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Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Re: One Pot in the New York Times

posted by on November 7 at 11:43 AM

In a piece about One Pot that appeared in the Stranger back in May, Charles wrote

In March 2006, Michael’s empire vanished, and is now nothing more than a very bright memory. His marriage also went under. (Clarklewis, however, is still operated by Naomi.) The city of Portland has been on fire with gossip and rumors: How could this happen? Who was responsible? Some point at Michael, others at Naomi. But all of that is not important. Things come and go; nothing in the world is stable. Whatever the case, Michael Hebberoy—an indefatigable spirit, a dreamer, an idealist, a Platonist who wants to revolutionize public and private dining—has found the way out of Portland and made Seattle the point from which he will launch future projects.

The Michael Hebberoy portrayed in the New York Times sounds less like a dreamer and an idealist and more like an asshole and a fraud, and places the collapse of his PDX restaurant empire squarely on his shoulders.

Then one April day last year, he disappeared, leaving behind a wife, a ruined restaurant empire, a welter of debt and an angry herd of creditors and business partners.

“What’s most despicable is that Michael just left,” said Tommy Habetz, the chef and a partner at Mr. Hebberoy’s Gotham Building Tavern in Portland, which closed after the crackup. “It was so immature. I had put my heart and soul into the restaurant, and to have my partner leave without a warning or a conversation about how we could fix things — it was pretty heartbreaking.”

The end came on April 27, 2006. Mr. Hebberoy, who three months earlier had been the subject of an eight-page article in Food & Wine magazine that called him a “food provocateur,” told equity investors he could no longer make payroll for a company that had grown to 95 employees. Ripe had been hemorrhaging money, something he hadn’t told the staff, financiers and suppliers.

The New York Times reports that Hebberoy, to his credit, sold property he owned and paid off most of his creditors. Still, dreamer or no dreamer, however brilliant One Pot is or is not, questions about how Hebberoy’s Portland restaurant empire “happened” to fall apart and who exactly was to blame are legit and we should’ve asked them.

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Then you should have assigned someone other than Charles to write about it.

Posted by The Universe is Unstable | November 7, 2007 12:00 PM

I blame Charles.

And you.

Posted by Mr. Poe | November 7, 2007 12:01 PM

Will the Stranger de-suggest reading Dining In/Out?

Posted by DeSuggester | November 7, 2007 12:15 PM

He'a schmuck.

His enterprise is fundamentally flawed. He's trying to apply a "visionary" model based on familial relations to a commercial enterprise. He can't face up to the fact that it IS in fact a commercial enterprise, and that disconnect, combined with his hippy-dippy world-view (they sing John Denver songs after dinner?) means that he'll never be even as authentic a "third place" as Third Place Books, or Starbucks.

It's great to be passionate about good food. It's not great to be a douchebag about it. Get a real job like everyone else, and cook for your friends and family, like everyone else does. If you want to work in a restaurant, work in a restaurant.

But shove your manifesto up your ass. Wash your hands afterwards, of course.

Posted by Fnarf | November 7, 2007 12:17 PM


We remove comments that are off topic, threatening, or commercial in nature, and we do not allow sock-puppetry (impersonating someone else)—or any kind of puppetry, for that matter. We never censor comments based on ideology.

Posted by I like to make shit up. | November 7, 2007 1:13 PM

Fnarf, you don't sound as if you're familiar with the projects Hebberoy is involved in beyond reading about him. I don't think he's unaware that he's involved in commercial enterprises.

The Times article, you should note, speaks to no one involved with Hebberoy's work in Seattle (and there's quite a list of interesting persons the writer could have spoken with). As is, it reads like a hit piece on someone who the article's readership had yet to hear of. Which is a little weird.

Posted by Eric F | November 7, 2007 2:09 PM

Maybe you're right, Eric, but when I read in his own words "Kill the Restaurant", and the bare fact that he even HAS a "manifesto", and all the other hokey details of his operation, he sounds like a self-absorbed hippie twat. And running away from your wife and kids without a word is just plain shitty, whatever the business details are.

Posted by Fnarf | November 7, 2007 2:43 PM

Did he ditch his wife, but keep her half in his name? WTF?

Posted by Dougsf | November 7, 2007 2:44 PM

Go easy on Charles, Dan.

I suspect a lot of people didn't ask the hard questions because Michael "Hebberoy" was a hot, young, blond white guy. I suspect Charles Mudede, being Charles Mudede, found the idea of a supposed "manifesto" to be far more seductive. And isn't it the writer's choice to write the story he wants to write?

If there was a question that should have been asked at the time, wouldn't it have been the editor's job to point it out?

Posted by Boomer in NYC | November 7, 2007 3:10 PM

Fnarf, you've substituted "wife and kid" for "restaurants." I'm not expert in either history, but I'm pretty sure they are distinct.

Posted by Eric F | November 7, 2007 3:33 PM

He ran away from both.

