors.

WTF: wow is this a joke barton seaver best chef in the country I wouldn’t go as far as saying best chef in glover park

Another dc cook: What a culinary travesty and a huge blow to the Washington DC dining scene….How simply wrong this is. The guy may be knowledgeable about sustainability, he may know a little about fisheries, but that doesn’t make him a good cook or a great chef. If any of these media people actually do any fact checking, one would learn that he has not been successful in any kitchen dynamic he has ever been in….Leadership on a culinary front should start with the kitchen not the media where Mr. Seaver’s has turned to make his brand successful. Spouting off about sustainability should start with being able to sustain a success in food, restaurant and staff. This award has brought a tremendous amount of negativity to the great cooks that are in the DC metro area.

john mariani: Tim Carman and DC area bloggers have every right to disagree with my naming Barton Seaver “Chef of the Year” in Esquire’s annual (25th anniversary) article The Best New Restaurants in America 2009. But to set the record straight, nowhere was he called the “Best chef in America,” but was one of 20 his year whose work stood out for me. The honor of being called “Chef of the Year” was based more on two lengthy interviews with Seaver about his ideas on improving America’s food chain, sustainability, and move away from the dominance of proteins, and he has been earnestly working towards these ends. I also thoroughly enjoyed the food at Blue Ridge. As for my “questionable ethics,” references to four-year-old libelous accusations in the Chicago Sun-Times about me by Chicago chef Homaro Cantu of Moto were long ago refuted…Despite this, journals like the Washington City Paper continue to bring back this wholly discredited story.

re: john mariani: John, wouldn’t you say being named “Chef of the Year ” by Esquire Magazine would require the actually ability to cook good food, rather then having the ability to charm you in two “lengthy” interviews.…