Tom Colicchio's newest restaurant in New York City, Fowler & Wells, received two stars from New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells back in January. The review highlighted the "spotlessly correct" cooking, ingredients that "shimmer on the plate," and "fast and attentive" service. It also, however, pointed out something that made the Top Chef judge change the name of his restaurant.
Fowler & Wells was named after a pseudoscientific institute and publishing company that used to occupy the same spot. The institute's founders, Edward Fowler and Samuel Wells, were proponents of phrenology—the 19th-century belief that the shape of a person's skull was linked to their intelligence and character. "But in its day, phrenology wrapped a gauzy cloak of fake science around the ugly armor of racism," Wells stated in the January review.
"The practice was frequently used to justify slavery and to advance a belief in African-American inferiority," according to a recent New York Times article that first reported Colicchio's decision.
After reading the review and learning of the "eye-opening" racist implications, the celeb chef "immediately knew the name could not stand," the article said. It took months to get approval for the new name and create a new logo, signage, and printed materials, which cost $50,000 to $100,000.
The restaurant is now called Temple Court, which was the name of the building after the institute was demolished. The Beekman Hotel now occupies that space.
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