Russo and Woodman Debate the Meaning of Four Stars

Here’s the story: Lenny Russo criticizes Stewart Woodman’s criticism of a critic giving Russo’s Heartland a positive critique. It’s an interesting read — Woodman suggests that you generally can’t give Minneapolis restaurants four stars because they’ll never measure up to the New York equivalents and Russo fires back with a blast from the past: “When Stewart was at Levain a few years ago, Rick Nelson gave that restaurant four stars. At the time, Levain didn’t even have wine list, and given the ambiance and the level of service provided does Stew really believe that that restaurant would have rated four stars in the New York Times?  I didn’t hear him carping then, but here he is taking issue now.”


  1. NickSperr...

    Shefzilla’s post sounds like a really well written dis-track a la Tupac’s Hit Em Up. I just hope this ends with something other than drive-by shootings.

    I sense a tinge of sarcasm in his post, not the one hitting you in the face, but another more subtle one indicating that he REALLY is just kidding. I dont see ‘zilla doing something so negative in advance of his restaurant opening. Maybe he is asking, in so many words, that the local critic world go hard on him. He is setting the bar extremely high, and in a death-defying feat, actually planning to meet or exceed it, and show us all that Mpls can be a food scene on par with the likes of NYC/CHI.

    On another note, going back to rap music analogy, “beefs” are usually contrived for the purpose of getting coverage and selling records. Are these guys playing us the same way, so we go to both restaurants and decide for ourselves? If so, it’s kinda genius and hilarious, they are playing the foodie media for chumps.

    I look forward to seeing how this unfolds. My gut tells me these guys are not going at eachothers throats sincerely, there is something else afoot, a more noble cause than “beef for beef’s sake”. If it is a beef, then Heartland and Russo might be the first restaurants in Mpls to have a metal detector and pat down standard at the host station.

  2. Moe

    TSA rub downs at local restaurants. News at 11.

    I could care less about their beef, but the idea of comparing our restaurants to those in NYC is ridiculous to me.

  3. rlibson

    marketing beef pure and simple…probably have some kind of “throwdown” or some other ridiculously staged competition to get even more press.

  4. Dave

    I hope that was sarcasm from Woodman, but in the event it wasn’t, I would love his address so I can send back the three cookbooks of his I bought off Amazon. And, I’ll quit looking forward to his opening.

  5. Nick

    After reading Lenny’s article more completely, he is clearly not going at ‘woods throat, his article is full of compliments and well-wishes. If it is a beef, it is one-sided, and a more appropriate term to use for this situation would be “hater”. I guess this means hip hop terminology is the sole prism by which I see all things in the world. I’m going to have to work on that. peace out yo.

  6. justice

    Justice proposes the following:

    Woodman vs. Russo
    Celebrity Chef Boxing Match for Charity
    (shirtless, of course)

    Heidi vs. Mega
    McKee vs. Thoma
    Dara vs. Kathy Jenkins

    Master of Ceremonies: Bill Summerville
    Expert Commentary by:
    Doug Flicker (Piccolo)
    Jack Riebel (Dakota)
    Mr. Pickles (currently unemployed)

    Beer courtesy of Surly Brewing
    “Pigs in a Blanket” courtesy of Haute Dish

    *all proceeds to charity

    *winner gets guest restaurant critic column at the Strib and a five-star/101-point rating for their restaurant

    *loser agrees to:
    -dress up as Santa Claus and ring a bell in front of their own restaurant during the holiday season
    -appear as the sous-chef on Pampuch’s future reality cooking show. (You’ll be opening lots of tomato cans, I’d guess…)

  7. ElJay

    Wow. Russo is a class act, and Woodman’s “review” is mean-spirited and trite. I’ve eaten at an enjoyed both Heartland and the old Heidi’s, but I won’t be there when Woodman reopens, and I won’t be getting his cookbook for Christmas gifts as I had planned. I support the local food movement because I’d rather my money be going to people than corporations, but that kinda breaks down when the people in question are jerks.

  8. Pigs in a Slanket

    I read the link to the Strib piece. It seemed like Lenny Russo was making a respectful intellectual argument. Critics are subjective. Ratings aggregators are also subjective. As The Dude once said, “that’s, like, your opinion, man”.

    It appears that Russo went so far as to say that the ratings don’t matter too much to him, but he’s focused on doing good work… as I’m sure Stewart Woodman also is. A rather reasonable and respectfully debatable piece of writing.

    Woodman’s post was quite the contrary. Petty, snide, and pathetically bitter. A portrait of the middle-aged shef as an ass-hat.

    I was looking forward to Heidi’s coming the Lyn-Lake neighborhood where I live and going there when it opens.

    To be honest, I’d rather give my money to talented and class-act chefs like Doug Flicker, Isaac Becker, and Alex Roberts than to a now-proven d-bag.

  9. MCG

    I have been eating in this town since before Lenny worked at the Loring, and Zilla came to change the food scene forever (sigh…)

    If quality food is important, you’ll go to Heidi’s. If your choice is based on a higher principle (local,organic,hippie love) you’ll go to Heartland. One has amateur service,one has(d) arrogant service. Neither would get a Michelin star, which is the only rating that matters to any chef in the first place.

    Both have self absorbed Chefs with over inflated egos. On a scale of 1-4 for being quality human beings, they both get a 1 in my book.

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