Todd English: The Beginning of the End

Dear Todd,

It was the tiniest flinch. Fleeting and reflexive, it barely registered to the keen observer, let alone the Nantucket Wine Festival throngs blithely OD’ing on ferry fumes, Guerlain bronzer dust, and hits of warmish pinot. But we couldn’t help but notice. We’d been studying your dance for years.

It was 12 months ago, almost to the day. The Harbor Gala, Nantucket. Frankly, we were a little surprised to see you so far removed from your comfort zone (i.e., outside Massachusetts). Yet there you stood, in starch-crisped regalia, promoting a new menu for your latest imperial conquest, The Summer House. All in all, it was a brilliantly staged triumph. While the “local” chefs made do with no-frills tasting tables, you dazzled the crowd from the tricked-out Sub-Zero/Wolf/Clarke “floating” kitchen wrangled to hoist you high above the unsponsored masses. Dwarfed by the platformed soundstage, fans queued up dozens deep to sample grilled prime beef, sliced to order and sprinkled with stardust by the legend himself.

Only thing is: Prime beef, much like relationships, can get messy.

At one point during your nimble dance of glad-handing, eye-smoldering and bandying-about, the beef expelled some juice. As the unscripted spurt crested toward your chef’s whites in perfect curvilinear motion, the jacket’s fate seemed sealed. But somehow, in a final-second flourish, you dodged the bloody bullet. You englished the choreography. You flinched.

Suddenly, we reeled, as 26 years of pent-up clarity enveloped us in sickly waves of panic. In the distance, oyster shuckers soldiered forth in T-shirts practically brined in their own residual shrapnel. But on high, the great Todd English prissed and preened — the sheer contrast was excruciating. It’s a glorified apron, dude; it’s supposed to get messy! We looked, confoundedly toward your perch but you’d already made your escape. Leaving someone else — anyone else — to do your dirty work. And that’s when we knew what we needed to do.

P.S. There’s hope for you yet, Todd

We’ll always love you for the memories, the meals, and for teaching us how to truly love our local chefs. So much so, that we honestly want to see you do well. We even think that with a tiny bit of commitment, hard work, and a few sound bits of advice, you just might redeem yourself. (But please… don’t call us. We just can’t take the relationship yo-yo anymore.) For all your future relationships, however, here are a few specific points of advice:

1. Stop sleeping around  

We know you, and we know how hard it is for you to keep those crushes at bay. But our single most worthwhile piece of advice would be: Pick one city and stick with it. Considering your most recent obligations to New York (Ça Va seems to be getting attention, as does the Plaza Food Hall … and Olives New York, where our son Tony now stands behind your stove every day, has a modicum of respect), we’d recommend making that your home – and keeping it. Put some face time in your kitchens, be the teaching chef you started out to be. And use your image for the greater good… of your restaurants.  

2. Be a better provider

Maybe it’s time you really did shut down Olives (we’ll — sniff — get over it) — and every other place that’s faltering — to pay off some bills. That line of GreenPans (way to keep it earth friendly, btw) has gotta be making some dough; instead of using it to launch another vanity project for you or your other child, pay off some debt and start putting money back into your restaurants.

3. Act your age   

We totally get the rock star thing — on stage! With a band! And all those women! But maybe it’s time to give it all up, let the grays come out and grow up gracefully. You’re 50 – own that. Let go of that young lothario, Blue Steel image and follow peers such as Lydia, Jasper, Jamie Mammano, Gordon Hamersley, who are working (like, with an actual knife) into their golden years.

We wish all the best in life, honestly. And maybe, one day, we can even be friends.

Just as soon as we get through a few more rounds of therapy.


The four stages of our relationship with Todd English, plus our reader poll: how do you feel about English?

Dear Todd English: It’s Not Us. It’s You.