The Year/The Decade: Embarrassments
Probably should issue this caveat to start: Unless you're speaking of Paris Hilton or Tex Cobb, the label of embarrassment implies the person in question possesses some talent.
Nobody is perfect, of course. The Rolling Stones recorded Emotional Rescue, Babe Ruth lost half a season due to a "bellyache," Tony Romo muffed a snap and otherwise sentient people bought Sarah Clampett Palin's book.
The shame--or whatever you wish to call it--they bring may not fall on themselves. And it is usually temporary, a riffle in an otherwise remarkable career. There's no dishonor in the occasional bad decision. In every case (except one), those on this list are remarkably skilled.
That being said, the list we'd like to forget...
Embarrassments of 2009:
1. Blythe Beck
Instead of focusing on training kitchen staff and perfecting recipes when she moved from Hector's to Central 214, chef Beck threw herself (and the restaurant staff) into a pathetic soap opera. Television's The Naughty Kitchen showed us just how shallow and pointless life in the service industry can be sometimes. Mediocre reviews and bad TV--not a great moment in her career.
2. Jean Michel
Late in the spring, Jean Michel Sakouhi promised a fancy new French Modern restaurant for Mercantile Place, to open in September. The announcement was lauded by Mayor Leppert and others. A few months later, Sakouhi decided to abandon downtown in favor of the former Il Sole space, to open in January--but that won't be happening, either. He's probably smart not to open. The city and those who praised the press releases however...
3. Bob Sambol
A missing $300,000, threats of lawsuits, the possibility of an auction for his signature steakhouse...Sambol's fall was long, public and painful. To his credit, he hasn't gone into hiding, hasn't bowed his head to problems that would have destroyed others.
Embarrassments of the 00s:
1. Phil Romano
In the balance, it was a successful decade for the famed restaurateur. But it was also spotted by the shortlived We Oui, where condoms were handed to guests as they paid their checks (classy), the overwrought and underperforming Il Mulino, his ill-advised and highly publicized threat to sue the Dallas Morning News for awarding the place four stars, and the months when Medici was open mostly to Nick & Sam's guests, thus populating the private bar with old men and their very young, massively enhanced female guests.
2. Todd Erickson
No question the guy has talent. He came out of nowhere to earn accolades at Hector's on Henderson. Erickson's signature dishes were talked about everywhere and his take on basic recipes was remarkable. Whether it was personal demons or professional dissatisfaction, he was soon gone--a rise and fall.
I can't rightly call attention to the faults of others without admitting to missteps of my own. Nobody's perfect, least of all me. And since everyone else on this list earns more in the way of income and name recognition, last on the list seems an appropriate place.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Dallas dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.