Posted by Fnarf | November 7, 2007 4:01 PM

I'm quibbling with "without a word," which seems to be your invention.

Posted by Eric F | November 7, 2007 4:09 PM

I regret that we spend so much time discussing Michael's personal life. Fnarf - what exactly about the "manifesto" bothers you, aside from its existence? Has anyone here been to a one pot dinner? As someone who has worked with Michael and knows him personally, I have my own opinions of him - which I will not share here. Of his work, however, I will say much: he is a man of ideas, some of which get executed, others not. It is unfortunate that his existential life crisis happened so publicly, and on such a grand scale, as the fall of ripe in Portland. I am grateful my 30 year old self's mistakes weren't/aren't incessantly harped about on

It all makes me think that without substantive complaint, critics are merely playing into the mythology of this villain. You've been to a one pot? You've had disappointing interactions with Michael professionally? You've read the kill the restaurant website and you have something to say about it? Let's talk. Until then, this is all pure gossip, and outdated gossip too - Portland's been bitching about Hebberoy since 2006.

Posted by anonymous | November 7, 2007 6:17 PM

I had a front row seat on the early days of One Pot and (without having personally performed a toxicology panel) it seemed like it should have been called "lots of pot, a fifth and two tabs of Percodan." At one of the early dinners he was almost too dosed to stand at dinner when the time came to describe the dinner to guests and needless to say the kitchen staff wouldn't let him hear the knives or the stove. After a couple of repeat performances, the responsible parties (my friends) realized that whatever hype value he added wasn't worth the hassle, and the concept morphed into something with more crockery and less shit.

There's a ton of work involved in the restaurant trade (underground or not) and no matter how much of a "dreamer" or "idealist" you are, being a falling-down addict just isn't compatible with success. While it might not be polite to discuss his "personal life," living up to hype like Hebberoy's requires serious commitment and at least a semblance of balance. From where I sat, he didn't really seem to have either.

Posted by nonfamous | November 7, 2007 8:41 PM

I think all of you need to get a life and get off this man! Jesus, we all have pasts and triumphs and failures- usually less public-he is a dreamer, he is incredible, he is talented, he does have a vision- of which you cannot understand...haute cuisine is over and Micheals vision
is supported by many restauranteurs and will progress. Your comments are supported by gossip and anxious press. And how can you judge his "balance"... what do know of him- nothing! Are not individuals enabled to celebrate and let loose without judgment- did he hust anybody or endager his guests- I dont think so. Those that live our lives to the fullist embrase and enjoy every moment- without suspect critisism.

Posted by eat-inc | November 7, 2007 11:15 PM

Tommy [Habetz] was co-owner of the business whose financial dealings he knew so little about. So was Naomi. According to the NYT article (buried 3/4 of the way in) it was Michael Hebb who paid off most of the debts out of his own pocket. Tommy is now getting to cook and an excellent restaurant in Portland; Naomi is starting her own restuarant with the help of her new boyfriend. Jason Barikowski and Gabriel Rucker — among many others — have found amazing opportunities to cook that did not exist in Portland before ripe.

I know this history first hand. I'm really astonished at the "good guy v. bad guy" simplifications of the Times writer and at Dan's indignation that such an "asshole and a fraud" as Michael could be allowed to promote dining events in Seattle.

As Dan, and everyone at The Stranger should know, the succesfful businessman does just one thing that Michael Hebb could not do, and that is to keep extending debt on and on. The ripe business collapsed when Michael ran out of energy and will to keep floating this dream single-handed, with co-owners who apparently cared little enough about the details to have been shocked to find their business was running big debts.

Businessmen, women? Tim? Dan? Tell me, what successful business has never run that kind of debt?

In any cae, Michael might be a lousy businessman, but I for one envy Seattle's good fortune at having someone in town willing to take risks on untried ideas, and even get drunk and stoned while he does it. That way lies the future. (For some of you, the recent past.)

For a more accurate and informed account of the ripe collapse and its residue read my intro to the Back Room anthology. It's not the last word, but it tells a far better story than the NYT piece.

Posted by Matthew Stadler | November 8, 2007 8:15 AM

passionate person has a dream. passionate person acts on dream collaborating to create a mini-empire. dream seems to be built on shifting sands. things explode and everyone walks away hurt. time goes on, people try to make good and heal.

passionate person opts to make a fresh start. moves to seattle. person refocuses his passion, creating a new vision. new vision takes hold and michael connects with local passionate people. article comes out telling everyone what a shitty thing he did. people distance themself and make angry sentences.

he came here for a fresh start. his past has never been hidden -- in fact, it was covered pretty extensively in the Portland Mercury.

i know this can be written a hundred different way -- eogmaniac deserts wife/business, etc. but people. like said above, i'm just glad not all my f'ups ended up in the newspapers and or blogs.

