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bloviatrix

Food Critics

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Being made is a really sinister thing, I think.

Now images of 'Goodfellas' are flashing through my mind.

What a terribly exciting life you food reviewers lead....with all the pitfalls of expensive pens that might leak onto the pure creamy sauces as you surreptitiously scribble notes...wigs that might catch fire over the flickering candlelight as you lean close to take a better look at the lobster's prickly visage...chef's knives flashing in the background of the kitchen vying for your attentions and lying in wait to pounce if threatened....and now...being 'made'. Sinister. ('Yeah, he's a 'made' guy...watch out....).

Who needs to watch the Sopranos. We will watch the Critics. :cool::raz:

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Over the course of a day's prep and turnout, when the kitchen is under fire, the real nature of the restaurant is going to come out, both good and bad.

As a writer, Holly, would you really be likely to note the bad after spending all day with someone? If you saw sloppy work in the kitchen or bad sanitary practices, would you feel free to include that in your piece, or would you feel restricted by the time and access that the subject gave you?

my job was to find good restaurants for my readers and not to warn them away from bad restaurants - that there were enough good and great restaurants in Philadelphia to cover that I didn't want to squander my column inches on the poor ones.

But that's precisely what a reviewer must do. Consumer advocate is the most relevant part of a reviewer's job. Restaurant meals are expensive. Before I blow $100, you bet I'm going to look at the reviews. Several, if possible, so I get more than one point of view.

And if I'm in Philadelphia and I look to see if you've written about the place, how would I know if you skipped it because it was bad, or skipped it because you haven't gotten to it yet?

(Sorry, don't mean to pick on you, Holly. I'm just curious about the points you raise.)


Kathleen Purvis, food editor, The Charlotte (NC) Observer

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After reading Kessler's comments I couldn't help but think that a Blackberry could be a useful tool.  Of course, some at other tables would construe it as being rude to his guests.  But his dining companions would understand that he's just doing his job.

When I wanted to do a write-up of Michel Richard's Citronelle for eG, I blackberried myself notes all night. Much easier to read than handwriting, even with the typos, after many glasses of wine.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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I'd like to return to a tack Steven suggested when he wrote,
And what is the restaurant going to do once the food is on the table and you're taking notes? Grab it away from you and cook it again? With different ingredients from the secret refrigerator where they keep all the stuff they only give to critics?

My brief time working in restaurants would suggest that no one would care too much: if they're doing good work, they'll keep doing it, and if they're slinging hash, it's still gonna come out hash. When I think of these photos hanging on kitchen walls, I have this image of chefs recognizing, say, Ruth Reichl, and suddenly dropping syringes, pushing away the alley cats with their fifth of Jack Daniels, flicking ash off their Lucky Strike, and firing up the stove.

Surely that's a Bourdain-inspired exaggeration, so can someone who has run or worked in a restaurant tell me exactly what happens differently if Famous Critic shows up? I'm really curious about specifics.

When I was a waiter at a posh DC restaurant, a well-known critic for a local glossy used to come in and it was clear both from his demeanor and the owner's that we were meant to kiss his butt up and down for the duration of his visit. He was a pompous ass and the fear was always that failure to genuflect would draw his ire somewhere down the line.


I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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So let's see the evidence demonstrating that anonymous reviewers write better, more reliable reviews than non-anonymous ones. In my opinion some of the best, most reliable, most accurate, most "getting it" restaurant reviews in recent years were those written by David Rosengarten in Gourmet. He was always recognized. Tom Matthews in Wine Spectator has done terrific reviews. Always recognized. Michael Bauer -- how often is he anonymous? For that matter, how often are the New York Times and other major market reviewers anonymous? They like to write and talk about all the times they're anonymous, but they conveniently ignore that most of the time they are recognized and they write good reviews anyway.

It is a fantasy for restaurant reviewers to believe that they take a reliable statistical sampling of a restaurant's output. The whole paradigm of "consistency" as the gold standard is totally messed up. No reviewer can judge consistency. All the reviewer can do is pull the lever and take what comes up on the big slot machine. All restaurants are inconsistent, even the best ones in the world, so you are always going to be sending at least some customers into a situation where they're going to be wasting their money. You don't all of a sudden become a good consumer advocate by pretending to be a consumer. You become a good consumer advocate by teaching consumers.

