In those days, a pious Christian family-man simply did not make those sorts of admissions, especially while running for president. And even though we all lust after people in our hearts—even those of us without hearts like Dick Cheney or the Tin Man—back then, gut-level honesty from presidential candidates was neither appreciated nor understood.
You can easily see how far the pendulum has swung in the other direction: Today, a presidential candidate essentially announces that he hates all Muslims and immigrants and ugly women and he’s his party’s front-runner.
So the idea that Chef John Tesar’s recent, borderline insane tirade in Playboy magazine would hurt his professional reputation is open to debate. In course of that brief, rambling interview, he manages to skewer not only the city that hosts his restaurants (Dallas), critics who don’t like his restaurants (Leslie Brenner), Southern people in general (“We smile in your face and then when you leave the room we just talk shit about you”), but his far-more-accomplished colleagues (“Anthony Bourdain is one of the shittiest chefs that ever lived”).
It’s a brave new world, baby, and we all take innate pleasure in watching people like John Tesar undergo self-orchestrated psychological meltdowns on a public forum.
On the other hand, since Playboy is basically irrelevant in the 21st century—especially since they stopped including centerfolds that our hearts could lust after—and Tesar was never particularly relevant in any century, and since the old marketing mantra ‘any publicity is good publicity’ is bullshit to begin with (let me know the next time Bill Cosby sells out a venue or Charlie Sheen lands a job), anybody who connects the dots and thinks this sort of interview is a sound business strategy must be from some parallel PR universe.
Now, if you happen to follow this column, I know what you’re thinking:
I expend a lot of virtual ink making merry over the foibles and failings and general fuck-upperies of my colleagues, and over the past twelve months I have probably made as many enemies as friends. On the surface, the gap between what Tesar said about Tony Bourdain and my contention that my more-accomplished colleague Natalie MacLean is one of the shittiest wine writers that ever lived, may seem miniscule.
So, Here’s The Difference, All Y’all:
Intoxicology Report is sheer schtick—it’s fundamentally a satirical site in which I wedge a little wine knowledge into a stand-up routine. I may be less vitriolic in person, but I lust after readers in my heart, and the basic, ground-level truth is that when I write a piece in which I ridicule the pomp and circumstance surrounding the wine industry, my daily hit count goes through the roof. If instead I write about the discovery of a small-production, inexpensive Riesling from the central Pyrenees and check my stats, I’m Jared Fogle offering career advice at a Harvard commencement ceremony.
It Ain’t What It Ain’t, and That’s All It Never Can Be
I’m not selling a commodity in which quality and personal integrity is a particular goal—in fact, Intoxicology Report is, by intent and execution, the precise opposite of such business ventures. It’s neither for sale to readers nor advertisers, and it doesn’t depend upon the financial munificence of customers to succeed.
My PayPal account remains equally empty if you love what I write or hate it.
‘’Rs’ Яn’t Us…
However, a restaurateur—whose particular pecuniary pursuit is placing posteriors in pews—should at least consider that being a public prick doesn’t necessarily translate into salivating patrons lining up at his dining room’s doors. In other words, whereas I am happy to read Tesar’s vitriol online for free, I am not in the least tempted to thereupon drop $80 an inch for 240-day dry-aged steak at Knife or $22 for raw tuna, which his Oak menu lists under the ‘R’-free category ‘Appetize’.
Had Tesar spent a single paragraph of his rare Playboy interview opportunity explaining to me why I should want to—how a chef can influence the prominence of certain beef flavors by altering temperature and humidity in the aging environment, and not why Anthony Bourdain (with whom he cooked at the Supper Club) is ‘dragged around by his dick by his wife’—I might be.
Playboy magazine, however, is not the least bit interested in John Tesar’s culinary techniques, as is obvious by the questions posed by the self-described ‘resident hangover specialist’ Alyson Sheppard, who probably fancies herself lust-worthy in some parallel Playboy universe. She was interested in scoring headline fodder, not plugging Tesar’s endeavors, and knowing that the anger-prone chef needs very little nudging to trash great swaths of humanity in a single bound, she fulfilled her mission.
What’s sort of sad is that Chef John Tesar missed a chance to sell his talent and instead took Playboy’s click-bait hook, line and sinker—to the same sort of personal peril as one of the Alaskan halibuts he slathers with ‘brandade’ and ‘rouille’ and wants to sell me for $42.
Ah, well. Not my flying circus, is it?
Into the New Year with hope, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.