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Anyone heard of Mark Palmer?


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"With or without critics, people are far more educated about food than ever before. Ease of travel abroad, the supermarkets hoovering up produce from around the world and television have all played their part in this culinary revolution."

Erm, I think he may have missed something off that list...

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"If a restaurant critic isn't on the side of the paying punter, then forget it. I like to think that this job is the closest I'll get to aping Simon Callow as he sits in judgement on those wretched wannabe singers on a Saturday night."

I don't remember Simon Callow on "The X Factor" - great idea though.

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Have to say, I would only buy the telegraph on a Saturday to read Jan

Moir- haven't been to the newsagents recently and think I will wait and see before I restart the habit.

Edited by erica graham (log)

http://www.allium.uk.net

http://alliumfood.wordpress.com/ the alliumfood blog

"Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, champagne in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming - Whey hey what a ride!!!, "

Sarah Poli, Firenze, Kibworth Beauchamp

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Rather a large picture of him accompanying that article. He may book anonymously but it will be a dangerously slack maitre d' that hasn't added that portrait to his 'ones to watch out for ' wall in the kitchen.

I don't understand why restaurant critics have their pictures next to their column at all really, it doesn't make any difference to the reader's like or dislike of the writing, just blows their cover. Ahhh maybe the pictures are red herrings and are actually of someone completely different?

Oh that would be crafty. Imagine Fay Maschler all these years has really been a strapping six foot six blonde bombshell!

S

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Rather a large picture of him accompanying that article. He may book anonymously but it will be a dangerously slack maitre d' that hasn't added that portrait to his 'ones to watch out for ' wall in the kitchen.

I don't understand why restaurant critics have their pictures next to their column at all really, it doesn't make any difference to the reader's like or dislike of the writing, just blows their cover. Ahhh maybe the pictures are red herrings and are actually of someone completely different?

Oh that would be crafty. Imagine Fay Maschler all these years has really been a strapping six foot six blonde bombshell!

S

I am actually a five foot nothing brunette called Tabitha.

Jay

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I don't remember Simon Callow on "The X Factor" - great idea though.

Well, this was from someone who sets out his restaurant-reviewing credentials by saying that his specialist subject is, er, biscuits. (Although that was no more pointless than most of the other anecdotes...)

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Ho ho, but seriously why the photos? Once upon a time, and not so long ago, writers didn't have photo bylines, presumably because no one cared a jot what they looked like only how they wrote. Quite rightly too. Is it a case of one egocentric journo demanded his or her pic next to the column and suddenly every other one wanted the same? And to be frank, few of them are physically attractive. But then neither am I.

It seems odd enough for ordinary columnists but for restaurant reviewers, given the nature of the job, it seems positively counter productive.

S

For a number of years I didn't have a picture by-line for the obvious reasons of anonymity. A year ago, however, when the paper redesigned the magazine was keen for me to have one on the page like everyone else. By that point my picture had been published elsewhere so regularly, usually in the service of book publicity, that I couldn't really argue. As it happens I don't look a whole lot like the current pic.

As to your wider question - why so many picture bylines - it is down to a major shift in the way newspapers view and sell themselves. The age of the paper copy of the newspaper as provider of first-stop news has all but gone. I get the headlines of the day via electronic media now - radio in my case, followed by going online - and that is true of much of the population. The newspaper therefore has to redefine its role: not as news provider, per se, but as commentator, critic, sounding-board. These days I doubt anybody buys a newspaper because it's first with the news. They buy it because they like it's tone of voice, the way it speaks to them. The business understands this and, as part of the repositioning, has leaned ever more towards the building up of its writers as names, personalities you buy the paper for. And what better way to do that than by giving a face to the faceless? You may chunter about how silly this is, but all our research indicates this works. There are people who buy the Observer specifically to read Nigel Slater or Andrew Rawnsley, Lynn Barber or Kathryn Flett.

We are, more than anything, responding to the age of the net when established old media companies can no longer be monolithic. THis site is a perfect example of the challenge we face. I can't imagine anybody who visits this site regularly really feels they know less about restaurants or are less entitled to hold an opinion about them than me, simply because I write about them for a national newspaper. If I am read, therefore it is, I suppose because of the way I write about them, the approach I use, the expression of personality, rather than for any implied authority I might or might not have.

In short your own (probably low) opinion of national newspaper restaurant critics is exactly why they have picture bylines.

Jay

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In short your own (probably low) opinion of national newspaper restaurant critics is exactly why they have picture bylines.

How would you respond to the claim that, since anonymity and celebrity seem to be incompatible, by including photos some restaurant critics are attempting to create a more marketable identity for themselves?

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How would you respond to the claim that, since anonymity and celebrity seem to be incompatible, by including photos some restaurant critics are attempting to create a more marketable identity for themselves?

