If given the choice, Boston foodies would rather see more of Todd English in reality than on reality television.
The square-jowled chef has gradually become less and less of a presence in his Boston-area restaurants as his status as a national food celebrity has grown. Some attention paid to his once-loyal patrons would go along way to smoothing over some hard feelings between English and his earliest supporters.
That might be a wise move, but it's probably not going to happen any time soon, especially if the news reports this week are true. An item in the New York Post Sunday claimed that the “wild world of Todd English” is about to hit the small screen as “the playboy chef is filming a reality show with E! about managing his empire of restaurants along with his interesting and varied personal life.” The Herald followed up with an item this week, noting that the show might not actually be just about English; instead, it might just feature him in a larger docu-series about restauranteurs in New York.
Either way, reaction here has been lukewarm. Eyes rolled at Boston magazine, which declared itself “pretty much over it” before the show has even aired. The Herald was left wondering if “Hot Toddy”’s ex-fiancee Erica Wang -- who was allegedly caught shoplifting not once, but twice, this summer -- would be featured alongside him.
I get that reaction. But I also think it might actually do Boston diners some good to see what English has actually been up to. If anything, the chef has been an enigma around these parts for the past few years, and there's nothing like reality TV to put it all out there. Wouldn't it have been nice if we could have actually seen what was happening behind the scenes during the year-long will-he-or-won't-he-reopen-Olives debacle? Maybe then we would have better understood why it was taking so long to refurbish the restaurant in the first place.
Despite all the editing and scripting, reality TV sometimes shows people for who they really are, and what they are really up to. With English, we may not like what we discover. He's just not that into us, most likely. But, more than anything else, what Boston diners really want from English is a dose of reality.