Most restaurateurs I know are good people. They're not trying to defraud consumers. They do the best they can. Yet the restaurant reviewing media has defined the entire industry as a gang of frauds. That's a harmful and unsustainable dynamic. Media can operate synergistically with an industry yet maintain their independence. It happens all the time. Sure, it takes some courage. Yes, you actually need to -- horror of horrors -- spend a day with someone and then write bad things about that person. Guess what? That's journalism.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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As a writer, Holly, would you really be likely to note the bad after spending all day with someone? If you saw sloppy work in the kitchen or bad sanitary practices, would you feel free to include that in your piece, or would you feel restricted by the time and access that the subject gave you?

It depends on the degree. I have spent time in a kitchen and ended up not doing a column. And I have told, as part of a write-up, of mishaps that occured during the turnout. I have never encountered a sanitation issue to the point of it being dangerous to the public, so I am not sure how I would have handled that.

But that's precisely what a reviewer must do. Consumer advocate is the most relevant part of a reviewer's job. Restaurant meals are expensive. Before I blow $100, you bet I'm going to look at the reviews. Several, if possible, so I get more than one point of view.

And if I'm in Philadelphia and I look to see if you've written about the place, how would I know if you skipped it because it was bad, or skipped it because you haven't gotten to it yet?

It is perfectly valid to see consumer advocate as the prime duty of a critic. But I maintain it is just as valid to define that primary role as finding the good places to dine. If you're coming to Philadelphia, and please do - I'll make sure your $100 is well spent - and if any of my reviews you might happen upon were not five to twenty years dated :smile:, - I would want you to use my reviews to find those good places. And I will have enough fine choices where you need not worry about blowing you $100.

Beyond that, logic could reassure you that if a place had been open long enough to have probably been reviewed by the major reviewers in that city, and I hadn't written about it, there is likely a reason. I wrote for the Philadelphia City Paper for fifteen years and had the sense that my readers came to understand that over time.

Getting back to your $100. Restaurant reviews only increase or decrease the odds of you not blowing it. Restaurants are so dynamic that you could have a totally different experience than the one lauded in the review that drew you to the place. I agree the higher the average check the less the margin for error, but here in Philadelphia I have had a disappointing meal in restaurants I know are usually capable of far better. The converse too.

Fortunately no reviewers were in my restaurant the day the kitchen roof caved in. Or the day the chef walked out on a Saturday night taking her right hand man with her. (Yeah the floor staff was gleefully humming "ding dong the witch is dead... but that's another story.) Or the occasional days when the planets were simply out of kilter and the kitchen or the floor staff didn't have it together. There were days that, had a reviewer been present, instead of the consistently great reviews that we did receive, we would have been panned - torn apart. That is probably the case in any restaurant.

That's the difference between a restaurant and a movie or a book. No two experiences at a restaurant are the same and even in the course of a dinner service some diners can have great experiences and others bad ones. That is another reason I never wrote bad reviews. This could have come from me walking those miles in a restaurateur owner's shoes. I probably had more empathy than the average reviewer who came up through newspaper ranks.

I believed then and now, similar to my feelings about the death penalty, that there is too big a risk for indavertant error for a reviewer to pan a restaurant on the basis of the usual one or two review meals. A bad review in a city wide publication could unfairly harm a restaurant and, depending on the power of the reviewer, that harm may be irrepairable, even fatal.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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I don't think the restaurant reviewing media defines the industry as a gang of frauds. But I am very, very nervous when anyone suggests the media can and should operate "synergistically" with an industry, be it restaurants, movie companies, Wall Street or the Republicans. Not that it can't be done or hasn't been done correctly before, but should it?

A lot of people care an awful lot about what the media does or doesn't do - even the Catholic catechism pays attention to how the media should behave - yet I keep wondering deep down why there's so much interest? Could it be that synergy between two "powerful institutions" can lead to submission of one to the other?

I don't mean to get all heavy and dramatic on you all, but every time this restaurant critic thread arises there seems to be so much outrage and frustration and if-you-can-do-it-why-can't-I batted about. It seems to be rooted in so much more than anonymity.