A student of logic might point out that, while celebrity and anonymity are incompatible, lack of anonymity does not make you a celebrity.

As to the question, most of us who do the job are essentially freelance. We have newspaper contracts, but we also write books and do television. In short marketing ourselves is what we do - but far more important than an inch by inch pic is the quality of the copy. If the column's crap, if nobody wants to read it or pays attention to anything we say, we won't be getting work anywhere regardless of how big and lovely a photograph of our gorgeous selves appears alongside it.

Edited by jayrayner (log)

Jay

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How would you respond to the claim that, since anonymity and celebrity seem to be incompatible, by including photos some restaurant critics are attempting to create a more marketable identity for themselves?

A student of logic might point out that, while celebrity and anonymity are incompatible, lack of anonymity does not make you a celebrity.

A student of logic would also point that although not a sufficient condition, lack of anonymity is a necessary condition for celebrity.

Anyway, I'm not having a dig. I think celebrity is the newspapers' logical answer to the user generated content available on the web. The one thing the web as yet does not do, is have Clive Owen testing toasters, or Anne Robinson talking about the contents of her fridge. As long as the newspapers can continue to do this, then they will have something that is both demonstrably in demand, and that their competitors on the web do not have. It follows from this that it is in the interests of newspapers to develop a stable of individuals who can both write, and have some kind of celebrity status.

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RESTAURANTS ON THE UP

The Quay, Ilfracombe, Devon

Arbutus, London

The Punch Bowl Inn, Crosthwaite, Cumbria

Roussillon, London

Summer Lodge, Evershot, Dorset

Scotts, London

Barrafina, London

Tom's Kitchen, London

Rococo, King's Lynn, Norfolk

CHEFS TO WATCH

- Andre Garrett, Galvin at Windows, London. Represented the UK in the 2007 Bocuse d'Or competition. Tipped to win a Michelin star next year.

- Helena Puolakka, Skylon (opening June 1), London. Previously at Aubergine and La Tante Claire and about to head Conran's new flagship restaurant.

- Theo Randall, Intercontinental, London. After 15 year at the River Cafe, he heads his own kitchen and provides some Italian sophistication.

- Daniel Clifford, Midsummer House, Cambridge. Renowned for his molecular gastronomy, he is inspired by Heston Blumenthal. Anyone who thinks that British cooking is dull should eat here.

- Ian Pengelley, Gilgamesh, London. Made a name for himself at trendy E&O in Notting Hill and is now doing the same in Camden. This Pan-Asian expert can feed more than 600 people at any one time.

Not at all impressed by this list.

I see little in here that hasn't been mentioned many times before or (in the case of Galvin, Theo Randall, Pengelley (in several incarnations), Toms Kitchen, Scotts and Arbutus) reviewed to buggery by every national critic and his dog in the last twelve months.

I look to my restaurant critics to provide genuine insight. I don't buy a newspaper just to be told what I know already - that's a guaranteed way to really f*ck off an audience because a) it wastes their money and b) it treats them like idiots.

Mark if you're reading this (and if you've even half the ego a genuine restaurant critic then you will be)... Yes I know the audience here is probably tougher than the average, but come on you can do better than that (I hope!). I mean even Michelin's managed to track down Arbutus and Midsummer House by now!

Here's some examples of food writing with some real insight to kick you off: click, click.

Best of luck

J

Edited by Jon Tseng (log)
More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!
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  • 2 weeks later...

I used to work with Mark when he was deputy news editor of The Sunday Telegraph. A nicer journalist you could not hope to meet.

At least he is kicking off telling his readers what his personal foibles are about eating out and where he is coming from.

God only knows what demented features editor forced him into an ill fitting dinner jacket for that picture. If you've got that posted on your front podium, I doubt you will recognise him (but if you do want to try and spot him, a good clue is that he looks a tiny bit like that picture and he's not very tall).

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Sorry, I don’t get Mark Palmer… and does anyone know where Jan Moir has gone or why she left the Telegraph? Palmer barely talked about the food he had in today’s review… OK, he said what he had with a tiny bit of detail. And not even one decent bit of prose to make up for the lack of substance.

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  • 1 year later...

as with all of these things it's about finding someone whose viewpoint chimes with your own, i never got the impression palmer was much of a foodie and the places he chose rarely seemed to have any culinary merit.

Gerrard appears to see the value in a long leisurely lunch and is writing about more interesting places.

Edited by Gary Marshall (log)

you don't win friends with salad

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I thought his review on plane food was plane awful - lots of tired puns and little to no information on what he actually ate. Also - is it seriously true that he was told to get to the airport at 2pm for a 7pm reservation? Sounds astonishing even when you take the general T5 balls up into consideration...

"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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