Though he told Grub Street two years ago that "there are such phenomenal restaurants" in S.F., chef Rick Bayless's recent trip to the Bay Area for the IACP conference was a bit disappointing. In an interview with Zagat this week he called out several restaurants he visited (Local’s Corner, Flour + Water, Slanted Door, and Aziza), saying that he had some "great food," but adding that it was "all a little bit too alike," in part because of chefs using the same vegetables from the same farmers. He throws in a small jab at Slanted Door, saying "When [it] first opened, I recall the flavors were a lot more edgy." In the Mexican realm, S.F.'s Mission burrito-centric taquerias don't thrill him much. Also he adds that pizza and pasta appear on menus everywhere, which "you don't see in Chicago." He goes on to say that "there’s more of [this sameness] here than in other towns," but after several local blogs leaped on his critiques, he backtracks a bit.
The Top Chef Masters winner tries to clarify his thoughts in the comments of the original post, saying these thoughts were "from a 3 or 4 minute interview" and adding that he didn't even know he was being interviewed right away. But he sticks to his guns when it comes to the Bay Area's Mexican food:
These words do not represent my full opinions. Hopefully this will shed more light: I think that lots of the restaurants in San Francisco have a similarity just like they do in New Orleans. It's called regional style. I'm always surprised by that similarity I find in a lot of the well-known SF restaurants, because when you think of food in the Chicago or LA or New York, the well-known restaurants are unexpectedly different. Aziza and Slanted Door in SF are vey different from what I think of as SF style (as is State Bird Provisions, which I went on my last night [sic]), which is why I chose to go to them (plus I'm a fan of Mourad's cooking, even though it seems less Moroccan than I've tasted in the past). There is a lot of Mexican food in SF, but it isn't very similar to what I eat in Mexico. When people talk to me about Mexican in SF, they are usually talking about great tacos and burritos in the Mission. I think most people would agree that SF isn't well know for a plethora of Mexican dinner restaurants.
This isn't the first time Bayless has had to backtrack on dissing a city's a food he's also taken some shots at L.A.'s Mexican food, saying it's more about "street-food flavors" and lacks the "complexity that you sometimes find in the food of Oaxaca or Veracruz." These comments sparked a bit of a feud between him and LA Weekly critic Jonathan Gold, who insists that Bayless simply hasn't taken the time to find all the good, regionally focused Mexican spots in L.A.
Rick Bayless on the San Francisco Restaurant Scene [Zagat]
Rick Bayless Bored By S.F. Food Scene [SFist]
Earlier: Rick Bayless Calls Tijuana ‘One of the Great Food Cities of North America’
Bayless Beat Down (Again) By a Graceful Jonathan Gold [Grub Street LA]
Jonathan Gold Roasts Rick Bayless [Grub Street Chicago]