Bill Daley

Chicago Tribune

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Fortunately no reviewers were in my restaurant the day the kitchen roof caved in.  Or the day the chef walked out on a Saturday night taking her right hand man with her.  (Yeah the floor staff was gleefully humming "ding dong the witch is dead... but that's another story.)  Or the occasional days when the planets were simply out of kilter and the kitchen or the floor staff didn't have it together.  There were days that, had a reviewer been present, instead of the consistently great reviews that we did receive, we would have been panned - torn apart.  That is probably the case in any restaurant.

Nicely said!

If you'd been in our tasting room on the day I had a fever, the wine attendant called in sick, we were slammed to the walls with people, and my new puppy (left) jumped up on a woman's black jeans and got mud on her after my signicanto promised to keep her in the house (dog, not woman)--you would never return. I had to clamp my jaws together to keep them from chattering, hold myself up at the bar, and my usual softly spoken "what would you like to try next?" came out as, "Next!" "You!" "Well?"

:shock:

I expect restaurant reviewers to give me a "sense" of the place--not an over-adjectival review of a single dinner.


_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

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and my usual softly spoken "what would you like to try next?" came out as, "Next!"  "You!"  "Well?"

:shock: 

:laugh: that is the funniest thing ever....I can see it now.... :laugh::laugh:

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I think most critics take act-of-God things like collapsing roofs into account, like most customers.

The best policy when things bog down in restaurants is to apologize and explain what's happened or is happening. Nothing worse than going on as though everything is fine. And you'll usually win the sympathy and support of the customer (and critic perhaps) who is rooting for you to pull it through.

Some of my best reviews - and best for the restaurants too - spun on that inevitable pratfall and how the restaurant tried to recover.


Bill Daley

Chicago Tribune

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once again, the disguise thing rears its head. look, in the 20+ years i've been writing about food, i've eaten with most of the major critics in the country, several of them many times. until ruth r. went to the ny times, this wasn't really an issue. but she is brilliant and she turned it into a signifier, a hook for other stories. i have no doubt that she did this on occasion, but i never ate with her when she did. and i have to say, i had some really bad meals with ruth in new york (as in la) "out-cognito". partly this goes to what is to me the essential truth: most restaurateurs who are serving bad food are really doing the best that they can. it's not a matter of them consciously serving bad stuff to one group and good stuff to another. in other words, it's not ethics but talent that holds them back.

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Do you think its more important for the reviewer to be unnoticed at a fine dining place as opposed to a small mom and pop establishment? My column is focused on the $10 and under dishes and lunch. I tend not to write overtly "bad" reviews as I realize that I could actually be destroying the livelyhood of a family as a result. If there is something I dont like, I will mention it, but then add to it the things I enjoyed. If the place just sucks, I wont write about it at all, I think that when people open the paper and read the reviews they want to read about a place they would like to go and try, not someplace I hate. My paper does have a fine dining critic (Merril Schindler) and I feel he is pretty honest about what he feels about a place good or bad, but then again, its fine dining....

opinions? should it be different in each catagory?


Moo, Cluck, Oink.....they all taste good!

The Hungry Detective

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most restaurateurs who are serving bad food are really doing the best that they can. it's not a matter of them consciously serving bad stuff to one group and good stuff to another. in other words, it's not ethics but talent that holds them back.

Yes, so true. BUT, at the top level, when we are talking about the difference between a three and four star restaurant (or holding on to a high star rating you already have), that kind of intense perfectionism that can be focused on when a critic is recognized can make a difference.

I mean, there's a reason why Boulud has a picture of Bruni in his kitchen. If he wasn't planning on making an extra effort, the picture might be of Escoffier or Brigitte Bardot, right?

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Per my experience, I would have liked a public rebuttal, or clarification. Who does a reviewer answer to?

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To expand upon Russ's observation, there's a disconnect between the picture the restaurant reviewing community paints for the public (a cloak-and-dagger world of wigs, assumed names, and multiple credit cards) and the reality of restaurant reviewing (that most major market critics are recognized most of the time).

