Some thoughts about a food critic being recognized:
1. Chances are that, as rumored, Laban's pics are out there hanging on some kitchen walls. This always seems to be the case, no matter how protective the critic is of his appearance. Does that give a bad restaurant, which happens to recognize Laban because of a pic on their wall and therefore gives him much better food and service than the typical diner, an unfair advantage over a good restaurant whom has no idea that Laban is gracing their dining room. Would not a recognizable critic level the playing field?
2. In court the Inquirer argued, “Craig LaBan’s photographic or video image, as well as the methods he uses while reviewing restaurants, meet the definition of trade secrets … Keeping this information secret assists Mr. LaBan in performing his job and thus has economic value to him. His anonymity allows him to better assess what the average customer will be served because the restaurant does not know the meal is being reviewed by the Inquirer.” If a critic's anonymity is so essential, must that critic resign once people start recognizing him? Would it be unethical to continue critiquing restaurants once the critic is recognizable?
3. On the other hand, a known critic in the dining room creates added stress in both the kitchen and the dining room. Turn-out and service during a mealtime rush is already extremely high stress. A critic in the dining room could be the straw that throws a kitchen and service staff, even a very competent kitchen and service staff, into the weeds resulting in an atypically poor meal service and critic experience.
4. A review can have two purposes that could but don't necessarily merge into a single purpose. The review relates the critic's actual dining experience. The review may or may not accurately portray a restaurant's ability to consistently provide good dining experiences. A review that does the latter gives the potential diner much better information than a review that merely relates a critic's actual dining experience. My experience has been that one can gather a more realistic feel of a restaurant's capabilities and consistency by being the fly on the wall during a couple of meal services - spending most of one's time in the kitchen and some in the dining room observing. A kitchen turning out a hundred or two hundred meals a service isn't going to be able to clean up its act just because Craig Laban is standing in the corner watching.
Edited by Holly Moore, 21 June 2007 - 11:05 AM.