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Can Someone Please Explain Todd English To Me?

Today’s Times announces next week’s opening of Ça Va, a French brasserie in the Times Square Intercontinental Hotel. Todd English is the nominal chef, but after the photo-op he’ll hand over the reins to his “longtime lieutenant,” Victor LaPlaca.

I really struggle to comprehend the Todd English phenomenon. He attaches his name to one mediocrity after another, but people with money put his name on restaurants all over the place. Why? He is not the only chef who widely syndicates and over-extends his personal brand, but I can’t think of anyone who has done it so often, with so little actual excellence.

I mean, there is a very real possibility that a Jean-Georges Vongerichten or Mario Batali restaurant will disappoint, but you can at least point to multiple things they’ve done that are superb. What has English done that comes anywhere close to that, especially in New York?

English’s page on chefdb.com lists thirty-four restaurants that he has opened since the success that launched his empire, Olives in Boston, which opened in 1989. That includes five New York properties, not one of which attracted any significant acclaim.

Whatever value English adds, it certainly can’t be in the kitchen. No one who opens nearly two restaurants a year could be doing anything more than fly by, drop a bit of pixie dust, and move on to the next one. It’s hard to see the value in that, when even his best work is so unimpressive.

So, if you’re looking to open a restaurant in New York, why would you hand your money to Todd English?

Reader Comments (1)

I agree that his food is unspectacular and I think you summed him up perfectly, but the reason people keep giving him money is laden in that very analysis. If he can create successful, even moderately successful restaurants by putting his name on them, despite their mediocrity, then the person(s) financing that restaurant can make money without it even being that good. Suffice to say not everyone opening a restaurant has the passion for excellent food that they should.

July 21, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason

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