Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
Wojo

A restaurant critic becomes a waiter

Recommended Posts

Even in the context of a single meal, which might be the basis for a "Diner's Journal" or "Quick Bites" (New York Times terminology) or capsule review, it's not as though the critic only tastes one dish. You might have six people at the meal, order a mid-course and, if you factor in an amuse and some sort of extra course from the pastry kitchen then you could be looking at 36 dishes -- and if you get into tasting menus the number starts to climb into the 50-100 range. At that point it becomes relatively clear what is an anomaly and what is a real problem. If you have 35 beautifully executed dishes and one screwup (which would be par for the course even at the world's best restaurants), it's just not a big deal. It's the equivalent of a few off notes or other technical errors in a musical performance -- you rarely see a performance without that. You might mention it but it's not going to change the direction of your review. If half the dishes are defective from an execution standpoint, it's not just one cook screwing up -- it's a real problem. Even if you go back five more times and the problem doesn't repeat, it's still significant. Of course when reviewing the performing arts there is always risk that the critic's sample will not be representative. But that's the risk you take as a performing artist: any example of your work may be the basis for a review. You know it, you plan for it and you live with it. It's not as though the theater and music critics attend multiple performances of the same work before writing their reviews, just to make sure you didn't have your one off night in six months. Heck, you're lucky if they stay past intermission. Anyway, the restaurant critics from the big papers are recognized most of the time, so the restaurant has no excuse for simple, avoidable errors.


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)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If you can afford to pay for meals for six people, it would seem wiser to have two people visit a restaurant three times to account for what might be different conditions on different days. or, at least, four people once and two on the second visit. Then if the chef had been hit by a truck one night and so was not in top form (as one restaurant claimed when I gave it a negative review), he would presumably be recovered for the next. Only exception for me would be if it were a Chinese or Indian restaurant where sampling many dishes at once is part of the format..even then, four once and two once would be a safer method. And by safer, I mean as a defense against law suits, never mind being fair to restaurant and reader. Law suits have not come into this discussion but when one is at a publication of considerable note, such suits are always imminent. You can't imagine how they back down when they hear that the critic was there three times.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you can afford to pay for meals for six people, it would seem wiser to have two people visit a restaurant three times to account for what might be different conditions on different days. or, at least, four people once and two on the second visit. Then if the chef had been hit by a truck one night and so was not in top form (as one restaurant claimed when I gave it a negative review), he would presumably be recovered for the next. Only exception for me would be if it were a Chinese or Indian restaurant where sampling many dishes at once is part of the format..even then, four once and two once would be a safer method. And by safer, I mean as a defense against law suits, never mind being fair to restaurant and reader.  Law suits have not come into this discussion but when one is at a publication of considerable note, such suits are always imminent. You can't imagine how they back down when they hear that the critic was there three times.

And taking good notes as well, I assume Mimi.

I love to hear about multiple visits, and yes it is about fairness to the restaurant and reader. Most especially the reader. That is the customer here. Our customer is the owner or manager of the facility who wants to know what is going on from the customer's pov. That whole people do what you inspect not what you expect thing. We have a built in rotation limitation we have to work within, in order to get a varied pov and a fair evaluation.

Let's face it, and I don't want to seem as if I am always taking the side of the waitron unit, but some places just suck and are not worth the trip. I would want to know that it was a fair evaluation, but I would also want to know if I should not waste my time and effort.

Law suits, huh? I can see it. I've known a couple of restaurant owners who would rather sue than improve the property and build the business. In fact, I am required by one company to keep my notes on file for two years, in case an employee is dismissed based upon my, and other, evaluations, and in case I have to testify in court. So far, I have been lucky and never had an evaluation questioned. Never been ID'd to my knowledge either. Of course, if the staff were smart they would never let on if they did realize what I was up to, and just give me fabulous service. I have been known to "behave" like a mystery shopper when not on a shop. It works.

How do you manage to protect your anonymity? It would be defeating the purpose, I would think, if you were recognized when you walked into the door. I find it interesting to talk to a real live critic. I worked for a paper for a while, but as an "Advertorial" writer. heh. Bought and paid for by advertisers, that is.

Thanks.

