In New York City, chef Daisuke Nakazawa is known for his pricey omakase menu at Sushi Nakazawa in the West Village. Among sushi fans (like Martha Stewart) Nakazawa has a cult following and he’s attracted rave reviews from critics — including a rare four star rating from the New York Time’s famously anti-fine-dining critic Peter Wells. But his recent decision to take over the dining at the grand Old Post Office building, aka, Trump’s new D.C. hotel, has foodies up in arms.
“I will never eat in his restaurant,” Anthony Bourdain told Eater late last year. “I have utter contempt for him, utter and complete contempt.”
You may think that rather ambiguous “him” is referring to to President Donald Trump — and true Bourdain is definitely not in camp Trump — but in fact, Bourdain is talking about Alessandro Borgognone, Nakazawa’s business partner.
“I’m not asking you to start putting up barricades now,” Bourdain added, “but when they come and ask you, ‘Are you with us?’ You do have an option. You can say ‘No thanks, guys. I don’t look good in a brown shirt. Makes me look a little, I don’t know, not great. It’s not slimming.’
Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, a former LLNYC cover star, was originally slated to take over the hotel’s dining space, but he pulled out after Trump called Mexicans “rapists.”
“I’m going to D.C. to look at two spaces, because my buddy Donald, he fucked up,” Zakarian, a noted libertarian, told the Village Voice. “He opened his fucking mouth.”
“You can’t fault a businessperson,” Borgognone told Esquire. “Our decision was based on that. If people don’t walk in and we’re dead, then it was a bad business decision. I’m man enough to live with that. We didn’t have a political agenda. We didn’t want to kiss Trump’s ass. We fell in love with the building.”
Borgognone also fire back at Bourdain, calling him a “glorified line cook on CNN,” and claimed that revenue at Sushi Nakazawa hasn’t slipped.
Borgognone also described himself as a registered Democrat who’s “socially liberal, fiscally conservative.” He added that he does have respect for Trump, who isn’t “as stupid as everybody says.”
And just in case you aren’t convinced that he puts business before politics, Borgognone tells Esquire that Sushi Nakazawa once snubbed then-presidential-candidate Ted Cruz because there wasn’t space in the restaurant.
In New York, Borgognone and Nakazawa have faced smaller criticisms, e.g. for frosting their restaurant’s windows. Sushi Nakazawa was recently stripped of its Michelin star — to the outcry of fans. And their new restaurant in the historic Chumley’s bar space at 86 Bedford Street came at the end of a contentious lawsuit with neighbors — who for the record were somewhat relieved a respectably chef like Nakazawa was moving in instead of a “bridge and tunnel” bar.
But their new Faustian deal with our nation’s most controversial leader (in recent history at least) will surely test the strength of their growing restaurant empire. In a moment of all out political war, arguing that “it’s just good business” to throw in with Trump, sounds like a Vichy-esque acquiescence to many. Perhaps it’s time to put down your chopsticks.