Amidst all the talk of the year’s best in eating, food writer John Mariani takes the opposite tact and highlights the worst for Esquire. His list of 2012’s low points represents a broad range of foul food moments, from “Worst Use of Butter Since Last Tango in Paris” to “Worst New Burger Idea.” He makes a point of not ruling out anything—as long as it had a slight connection food, it was fair game. Even Conrad Murray calling his jail meals “cat food” makes the cut.
Some picks are somewhat curmudgeonly: “Worst Case of Wretched Excess, Ice Cream Edition” calls out Salty Pimp, a dulce de leche pudding vanilla cake co-production by Big Gay Ice Cream and Robicelli’s Cupcakes. Some are more understandable: “Worst Wait” is given to Mission Chinese in New York for the average three-hour wait; and “Worst Marketing Decision” is given to Italian winemaker Vini Lunardelli, who added images of controversial political history figures like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini to his wine labels.
Even known restaurateurs and culinary personalities are not exempt from the haterade. Joe Bastianich is deemed the “Worst Price Gouger” and Anthony Bourdain’s decision to publish Marilyn Hagerty’s reviews wins for “Most Insane Moment of the Year.”
Mariani has never been afraid to rankle those in the food community. In 2009, Grubstreet Chicago published a post called “Why Does Everyone Hate John Mariani?”, calling him out for alleged indiscretions like sending a list of demands before visiting restaurants and basing his reviews on comped meals. Two days later, Esquire editor Ryan D’Agostino wrote a defense of Mariani that addressed accusations of his dining on comped meals and clarified his role at the magazine (re: he’s not a critic).