Posted by Joey Veltkamp | November 8, 2007 9:40 AM

i am not sure why everyone is so passionate about this. if you are uninterested in my events: simply don't come. the nytimes piece says many things - good, bad, untrue, and spot on. i have made many big mistakes - i have never hidden that - but my private life is between me and my friends and my family - if i took the time to clarify the details you would have a much different picture - but the times chose to tell a sensational story - c'est la vie.

at the end of the day i am not plotting anything sinister - i am passionate about food, and the table, and what happens when you use then in imaginative ways - and really that is about it.

i doubt i will be getting back to this slog. but dan i would love to finally meet and discuss frauds and assholes - sounds like a good drinking conversation.

Posted by hebberoy | November 8, 2007 10:06 AM

If Michael wanted to hide his history he would have moved across the country and not 174 miles north. He knew he was talking to the NYT press, and that the press will do it's due-diligence and make an informed decision to include facts and gossip in a news story.
We all have 1st, 2nd and even 3rd acts in our lives, and many people start over after catastrophe, for better or for worse. If you look around at some of the new things popping up in Seattle, you might find a carpetbagger, or two, but you might also learn something from them.

Michael has helped bring a new vision and lively conversation to some tired restaurant concepts in Seattle. Good for him. Good for us.

Posted by TK | November 9, 2007 4:14 PM

I don't know that "fresh start" would be an accurate description for Hebberoy's move to Seattle. Michael's MO has always been rooted in courting the press, and One Pot is no exception. If in the process he chooses to reference his past successes or failures, then either of those can and should be held up to scrutiny by the press. From my perspective, the press and the blogs are basically working in reverse mode now; deconstructing the hype. This ritual of building up and tearing down has become the standard for the press vs. celebrity playbook, and we all seem to embrace it.

Posted by AG | November 10, 2007 9:07 AM

Everyone can believe what they want to believe when it comes to Mr. Hebberoy, including Mr. Hebberoy himself. The only truth is that ego and self-awareness do not go hand in hand.

Regardless of his "passion" or his "willing[ness] to take risks" he is nothing more than the man he has made himself to be, an excellent salesman. He may be able to pull off whatever he is doing in Seattle, for a while, but in the end his "vision" will fail because he is a horrible businessman. His inability to crunch numbers and stay out of debt was his demise in Portland and of the Ripe "empire".
Only time will tell what we are truly to make of him.

Mr. Stadler please do not discredit Portland and the chefs themselves by saying that Mr. Rucker and Mr. Barikowski would not have the opportunities they have without Mr. Hebberoy. Le Pigeon formed out of a fledgling bistro with a then unknown Mr. Rucker pushing the envelope on cooking to make it what it is today. And while Mr. Barikowski may have an enviable location in a chic new hotel he is no clone. He is making it his own, and in my opinion one of the top three places in town to eat. And by the way, I think Greg Higgins, Cory Schreiber, and Vitaly Paley might have a bit more to say in opening the doors for the Portland restaurant scene.

By the way, for those of you in Seattle that have yet to drink the grape Kool-aid, I hear he can get you a great deal on musical instruments and band uniforms.

Posted by frank | November 11, 2007 1:47 AM

I think those of you venting your anger at Mike Hebb should be redirecting your beef at The New York Times. Obviously many, many writers and editors find the Hebberoy projects and personality fascinating and think their readers will agree. Getting a color photo and as much NY Times print space as Hebberoy did means that the nation's newspaper of record thinks his story and what he has to say are, hell, National News.

A valid question to ask would be: why is it National News when a restaurant owner's business fails, he gets a divorce, he moves and then starts another, less financially successful food services business the next town over? How many permutations of that story happen every single month? I mean, Mike's just doing what he's doing. He's got a schtick like a million other people. It's other people that decide it's interesting.

Those of you who call him a schmuck and so on are just ensuring that we'll hear a lot more about Hebberoy. But if you stop paying attention, he'll go away.

Posted by Kyle | November 13, 2007 1:16 PM

I have no problem with his past business details...and I would like to be part of anything he does in the future...interesting creative meals, hosting, sponsoring, eating, etc. How do I contact Michael directly or find out where he is and what he is doing?
Tassierosa from Seattle

Posted by Tassierosa | November 16, 2007 10:42 AM

michael never made good food- but naomi and the rest did, he did make great waves- and some of them were great to ride on and some were great to stand under as the crashed down. the worst thing about the nyt article and the subsequent posts is that michael comes off as some kind of hero for selling property and paying some of his debtors off- this was not some altruistic gesture. he did not offer to do so he was FORCED to do so. And he still owes a crapload of people. He submitted. This is also not about all of the good things good people went on to do- it is about one die hard / blow hard- skipping out on the community he so ferociously inspired, took advantage of and touted. What amazes me about people like michael and sometimes his supporters is that they act like their work springs from divine inspiration as does their success- when many many many people chose to help, promote, and pay for their "vision".

Posted by forwhatitisworth | November 19, 2007 4:21 PM

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