GQ Critic Richman, Who Famously Hated Husk in Charleston, Gives Bushels of Love to Husk Nashville



Many people spend a lot of time wondering about the mind of GQ restaurant critic Alan Richman, what motivates him, and whether, for example, he beat up unfairly on New Orleans restaurants after Katrina (although he did gamely take a Sazerac in the face on Treme following that charge), and whether he's a world-class douchebag (that argument fills an entire chapter of Anthony Bourdain's book Medium Raw, with a certain it-takes-one-to-know-one persuasiveness), along with many other speculations.

Richman just performed a dramatic 180-degree turn in regard to chef Sean Brock's Husk. After a delivering a notably negative review of the original Husk in Charleston last year, Richman has come back with a glowing rave for Husk's new sister restaurant in Nashville.

"In Nashville, Husk Is Reborn," reads the headline.

Unless my travels were in some way influenced by astrological imbalances that for a short term made bumblers out of an entire kitchen in Charlestown and transformed cooks in Nashville into whiz kids, I’m left with a pretty straightforward conclusion: The kitchen crew in Nashville is in a different league. Brock’s recipes have matured, too. They demonstrated sophistication I didn’t see in Charleston. I’m just a Northerner, which means my vote doesn’t count, but I’m convinced that the best way to showcase Southern cooking is not merely to grow better beans but to transform the food with modern thinking and an abundance of finesse.

Not to engage in too much Richman tea-leaf reading, but I note that he admits he had very different attitudes going in to each restaurant. With Husk Charleston, he says he felt it was "practically preordained" that he would crown it one of GQ's best new restaurants of the year. But everything went wrong and Husk was "beyond disappointing."

Flying to Nashville, he says, "I admit I wasn’t looking for much from the kitchen — if the first version of a restaurant isn’t good, why expect the follow-up to be better?"

It's also interesting to compare his experiences to Carrington Fox's review of Husk in the Scene, which ran in August. Subtitled "A Tale of Two Seatings," it contrasted what she describes as a sublime experience at dinner to a relatively disappointing lunch.

Maybe Husk has had some problems with consistency, which is, after all, possibly the most troublesome nut for any restaurant to crack.

I've always had good experiences at Husk, and I haven't had a chance to dine there recently (though I need to try my colleague Chris Chamberlain's "show up at the bar at 5 p.m." trick for getting in).

Maybe what Richman observed on his two recent meals at Husk Nashville (including a mustard-onion pork baste that Brock apparently picked up on a recent visit to Senegal) reflect the chef and his restaurant just getting that much better over the past few months.

Anybody have any thoughts? Been to Husk recently? Where do you stand on the Alan Richman issue?

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