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Jonathan Day

Does a food writer need to know how to cook?

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Tom, many thanks for participating in this Q&A.

The bio posted here suggests that you are a capable cook and that you have spent at least some time working the line in serious restaurants.

Could you do as good a job as a critic and food writer if you weren't able to cook? What difference does knowing how to cook make in the way you review a restaurant? A music critic need not be a musician, after all, nor an art critic a painter or sculptor. Could a food critic learn her or his trade simply by dining and reading?


Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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I do think it is important for a critic to know about ingredients and how things go together. That kind of knowledge simply makes for a more informed review.

Does said critic have to be a GREAT cook? No. Perfect knife skills, for instance, don’t necessarily translate into entertaining writing.

Allow me to clarify something: I have never worked “the line” in a restaurant kitchen; my experience on The Other Side of the Business was

strictly “the front of the house.” Any culinary talent I have is the result of years of recipe testing, first for the Food section of the Post, and later, as the food editor of the Milwaukee Journal.

I do very little cooking these days, due to my dining schedule of twelve or so

meals out every week. And frankly, I miss spending time in the kitchen.

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