Annie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you can afford to pay for meals for six people, it would seem wiser to have two people visit a restaurant three times to account for what might be different conditions on different days. or, at least, four people once and two on the second visit. Then if the chef had been hit by a truck one night and so was not in top form (as one restaurant claimed when I gave it a negative review), he would presumably be recovered for the next. Only exception for me would be if it were a Chinese or Indian restaurant where sampling many dishes at once is part of the format..even then, four once and two once would be a safer method. And by safer, I mean as a defense against law suits, never mind being fair to restaurant and reader.  Law suits have not come into this discussion but when one is at a publication of considerable note, such suits are always imminent. You can't imagine how they back down when they hear that the critic was there three times.

And taking good notes as well, I assume Mimi.

I love to hear about multiple visits, and yes it is about fairness to the restaurant and reader. Most especially the reader. That is the customer here. Our customer is the owner or manager of the facility who wants to know what is going on from the customer's pov. That whole people do what you inspect not what you expect thing. We have a built in rotation limitation we have to work within, in order to get a varied pov and a fair evaluation.

Let's face it, and I don't want to seem as if I am always taking the side of the waitron unit, but some places just suck and are not worth the trip. I would want to know that it was a fair evaluation, but I would also want to know if I should not waste my time and effort.

Law suits, huh? I can see it. I've known a couple of restaurant owners who would rather sue than improve the property and build the business. In fact, I am required by one company to keep my notes on file for two years, in case an employee is dismissed based upon my, and other, evaluations, and in case I have to testify in court. So far, I have been lucky and never had an evaluation questioned. Never been ID'd to my knowledge either. Of course, if the staff were smart they would never let on if they did realize what I was up to, and just give me fabulous service. I have been known to "behave" like a mystery shopper when not on a shop. It works.

How do you manage to protect your anonymity? It would be defeating the purpose, I would think, if you were recognized when you walked into the door. I find it interesting to talk to a real live critic. I worked for a paper for a while, but as an "Advertorial" writer. heh. Bought and paid for by advertisers, that is.

Thanks.

Annie

Never took a note in all the years I reviewed fro the Times. Maybe went home and wrote a few thoughts, but never in the restaurant..a sure giveaway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm a secret shopper, I've been in the food business, retail and otherwise, I've been a writer for local rags, I've eaten in a lot of restaurants in my life(traveling artists, you know) AND I like to eat and cook a fair amount. So, MOO? I've eaten in restaurants with a food critic, the process of critiquing has very little in common with the job of shopping the place. And in my eyes that is the way it should be. Being a critic is a skill that is an art. It's mainly about the food, and the nuances thereof. Being a shopper is a skill that has nothing to do with art. It's completely about whatever the assignment states, and that is rarely the nuances of each dish. Unless you count the proper sides, temperature, speed of delivery and quality of service a nuance. I don't think the critic carries around a thermometer, although I've had to on some jobs. And, if I care to, I'll take my dressing on the side, thanks! The critic can have it 'with', as intended by the chef. :biggrin:

edited by me to add this: I'm a great secret shopper, but I wouldn't presume to be a critic.


Edited by Rebecca263 (log)

More Than Salt

Visit Our Cape Coop Blog

Cure Cutaneous Lymphoma

Join the DarkSide---------------------------> DarkSide Member #006-03-09-06

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How do you manage to protect your anonymity? It would be defeating the purpose, I would think, if you were recognized when you walked into the door.

Critic anonymity is much discussed here on eGullet. Everyone concedes that the critics for major newspapers are going to be frequently recognized—perhaps not every time, but certainly much of the time. In his book Turning the Tables, eGullet's Fat Guy argues reasonably persuasively that there isn't a whole lot the restaurant can do to suddenly improve the place when a critic arrives. They can perhaps do a few things at the margins, and they'll certainly make sure not to assign their trainee waiter to his table, but basically the restaurant is what it is.

Careful readers of Mr. Bruni's articles will find plenty of examples where he clearly was not recognized. Usually it shows up in service glitches, which is why it's perhaps appropriate that he went undercover as a server—the one aspect of the restaurant experience where he is probably treated differently than everybody else. Where Bruni gets bad service, it's usually at restaurants that had no reason to expect a forthcoming review from the Times. Most of the "big name" restaurants will recognize him instantly. Certainly they will figure it out when the same guy shows up several times in a matter of weeks with large parties, and places huge orders for ridiculous amounts of food as if money is no object, and with him tasting from everybody else's plate. Bruni's photo is on the Internet, so it's not difficult to find out what he looks like.


