"Gourmet" NYC restaurant critic stint
Posted 05 July 2003 - 02:56 PM
Posted 09 July 2003 - 07:36 PM
Reviewing restaurants regularly is an amazing job.....but a hard one. Frankly, I hadn't anticipated how hard it would be! But I made it really hard on myself.....because I refused to review a restaurant unless I had tasted almost everything on the menu--which often meant at least 5-6 visits! I set the record with my review of Le Cirque--11 visits! (Which yielded, I think, the most accurate restaurant review I've ever written.) To keep up, I had to dine out literally every night--because in addition to reviewing three restaurants a month (that's about 18 visits), I would drop in on at least a dozen restaurants a month that I ultimately decided not to review.
I loved the cracking-the-nut part of the job. My purpose, as restaurant viewer, was always to let the reader know why THIS restaurant is different, idiosyncratic, unique. Sometimes I wouldn't know until my fifth visit. But I loved working towards the epiphany--and finally having it! And expressing it!
The "recognition" problem was a little tricky.....but I had my ways. I loved sending friends to keep my reservation at 8PM, then showing up myself at 9PM. I got to hear from these trusted advisers a whole hour's worth of stories about how unrecognized people get treated!
After reviewing for four years or so.....I was burnt out! But I didn't want to let down Gail Zweigenthal, who had hired me. When Gail got pushed out, and Ruth came in.....it was the perfect moment to resign. But.....I didn't want to sever my connection with GOURMET. Now, I suspected that Ruth had her own agenda--she was bringing Jonathan Gold's wife in from California, and I figured she'd probably want to hire Jonathan (who's a damned fine food writer!) So I invited Ruth (whom I hardly knew) to breakfast, and I told her that I was going to make things very easy for her! In exchange, I asked only to be on the masthead as contributing editor, and to contribute once or twice a year. She happily accepted, we shook hands, and finished our bagels.
I opened GOURMET two or three months later, and saw that my name had been dropped from the masthead. Ruth and I hadn't talked between breakfast and that moment.....or since.