I was talking to a chef this afternoon whose restaurant is awaiting a New York Times review (I'd be happy to name names after the review comes out). He knew about each of Frank Bruni's visits to his restaurant. He knew what Bruni had ordered, all the conversations Bruni had with the waitstaff, comments overheard at the table, etc. When Bruni was reviewing Per Se, my contacts were telling me about every one of his visits to Per Se, as well as his visit to French Laundry. If we had full participation by the restaurant industry, it would be a simple matter to have a "Bruni watch" thread on the eG Forums -- we could identify his whereabouts in a high percentage of instances, certainly when he dines at the three- or four-star level and often at the any-star level. When Ruth Reichl was the critic, she was recognized even at no-star places.

To be clear, the Times critics often dine under their own names. Usually not on a first visit, but for later visits it's not unusual at all. They also get plenty of special treatment and sometimes, if you read carefully, you can see that they write about it as though it's no big deal -- because it isn't. For example, in William Grimes's second review of Ducasse, the four-star review, he writes:

Perhaps the most audacious exercise in this vein was a two-part chicken dish concocted by Mr. Elena for a tasting menu offered in the chef's room, a small private room just off the kitchen that regular customers can book.

Phase 1 began with the opening of a pastry-sealed cocotte. When a cloud of truffled steam dissipated, it revealed four spheres about the size of a squash ball, each one a huge black truffle wrapped first in a cabbage leaf and then in pancetta. Part meatball, part stuffed cabbage, the deluxe balls functioned as outriders on a plate otherwise dedicated to a chicken breast, with large coins of black truffle slipped under the skin, and fat little fingers of boudin blanc, a textural marvel of sheer silk in a gossamer casing that popped with each bite. A thin coating of Albufera sauce -- liquid foie gras flavored with port and Madeira -- elevated the dish to luxury status.

I want to know this! I don't care that the dish was on a special menu that isn't offered in the dining room. I think it's great if for his last visit to the restaurant Grimes called the chef and said "Book me in the private dining room and blow me away; show me the best you can do."

So to get back to the point, if so many of the most important critics are already recognized most of the time, what's the problem here? Why are we still worrying about anonymity? The train has already left the station. Restaurant reviewers already need to be able to work under conditions of preferential treatment. So do all sorts of journalists for whom these sorts of synergistic relationships are standard operating procedure, such as reporters covering political campaigns or sports teams. The focus shouldn't be on how to operate covertly. The focus should be on teaching reviewers to behave as ethical journalists whether or not they're given special treatment.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This is the key, I think, Steven's quote: "The focus should be on teaching reviewers to behave as ethical journalists whether or not they're given special treatment."

As for reviewers and who they report to, usually there's a supervisory editor or two or three on up the line.

Of course, it's not hard to recognize Frank Bruni - how many book dust jackets carry his photograph??????? But as long as the readers know he's recognized and getting special treatment, OK.


Bill Daley

Chicago Tribune

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There is the other side of this issue: that being recognized as an important critic can foster WORSE service. I was a front waiter at the grand opening of Restaurant Lafayette, way back in the Stone Age. Jean-George Vongerichten was this skinny kid who was commanding the kitchen with Louis Outhier somewhere on the periphery. One day the manager lunged at me and told me that Bryan Miller (I think it was him) was seated in my station and that he HAD to have incredible service. With that he shoved me onto the floor. I had a number of years experience as a waiter (Windows on the World, the Quilted Giraffe, etc.), but I grew nervous. To make matter worse, the manager hovered over the waitstaff so much, inspecting dishes, buffing the cloches that covered the plates, etc., that he got in the way. Now, a single diner doesn't need a squadron of waiters at his table, but the manager thought so. Yet he felt we were by turns ignoring then doting too much on Miller. By the time he left, we were strung out. I KNOW we gave him horrible service. The restaurant got four stars anyway…but that was despite out best efforts. I'm sure Miller either got a laugh at out antic or was as stressed as us.


Edited by David Leite (log)

David Leite

Leite's Culinaria

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The Food Lion case is quite different from the topic under discussion. In Food Lion, the reporters used false pretenses to obtain access to non-public areas of the supermarket. By using a disguise, a restaurant critic is merely attempting to discover how the typical customer is treated in an area to which the public is invited.