Edited by oakapple (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you can afford to pay for meals for six people, it would seem wiser to have two people visit a restaurant three times to account for what might be different conditions on different days. or, at least, four people once and two on the second visit. Then if the chef had been hit by a truck one night and so was not in top form (as one restaurant claimed when I gave it a negative review), he would presumably be recovered for the next. Only exception for me would be if it were a Chinese or Indian restaurant where sampling many dishes at once is part of the format..even then, four once and two once would be a safer method. And by safer, I mean as a defense against law suits, never mind being fair to restaurant and reader. Law suits have not come into this discussion but when one is at a publication of considerable note, such suits are always imminent. You can't imagine how they back down when they hear that the critic was there three times.

I respectfully disagree.

IMO, a restaurant reviewer is evaluating whether the chef can cook or not. You can dine in a restaurant 12 times to see if the waiters have their act together, but still it's all about cooking skills. And when and if you decide that the chef can indeed cook, the next step is determining the degree of his or her talent.

I get threatened with suits from time to time, but I have no problem defending my postition. Wonky service, an unbalanced wine list, and bad decor really have little to do with it. Yes they count, but ultimately you're there to see whether the chef is a force to be reckoned with. And that’s usually pretty obvious when the first dish hits the table.

Also, what are the different conditions on different days? The chef is tired? The fish is lousy? A waiter walked out before the service? Shouldn’t a good restaurant be ready to deal with such obstacles? And when the critics visit over and again, are they there to see the wrongs righted? Or the rights wronged? If the chef was hit by a truck, and the food is lousy, maybe it points out how weak the sous chef is. And if the chef isn't there and the sous chef pulls off a brilliant meal, does that mean the chef's presence doesn't matter?

I worked as a professional pastry chef, and on my chef's night off, I was busting my buns to churn out desserts on a par with the norm. And that's what the executive chef expected. No one said, it's lousy, but that's OK because the chef is off tonight.


Edited by Lesley C (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I have no problem with someone doing the old switcheroo and playing the part of a restaurant server. But even though nothing is new under the sun, there's always a way to add a fresh twist, IMHO.

Why not have Mr. Bruni reprise his performance, but this time let someone else handle the actual reporting, complete with coworker feedback. I'd nominate "French Laundry Cookbook" contributor, "Making of a Chef" and "Soul of a Chef" author Michael Ruhlman. He seems to be a stand-up guy and would give old Frank a fair shake.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you can afford to pay for meals for six people, it would seem wiser to have two people visit a restaurant three times to account for what might be different conditions on different days. or, at least, four people once and two on the second visit. Then if the chef had been hit by a truck one night and so was not in top form (as one restaurant claimed when I gave it a negative review), he would presumably be recovered for the next. Only exception for me would be if it were a Chinese or Indian restaurant where sampling many dishes at once is part of the format..even then, four once and two once would be a safer method. And by safer, I mean as a defense against law suits, never mind being fair to restaurant and reader.  Law suits have not come into this discussion but when one is at a publication of considerable note, such suits are always imminent. You can't imagine how they back down when they hear that the critic was there three times.

And taking good notes as well, I assume Mimi.

I love to hear about multiple visits, and yes it is about fairness to the restaurant and reader. Most especially the reader. That is the customer here. Our customer is the owner or manager of the facility who wants to know what is going on from the customer's pov. That whole people do what you inspect not what you expect thing. We have a built in rotation limitation we have to work within, in order to get a varied pov and a fair evaluation.

Let's face it, and I don't want to seem as if I am always taking the side of the waitron unit, but some places just suck and are not worth the trip. I would want to know that it was a fair evaluation, but I would also want to know if I should not waste my time and effort.

Law suits, huh? I can see it. I've known a couple of restaurant owners who would rather sue than improve the property and build the business. In fact, I am required by one company to keep my notes on file for two years, in case an employee is dismissed based upon my, and other, evaluations, and in case I have to testify in court. So far, I have been lucky and never had an evaluation questioned. Never been ID'd to my knowledge either. Of course, if the staff were smart they would never let on if they did realize what I was up to, and just give me fabulous service. I have been known to "behave" like a mystery shopper when not on a shop. It works.

How do you manage to protect your anonymity? It would be defeating the purpose, I would think, if you were recognized when you walked into the door. I find it interesting to talk to a real live critic. I worked for a paper for a while, but as an "Advertorial" writer. heh. Bought and paid for by advertisers, that is.

Thanks.

