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Dear Boston: Actually, it is you.

Posted by Devra First  April 28, 2011 09:30 AM

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Globe Staff File Photo/John Tlumacki

Come to Papa. Todd English circa 1999, before the opening of Kingfish Hall in Faneuil Hall.

Editor's note: In its May issue, Boston magazine runs a letter from the city, breaking up with a certain celebrity chef. Globe editors have managed to get their hands on the other half of the correspondence. Here it is, an exclusive -- the reply letter from "Todd English," mysteriously delivered to us late at night in a pizza box from Figs.

Dear Boston:

You're breaking up with me? Ha. Ha ha ha ha. Ha ha ha ha! Sorry, OK, I'm back.

Honey, look. We had a misunderstanding. Happens all the time. You thought it was just you and me, together forever. That nothing would ever change. And that is so, so sweet, it really is. I've always admired your loyalty, Boston. Only you would wait 86 years for a championship baseball team.

But that's also why you and I don't always mesh. It's the insecurity. I just kind of can't take it sometimes, no offense. It can be, like, really off-putting. No offense! You're great! You deserve the best. But you settle. Eighty-six years! Is it any wonder New York captured my heart?

And it's not enough for you to be good. You have an inferiority complex. You have to demean the other guy, measure yourself against him. Yankees suck? No they don't. You should be happy about all that you've got. Instead, you feel threatened.

You are right. I'm not the chef you fell in love with back in 1984. Should I be? I loved "Ghostbusters" and "The Karate Kid," too. But I think we've all evolved since then. I mean, who smokes crack anymore?

What I'm saying is, you've changed, too. We're supposed to change. That's life. When I look at you, I get a little teary. You've come a long way. There just weren't a whole lot of options for you back when I opened Olives. Of course you were smitten. Who could withstand the charms of this dark-haired Casanova, if I do say so myself, turning out brilliant, big-flavored food in Charlestown? Nowadays, you're wooed on every corner by house-made charcuterie, painstakingly sourced local meat and fish, the pick of the markets that morning, creativity executed with classic French technique, craft cocktails, yada yada. (Desserts in this town still kind of suck, however. Rome wasn't built in a day.) You've got a plethora of well-known chefs almost as pretty as yours truly turning it out at an incredibly high level each and every day, courting your business on Facebook, chatting you up on Twitter, putting it all out on the line for you. What are they, chopped liver?

What's not so cute about you is that your loyalty has restrictions. If I don't do things your way, you get vindictive. You want me to be successful, but on your terms and by your side. You don't own me. I can't be contained! I am a force! Do you think pro athletes are faithful to their wives on the road? I thought we had an understanding. When I'm with you, I'm with you. "If you love something, set it free" and all that.

God, you're so clingy. No wonder celebrity chefs don't stay in small cities. When I became a celebrity myself, I could have simply left you. But I didn't. It wasn't out of obligation, or for appearances. I have real feelings for you. I continue to support you, in multiple locations. No, not as many as in the glory days, but I am still here. But your judgment, your cackling gloating when I hit difficulties, all that makes it hard to even want to be friends. Right now, Boston, I just kind of hate you.

I'm such an easy target for your schadenfreude, even I'm getting bored of the media takedowns. Well, pile on. I can take it. Yes, I sometimes make bad decisions. I don't always choose the best people to manage my business while I go about the business of being me. I can be flaky. I'm not always financially responsible. I regret that. I feel bad if anyone has been left holding the bag. Whoa, you should taste the new cupcake flavor my team just came up with! Someone just handed me one. Sorry, what were we talking about?

So anyway. Olives. Yes, it's been on hiatus for a long time. I may or may not have hit some wee financial snags. Do you have any idea of the pressure? You think of these restaurants as our children. Well, I've got baby mamas all over the country. I try to keep everyone clothed and fed. I'm doing my best. I'm even taking on extra work. GreenPans? Let's just say they're not only named for their environmental benefits. But when Olives was open, all you did was piss and moan about how it wasn't what it used to be. And I agree. That's why I closed it! Temporarily! I'm updating the space and the concept, which takes money and time. In my mind, it will reopen as the kind of affordable neighborhood restaurant people want today. And yes, I know my mind isn't the same as the real world. It's better.

Look, you simply want me to be something I'm not. You want to keep me in the kitchen, tied to a stove, barefoot and in chef's whites, searing and stirring and doing what I probably do best, in all honesty. It's just not where I'm at right now. Maybe I'll get back to it one day. But I'm restless. I have tiger blood, you know? I'm a culinary Sheen. You want me to be "seemly," your kind of proper. Whatever, 'Enry 'Iggins. You have got the wrong guy.

Here's what I don't understand. You're all: "We hate Kingfish Hall! Rustic Kitchen and Bonfire were lame! But we're pissed that they're gone! We want more from you! Why are you opening new places in New York and Vegas?" Make up your mind. Not everything I do is a success, but I keep trying out new ideas. I know you like people to find their thing and do it well forever, with only minor deviations. That's just not me.

That's why I turned elsewhere. And that's why you can't really break up with me. Emotionally, I moved on long ago. You are right: It really is time you did so, too.

But maybe we can still hook up sometimes?

About Dishing

What's cooking in the world of food.


Sheryl Julian, the Globe's Food Editor, writes regularly for the Food section.

Devra First is the Globe's food reporter and restaurant critic. Her reviews appear weekly in the Food section.

Ellen Bhang reviews Cheap Eats restaurants for the Globe and writes about wine.

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