I find it startling that anyone could question whether a restaurant critic should do what the critic can to have an experience as close as possible to the restaurant's unknown customers. Remember, a restaurant invites the public into its dining room, and everything that goes on there is public. If a critic passed herself off as a health inspector in order to get a tour of the kitchen, you'd have an issue to discuss--indeed, that would be illegal. But the incognito critic is merely trying to gain access to the experience and the food that the restaurant is offering to the general public. Frankly, I question the journalistic competence, if not the integrity, of any reviewer who does not use reasonable means to pass undetected when reviewing a restaurant.

I find it equally startling that anyone who has been in a restaurant kitchen or dined with a known customer (whether the customer is a regular, a celebrity, or a critic) could think that the restaurant cannot offer such a customer a different experience than it offers to unknown customers. There are many things about the food that cannot be changed, but also many that can. Do you know that in some restaurants--even expensive ones--the chef is absent from the restaurant on certain days? Do you think that a critic ought to lose any chance of tasting the food on such a day by making reservations in his or her own name? Also, made to order dishes can be made to order, even if the general public gets versions that have been made in advance and warmed over. Portions can be made more generous--especially when the restaurant is looking for a positive comment on its $25.00 bowl of pasta. The freshest piece of fish can be served to the critic while the rest of the room consumes what was not sold the day before.

The service that known customers receive can also be markedly different than the service provided to unkown customers. A restaurant may be quite rude to the average customer, but watch them bow and scrape and dote when a celebrity, or a known critic, walks in.

You can't make up for this by asking other people about their experiences at the restaurant. That can help, but it is not first-hand reporting. If a restaurant is rude to the average customer, then the reviewer should experience that so that the reviewer can weigh it against whatever might be good about the restaurant. It's much easier to discount someone else's unpleasant experience than it is to discount your own. Also, perceptions differ. One diner may find the waiters at Chez L'Ami Louis characteristically, and charmingly, brusque; another may find them rude. And a diner who eats out once a week is likely not be as sensitive as the critic is to the level of service that should be expected based on the character and price-range of the restaurant. It should go without saying that the critic also cannot rely on what someone else thought of the food.

The critic has to sort these issues out for himself or herself. It is the critic's experience, expertise, and judgment on which we rely. If we wanted a poll, we'd read Zagat.

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Henry McNulty of the Hartford Courant wrote an excellent piece on this ethical issue, entitled "White lies: Bending the truth to expose injustice." He asked the question, "Is it ever acceptable for journalists to use deception to gather facts?" His answer, "A news story, however important, can't be based on deception."

McNulty was not discussing an issue of trespass. He was talking about pure deception, in an area where any member of the public could have gone (in this case, a real estate sales office). Nor was trespass the only issue in the Food Lion case, nor is there any distinction made in the code of ethics section cited above.

McNulty even addresses the issue of restaurant reviewing directly:

"What about restaurant reviewers who pretend to be ordinary customers when in fact they intend to report on their dining experience? Aren't they misrepresenting themselves, too? Perhaps. But there are many facets to the question of deceiving sources, and I feel each case must be examined closely. I make a distinction, for example, between actively giving a false name and passively letting someone assume a reporter is just an average consumer."

This is the best argument I've seen for reconciling anonymous restaurant reviewing with general journalistic ethical and legal guidelines: have your friend make the reservation or go as a walk-in, and simply don't announce yourself. But don't give false information. As McNulty says, "I can't think of a case in which such deception would be justified - even when the goals are noble." (Full article here.)

Now, there is at least an argument that the public interest can justify journalistic deception. Though McNulty argues it never does, he represents a minority position. Most believe, for example, that it would be okay to go undercover and lie in order to expose terrorism, institutional patterns of racism, etc. But restaurant reviewing? It seems a bit self-important for restaurant reviewers to say their job is so critical to the public interest that they are justified in running roughshod over the truth to get the story -- that they can lie, use false credit cards, wear disguises, and otherwise behave deceptively in order to make sure they don't get service the slightest bit different than that of some hypothetical average customer.

And nobody, at least not I, has said that recognized restaurant reviewers don't get different or better treatment. Restaurant reviewers do typically get VIP treatment when they're recognized. Yet empirically, anonymity cannot be shown to provide better, more useful, more reliable, more accurate restaurant reviews, as some of the best restaurant reviewers have been the ones who are always or mostly recognized. This includes David Rosengarten, Thomas Matthews, and, in the majority of instances, most major market critics once they've been on the job for a few months. These people somehow learned to keep special treatment in good perspective. So we are not even talking about deception in furtherance of the greater truth -- we are talking about deception in furtherance of an assumption that has never been supported empirically.