Annie

Never took a note in all the years I reviewed fro the Times. Maybe went home and wrote a few thoughts, but never in the restaurant..a sure giveaway.

Actually, I use a digital voice recorder. Best $40 I ever spent, then upload the whole thing to a CD R/W when it is time to archive.

Yep, I wear a wire.

:biggrin:

Edit: And I wait until I am in the ladies room to talk to my boobs.


Edited by annecros (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I'm a secret shopper, I've been in the food business, retail and otherwise, I've been a writer for local rags, I've eaten in a lot of restaurants in my life(traveling artists, you know) AND I like to eat and cook a fair amount. So, MOO?  I've eaten in restaurants with a food critic, the process of critiquing has very little in common with the job of shopping the place. And in my eyes that is the way it should be. Being a critic is a skill that is an art. It's mainly about the food, and the nuances thereof. Being a shopper is a skill that has nothing to do with art. It's completely about whatever the assignment states, and that is rarely the nuances of each dish.  Unless you count the proper sides, temperature, speed of delivery and quality of service a nuance.  I don't think the critic carries around a thermometer, although I've had to on some jobs. And, if I care to, I'll take my dressing on the side, thanks! The critic can have it 'with', as intended by the chef. :biggrin:

edited by me to add this: I'm a great secret shopper,  but I wouldn't presume to be a critic.

Oh are you doing those? With the scale? I can't, as I have a conflict of interest, but there are a lot of them in the area. They seem like a real pain to me, though.

I've been criticized and I have been mystery shopped. To my mind, they are more alike than different.

I've never done a fine dining shop that didn't include the food quality.

If you are a great secret shopper, then you are objectively criticizing the business. No presumption necessary, it is a fact.

Thanks.

Anne

Edit: Come to think of it, I haven't even done a fast food shop that didn't require an evaluation of food quality.


Edited by annecros (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How do you manage to protect your anonymity? It would be defeating the purpose, I would think, if you were recognized when you walked into the door.

Critic anonymity is much discussed here on eGullet. Everyone concedes that the critics for major newspapers are going to be frequently recognized—perhaps not every time, but certainly much of the time. In his book Turning the Tables, eGullet's Fat Guy argues reasonably persuasively that there isn't a whole lot the restaurant can do to suddenly improve the place when a critic arrives. They can perhaps do a few things at the margins, and they'll certainly make sure not to assign their trainee waiter to his table, but basically the restaurant is what it is.

Careful readers of Mr. Bruni's articles will find plenty of examples where he clearly was not recognized. Usually it shows up in service glitches, which is why it's perhaps appropriate that he went undercover as a server—the one aspect of the restaurant experience where he is probably treated differently than everybody else. Where Bruni gets bad service, it's usually at restaurants that had no reason to expect a forthcoming review from the Times. Most of the "big name" restaurants will recognize him instantly. Certainly they will figure it out when the same guy shows up several times in a matter of weeks with large parties, and places huge orders for ridiculous amounts of food as if money is no object, and with him tasting from everybody else's plate. Bruni's photo is on the Internet, so it's not difficult to find out what he looks like.

I have to disagree. There is an awful lot that can be done. Just like the staff goes nuts when the notoriously big tipper walks into the door. I know I've done it. Even offered the kitchen a round if they took care of my customer. It is not the typical dining experience, and expecting it to be so is unrealistic.

MOO.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We knew the instant he and his guest (who will remain nameless) entered our restaurant. :laugh:

But who cares? We didnt do anything out of the norm for him and we never do for anyone unless its my wife of course, or maybe a friend, or maybe a chef, or perhaps someone from the DOD, well maybe an exception could be made randomly for anyone. Its like vegas slots I guess. Except if youre FB. That guy would have to come in dressed as a woman (even then we may spot him) for us not to notice. But even then its quite hopeless I suppose. But I geuss what the hell is the point - its nothing new. Go undercover and get a job with some rogue army then report it so we can make the world a better place. Now thats news thats fit to print.


Future Food - our new television show airing 3/30 @ 9pm cst:

http://planetgreen.discovery.com/tv/future-food/

Hope you enjoy the show! Homaro Cantu

Chef/Owner of Moto Restaurant

www.motorestaurant.com

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Never took a note in all the years I reviewed fro the Times. Maybe went home and wrote a few thoughts, but never in the restaurant..a sure giveaway.

