When Chefs Attack

Feenies, a local institutionIn Van­cou­ver, we have a few of own Celebri­ty Chefs. One of them, like oth­er Celebri­ty Chefs, is well known out­side of Van­cou­ver. He’s hand­some, dash­ing, charis­mat­ic, and one expects, prob­a­bly a bit of a pri­ma don­na (or in this case, that would be pri­mo uomo). The guy is called ‘Rob Fee­nie’, and he’s par­tic­u­lar­ly well known for his win over Iron Chef Masa­haru Mori­mo­to on the Food Net­work’s Iron Chef Amer­i­ca. He’s also known (around here) because he also appears (along with 2 of the oth­er celebri­ty chefs in town) in com­mer­cials for the ‘White Spot’ restau­rant chain.

So you can imag­ine the head­lines that appeared today when he broke ties with the two restau­rants he runs in Van­cou­ver, effec­tive­ly quit­ting from the role of Exec­u­tive Chef at Lumière and Fee­nie’s. Yes, that’s right, the restau­rant that bears Rob Fee­nie’s name, as of this past Fri­day, no longer serves his food.

Pam and I have been to a few of the good restau­rants in town, includ­ing 2 vis­its to West, a love­ly meal at Bish­op’s and a quite a few less high-end estab­lish­ments. We nev­er made it to either Lumière or Fee­nies, part­ly because we are sus­pi­cious of the mark-up that the caché of a famous chef can add, and that one can often do bet­ter for less elsewhere.

As the arti­cle in the Van­cou­ver Sun reports, this falling-out between Fee­nie and his back­ers is amount­ing to a series of ‘he-said’, ‘they-said’ state­ments, and I have to won­der if in the end, there aren’t going to be too many losers in this game:

Fee­nie, whether he gets his restau­rants back or not, is assured of a spec­tac­u­lar open­ing, should he decide to open a new restau­rant (Fee­nie’s II — The Real Thing, per­haps?). The back­ers of his orig­i­nal restau­rant, David and Man­jy Sidoo, also have lit­tle to lose in terms of cus­tomers, unless Fee­nie can get them to boy­cott his old restau­rants as a show of sol­i­dar­i­ty. I expect, instead, that some peo­ple will go to those eater­ies out of curios­i­ty, to either see if they have slipped in qual­i­ty or flair since Fee­nie’s depar­ture, or if they’ve nev­er been to either of them before, to see what all the fuss is about. Restau­rants in Van­cou­ver in gen­er­al will prob­a­bly also reap a ben­e­fit; this squab­ble will only help to bring the whole sub­ject of fine-din­ing (and colour­ful chefs) in Van­cou­ver to water cool­ers all over the city and Province. After all, it’s made the front page of the Sun already.

I’ve often talked about how great the restau­rants (and the food in general)are in this town. It’s going to be inter­est­ing to see how this very pub­lic breakup affects the com­mu­ni­ty, espe­cial­ly as we near the onslaught of mil­lions of high-end tourists for the 2010 games. If I were Fee­nie, I’d cer­tain­ly want to be serv­ing expen­sive, once-in-a-life­time din­ners to those crowds. This gas­tro­nom­ic soap opera is def­i­nite­ly not over yet.

3 Replies to “When Chefs Attack”

  1. David and Man­jy Sidoo have lit­tle to lose in cus­tomers?!? Their super-famous promi­nent chef, the much-acclaimed genius behind Lumiere and Fee­nie’s, is gone. I would be sur­prised if they haven’t had reser­va­tions can­cel­la­tions already.

  2. Hi Ryan — I’m not say­ing that the own­ers will win big. Yeah, if there are any losers in this game, I would imag­ine it would be them, if they don’t take action quick­ly. For the time being, though, this is free pub­lic­i­ty (albeit bad pub­lic­i­ty, but all the same, there will be plen­ty of curios­i­ty by con­nois­seurs and the gen­er­al pub­lic alike), but if they can’t kiss and make­up with Fee­nie, then I they had bet­ter close Fee­nies with­in 1–2 months, do a rad­i­cal rework of the place and rename of it, and reopen it as ‘Mack­ay’s’ (or some oth­er name).

    As for Lumiére, that’s real­ly inter­est­ing. There are quite a few oth­er French Restau­rants in Van­cou­ver (Le Croc­o­dile, Fleuri, Cas­sis, Gas­tro­pod, and Le Gavroche, to name a few), but few have the rep­u­ta­tion that Lumière had.

    Have they had can­cel­la­tions already? I won­der. Up until recent­ly, I’ve always been a lit­tle cyn­i­cal about the degree to which an Exec­u­tive Chef is involved with the actu­al prepa­ra­tion of dish­es served in a fine restau­rant, but when we went to Bish­ops, we were wel­comed by the man him­self, and he even added a lit­tle more to my squash soup after the wait­er had put it down (a curi­ous thing to do, don’t you think?). Back in Boston about 3 years ago, we went to the famous ‘Locke-Ober’ restau­rant, which had been recent­ly tak­en over by Lydia Shire, and we met her dur­ing the meal as well, as she made it a point to cir­cu­late from table to table, meet­ing all of her cus­tomers. Appar­ent­ly, this is some­thing she does most evenings, but it still felt nice to chat about food with an Inter­na­tion­al­ly known chef. Did Fee­nie do this bit of the­atre? Hav­ing not been to either of his restau­rants, I have no idea (per­haps some­one does?).

    I guess the more impor­tant ques­tion is, Is this good for the Van­cou­ver Restau­rant scene or is it bad? In France, a cou­ple of years ago, a chef com­mit­ted sui­cide because he was denied a sin­gle star in the Miche­lin Guide. While I don’t think this dra­ma will get to that lev­el (at least I hope not), it does put fine cui­sine in the spot­light, don’t you think?

  3. I did actu­al­ly go to Fee­nie’s once. Great food, great pre­sen­ta­tion (but at a pre­mi­um price, as you’d expect. It was a bit of a treat).

    I will not be going back if Fee­nie isn’t there. Why go to a big-name restau­rant when the big name behind the food isn’t actu­al­ly there? There are plen­ty of great restau­rants to go to in Van­cou­ver where I don’t have to wor­ry about exis­ten­tial issues and false advertising.

    By the way, thank you for being the first to remark on my blog’s new site. I LOVE Word­Press. I should have made the change ages ago. Now I have to try to win back read­ers to my new URL. Just goes to show how fear of change can hold you back.

Comments are closed.