Then there are all the other issues: Inconsistency of recognition leads to inconsistent results. Since most major market critics are recognized most of the time, restaurants that don't recognize them may be penalized if special treatment does make a difference. Public perception of the industry as well as the restaurant reviewing sector's perception of itself is altered by the dynamic of deception, encouraging an atmosphere of mistrust. Many journalistic options, moreover, are sacrificed by anonymity and worsened by deceitful anonymity; even if the reviewer gets closer to the hypothetical average consumer experience, the options to talk face-to-face to the chef, visit the kitchen, et al., are lost. But of course there are no average customers. As in quantum theory, the observer affects the observed. Restaurant reviewers would perform the greater public service by teaching customers how not to be average.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Henry McNulty left the Hartford Courant many years ago. I don't know if this would be the same piece he'd write today (although the broad outline likely would remain unchanged) because of the rapidly altered ethical landscape at the nation's newspapers over the past couple of years.

By the by, the only lie I ever made was calling the restaurant and making the reservation under a fake name - and then signing the credit card slip. I was always prepared to divulge my true identity if anyone ever asked and, you know, no one ever did - even if I turned in the 'fake' credit card only to find out they didn't carry it and I had to replace it with another card with my real name on it.

I still say, all things being equal, anonymity is better than being known. It shouldn't be the penultimate factor in a reviewer being hired or doing his or her job but it is important, at least for me and the newspapers I've worked for.

Certainly, there are newspapers and reviewers who disagree - all power to them. If that sort of things rocks their boat, fine.


Bill Daley

Chicago Tribune

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That raises an interesting question: Are the best candidates for restaurant critic positions likely to be unknown? Or have we created a system where many of the best people are precluded from getting restaurant critic positions at the best papers because they have high profiles? For example, Jeffrey Steingarten, Calvin Trillin, and Alan Richman could not likely, under the current system, be hired as restaurant reviewers at the New York Times. Not that they'd want the job (even the people the Times tries to hire don't want it), but as a theoretical proposition they couldn't get it if they wanted it because they would present too much of a challenge to the entrenched system. Yet as media evolve and video becomes more and more prevalent, there will soon come a time when most journalists have been on television in one or another capacity, and when access to video is as simple as pulling up a still photo of Frank Bruni was when he became the Times critic.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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That is indeed a very interesting question. Certainly it didn't matter to the Times, both in its selection of Bruni and Mark Bittman, another author-on-the-dust-jacket, who served for a while as one of the Connecticut reviewers.

But then their selection raises a larger issue: Is the key to success as a restaurant critic - if one accepts success is a high profile slot like the NYT - mean not being a restaurant critic in the traditional journalistic sense at all?


Edited by Mebutter (log)

Bill Daley

Chicago Tribune

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By the by, the only lie I ever made was calling the restaurant and making the reservation under a fake name - and then signing the credit card slip.

Couldn't it be claimed that a credit card under a fake name represents fraud? Is it perfectly legal, for example, for me to get a credit card under the name of James Bond?


Michael aka "Pan

 

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One idea I have is that, if there are reports that "nobodies" are treated lousily in certain restaurants - as indeed happened to me in two restaurants that got 4 stars from NYT reviewers (Lutece and Chanterelle, a long time ago in both cases) - perhaps the Times should send freelance reporters who don't normally cover food, simply to find out what kind of service they get.


Michael aka "Pan

 

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Couldn't it be claimed that a credit card under a fake name represents fraud? Is it perfectly legal, for example, for me to get a credit card under the name of James Bond?

It's not my area of expertise, law-wise, but I don't think it's illegal to get a credit card under an assumed name provided your intention is to protect your identity and you're going to pay the bill. Celebrities do this all the time to protect their identities and for security reasons. So it doesn't seem like fraud to me in the legal sense primarily because nobody is stealing anything or inducing anybody to part with anything under false pretenses. In the dictionary and common usage senses of misrepresenting who you are, aka being an impostor, though, it does seem fraudulent, or at least an intentional and active concealment of the truth.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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