As do more than a few amateurs (those of us who love to eat and may well be queried about our meals by friends, but don't get paid for our opinions) we take notes and have taken to sometimes taking photographs. (As an intersting aside, for a while we dispensed with notes and relied on photographs as aide memoirs. Oddly enough sometimes the most accurate and clear photograph wouldn't jog our memory of the taste of a dish nearly as well as a few handwritten comments.)

Years ago at Marc Veyrat's restaurant outside of Annecy, France, just as we had finished most of the tasting menu and the waiter had started to arrange our cheese selections, another waiter rushed to the table with the announcement that our cheese service should be delayed because the chef wants to send out a few tastes. As delighted as I was with the meal, by the second or third full course added to our already long lunch, I was about to explode, but couldn't bring myself not to show my graditutde by eating every last bite. Besides it was all really quite delicious, at least in those days. I've been comped a dessert or two and maybe a appetizer here and there as well as recieved a VIP canape in my day, but usually when I was a friend of the chef, well known to the restaurant or my reservation was made by a real VIP. That afternoon, I was quite taken with the chef's intuitive assessment that here were a couple of astute diners deserving of special favor. At least I flattered myself that way as long as the wine inhibited a reality check. Mrs. B had been taking notes rather discretely, but as we were at a rather prominent table, I should assume the staff noticed. It did occur to me that M. Veyrat might have suspected she was a critic. Sometime later, a nice article appeared on Veyrat in the Travel secion of the Sunday NY Times. It seems Jacqueline Friedrich had been at the restaurant not long before or after we were. I had to wonder if the chef had not been tipped off to the visit and mistook my wife for the journalist due to the sure giveaway of her note taking.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ha actually wrote the word terrific. Repeatedly. I found THAT entertaining. I wonder if his descriptions of menu items were as overwrought as his usual writing style is!

Nothing can ever touch the overuse of the word "beautiful" by every single person on the food network. :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Critic anonymity is much discussed here on eGullet. Everyone concedes that the critics for major newspapers are going to be frequently recognized—perhaps not every time, but certainly much of the time. In his book Turning the Tables, eGullet's Fat Guy argues reasonably persuasively that there isn't a whole lot the restaurant can do to suddenly improve the place when a critic arrives. They can perhaps do a few things at the margins, and they'll certainly make sure not to assign their trainee waiter to his table, but basically the restaurant is what it is.

. . . .

I think Shaw also emphasized that the things a restaurant can do, are also the kids of things that are not going to have a great effect on the judgment of an astute and knowledgeable reviewer, further reducing the effectiveness of knowing who the diner is. I won't argue the merits of such an argument one way or the other, but it's a reasonable argument.

A novice critic in a second rate restaurant in a small market is the one least likely to be noticed. The chance of being noticed is inversely proportional to the risk being noticed will affect the review. On principle, all things being equal, I would argue for anonymity, but all things are never equal and the better reviewer will most likely deliver the better review most of the time. More interesting than restaurant reviews is the way a culinary journalist can affect public opinion by repressing pertinent information or by publishing suspect material about a chef or restaurant.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ha actually wrote the word terrific. Repeatedly. I found THAT entertaining. I wonder if his descriptions of menu items were as overwrought as his usual writing style is!

Nothing can ever touch the overuse of the word "beautiful" by every single person on the food network. :blink:

You jest. But it is not all that easy coming up with 1000 different ways to say tasty.


Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

If I walk into most any restaurant in Midtown Manhattan I see plenty of people with notes, notebooks, notebook computers, notetaking devices and the like right out on the tables. Even at the four-star places, you see plenty of this. Nobody cares, and restaurants don't give super-VIP treatment to everyone with a pen. What staff notice is suspicious behavior, like trying to take notes under the table or constantly going into the bathroom to dictate into your digital recorder. Hide in plain sight is the best strategy, in my experience, which includes both restaurant reviewing and mystery shopper/audit work. You definitely have to take notes when you're auditing -- the information required is too detailed to remember. There is, however, little call for notetaking when writing restaurant reviews. You're writing about impressions, not about the elapsed time between when you received your menu and when you were offered the opportunity to order. Most reviewers jot down a bunch of notes after they leave, get menus and have the opportunity to speak to the chef on the phone after they visit the restaurant, so if there are lapses in memory they can be cured. The two enterprises are quite different, both in approach and result. There's not a lot of personnel crossover between the two fields, though there is some.


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)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If I walk into most any restaurant in Midtown Manhattan I see plenty of people with notes, notebooks, notebook computers, notetaking devices and the like right out on the tables. Even at the four-star places, you see plenty of this. Nobody cares, and restaurants don't give super-VIP treatment to everyone with a pen. What staff notice is suspicious behavior, like trying to take notes under the table or constantly going into the bathroom to dictate into your digital recorder. Hide in plain sight is the best strategy, in my experience, which includes both restaurant reviewing and mystery shopper/audit work. You definitely have to take notes when you're auditing -- the information required is too detailed to remember. There is, however, little call for notetaking when writing restaurant reviews. You're writing about impressions, not about the elapsed time between when you received your menu and when you were offered the opportunity to order. Most reviewers jot down a bunch of notes after they leave, get menus and have the opportunity to speak to the chef on the phone after they visit the restaurant, so if there are lapses in memory they can be cured. The two enterprises are quite different, both in approach and result. There's not a lot of personnel crossover between the two fields, though there is some.

Exactly. Hide in plain site. Works for me.

One trip to the bathroom is enough for me, and I am generally reminding the DVR in my bra that there was plenty of tp, soap, drying apparatus was available, but the toilets were dirty at floor level around the base. or some such when I am in there.

I am a pro, btw.

That's the sort of thing I do. And you don't have to mumble into your DVR when the server comes up to the table and inquires if you are ready for you order. Just check the time on the recording. These days, they all introduce themelves at the beginning of service, which the DVR captures. Too easy. Relax and enjoy yourself, and the stuff I notice is generally stuff I would notice anyway. Because I have worked in the industry.

I love technology.

Edit: Take notes at the table, if you are there for pleasure. You will be assured of getting your money's worth. Also, make sure you get a receipt. BIG tip off, and it would make my life much easier when I am working if more people insisted on receipts. Too easy.

Also, isn't the goal of both the reviewer and the auditor to capture the typical dining experience? How can you possibly do that without anonymity?


Edited by annecros (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ha actually wrote the word terrific. Repeatedly. I found THAT entertaining. I wonder if his descriptions of menu items were as overwrought as his usual writing style is!

Nothing can ever touch the overuse of the word "beautiful" by every single person on the food network. :blink:

You jest. But it is not all that easy coming up with 1000 different ways to say tasty.

Oh, tell me about it. I have done more audits than can be counted that have the question:

"Was the food tasty?"

Roget's only has so many alternatives listed.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

After seven years working as a restaurant critic I would say I'm recognized maybe half of the time. And there’s little I can do about it. It's not the chefs, but the waiters who know your face.

That said, I do still make an effort to remain anonymous for many reasons.

First, it's a drag when they know you. Everyone is nervous and things often go sideways. And there’s an awkward vibe all night, that you-know-that-they-know-that-you-are-reviewing feeling. Ugh. Terrible.

Second, it's tough to determine whether there's a crowd of regulars on site getting preferential treatment when they know you. That kind of extra-water-refills-and-secret-splash-of-balsamico-on-the-risotto happens a lot here in Montreal and it's worth noting in a review.

Third, the anonymous review just feels more honest. I recently gave a good review to a talented young chef and when we later spoke on the phone he told me that he knew every critic's face but not mine and that he really had no idea I had been to the restaurant until the paper came to take a picture. He said my review meant the most to him because it was an honest evaluation of his work.

Even if you all say chefs don't make an extra effort for critics, as someone who has worked in a professional kitchen that certainly wasn’t what I experienced. Chefs may not rework the plates entirely, but they are at least making some extra effort no matter how small. Chefs care. They should. Good reviews mean a significant increase in business.

The truly honest review is the one written by an anonymous critic who is there like just any average customer, as in, your average reader. Does that discredit the reviews written when they know you? No, but they just aren't the same.

But then again with anonymity it may be all or nothing. If half the restaurateurs recognize you, is it fair to the others who do not?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow. Fascinating conversation. Having worked in the industry for 20 years before getting a job as a restaurant critic (I now do both), I enjoyed Bruni's piece considerably. Whenever I serve a restaurant critic or get served as one, it's always an interesting experience that makes the double life I lead doubly fun, and though I wouldn't hire him on permanently, I'd consider letting him stooge as my busboy as long as I wouldn't have to tip him out. :wink:


Edited by Andrew Morrison (log)

Andrew Morrison

Food Columnist | The Westender

Editor & Publisher | Scout Magazine

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...