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Critiquing critics


Mimi Sheraton
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Anyone seen current Time Out's critiques of New York critics in all fields? Other fields aside, the rankings of local restaurant critics is virtually meaningless, given the panelists...second-rate food writers disgruntled that they are not at major publications, and, even sillier, restaurateurs who may have been given - or fear getting - negative reviews by a local critic and thereby carry a grudge. Only distinterested panelists seem to be Anthony Bourdain and Jacques Pepin.

But this being that evil known as consensus, we have no idea who agrees with findings and who does not, making it all irrelevant..And why print the panelists names only the website - www.Timeoutnewyork.com - and not in the magazine where most will read the story?

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Here's the link directly to the food critics. In the Zagat-style blurbs, Bruni is referred to as “the George Bush of restaurant reviewers: He’s a little man in a big job who got lucky but has never acknowledged the need to learn on this big job," Sietsema is "a joke," but Peter Meehan comes out on top:

“Excellent writer. Only handicap is the now totally moribund confines of his column. I’d love to see what he could do with restaurants currently under Bruni’s watch.”…“Calling the column ‘under $25’ is a joke, but that’s not his fault. He finds good cheap restaurants and seems to know what he is eating.”…“Writing is smart, witty and very sensible. His approach is logical, fair and almost always places the consumer first, which makes a certain amount of sense, seeing as the restaurants he profiles are more value driven than those profiled by Frank Bruni.”

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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second-rate  food writers disgruntled that they are not at major publications

Hey!

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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Here's the link directly to the food critics. In the Zagat-style blurbs, Bruni is referred to as “the George Bush of restaurant reviewers: He’s a little man in a big job who got lucky but has never acknowledged the need to learn on this big job," Sietsema is "a joke," but Peter Meehan comes out on top:
“Excellent writer. Only handicap is the now totally moribund confines of his column. I’d love to see what he could do with restaurants currently under Bruni’s watch.”…“Calling the column ‘under $25’ is a joke, but that’s not his fault. He finds good cheap restaurants and seems to know what he is eating.”…“Writing is smart, witty and very sensible. His approach is logical, fair and almost always places the consumer first, which makes a certain amount of sense, seeing as the restaurants he profiles are more value driven than those profiled by Frank Bruni.”

Gee!

A left wing publication focusing on entertainment and food-- what's next?

Time Out NY continues to indicate why it is a tacky, ill informed and poorly written attempt at being New York Magazine which at least is a better written, tacky with panache magazine that has some authority.

I miss the old Cue!

Really! Do we need a "top crits" issue? Does anyone care? Have we become so totally dependant that we need critics to tell us which critics are good or bad? Can we survive without top ten lists? Must we be told what's in or out? what's hip or not hip? Can we figure anything out for ourselves!?

Sheeesh!

:shock:

Edited by JohnL (log)
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Do we need a "top crits" issue? Does anyone care? Have we become so totally dependant that we need critics to tell us which critics are good or bad?

have you seen the number of posts/reads on the Bruni thread on egullet? oh people love this shit.

Only two valid panelists were Bourdain and Pepin...

personally i am *very* interested in what Clap Your Hands Say Yeah think about food critics.

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Hungry for some deep, engaging criticism in a particular field? Seek out this recommended reading.

Alas, in "Further Review", Time Out was unable to find any deep, engaging culinary criticism. Obviously the editors are not familiar with "American Fried."

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

Twitter

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On the subject of critiquing the critics, see Danny Meyer's "Setting the Table" Just read him on the local restaurant critics last night...

As I have always thought, "Scratch a restaurateur, find a cry baby."

I haven't read the book but I heard him interviewed on NPR (I believe) the other day.

He is a bit thin skinned. Suprisingly so, given his obvious talents for running a successful, fairly large scale operation in a very tough city.

I have also found wine makers to fail the "scratch test" as a rule, while chefs are a more mixed bag. Many of the chefs I have met seem to be humble and open to criticism and genuinely concerned that they please the customer while being a bit more cynical and pragmatic about professional critics as opposed to bitter and whiney.

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Hungry for some deep, engaging criticism in a particular field? Seek out this recommended reading.

Alas, in "Further Review", Time Out was unable to find any deep, engaging culinary criticism. Obviously the editors are not familiar with "American Fried."

That's probably because its author flatly states that the best restaurants in the world -- no, make that THE SINGLE BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD (capitals his) -- is a most decidedly un-fancy place in his (and my) forever hometown, a place in the Great Flyover that coastal folk dismiss too quickly.

And the thing is, the place isn't even the best in town at what it does. But thanks to Calvin Trillin and Jimmy Carter, folks outside the city believe it is.

BTW, Holly, the absence of this restaurant and others like it in said city from HollyEats.com is a serious oversight that really should be corrected sometime. Especially since you have establishments in the state's other large city on your site.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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I was surprised too. Danny Meyer is a very classy guy with more than his share of positive restaurant reviews and great success.

But it never fails. Any critic who doesn't like a place, or even some small aspect of it, has to have a reason other than food and service...a bad night's sleep, a fight with his wife, a less than effusive greeting at the coat check room. Surely it could not be the food or service. When I gave negative reviews to some of France's 3-stars in the Times many years ago, several, including Bocuse, declared that I must have an unsatisfactory sex life.

And no matter how many positive things a critic writees, it's the negatives restaurant owners remember.

I am also surprised at Meyer's indescretions along these lines. Many of the critics he cites are still at it. And we always have the last word, don't we?

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I was surprised too. Danny Meyer is a very classy guy with more than his share of positive restaurant reviews and great success.

But it never fails. Any critic who doesn't  like a place, or even some small aspect of it, has to have a reason other than food and service...a bad night's sleep, a fight with his wife, a less than effusive greeting at the coat check room. Surely it could not be the food or service.  When I gave negative reviews to some of France's 3-stars in the Times many years ago, several, including Bocuse, declared that I must have an unsatisfactory sex life. 

And no matter how many positive things a critic writees, it's the negatives restaurant owners remember.

I am also surprised at Meyer's indescretions along these lines. Many of the critics he cites are still at it. And we always have the last word, don't we?

I found Danny's book to be fabulous! And even though I am a restaurant critic I took little offense....

Of course, I've had my fair share of pissed off retaurant owners.

One place I did awhile back - the food was awful, the service worse and the room was freezing - had seven owners; each of which emailed me with all sorts of abuse (although they did not all identify themselves as the owners) from questioning my ethics - they said I was malicious!!!!!! - to telling me I should get a job shoveling horseshit.

It only hurt for about one second.

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One of the only groups more sensitive to public criticism than restaurateurs is . . . critics. In the mid-1990s, when online writing about food was really starting to penetrate into the mainstream, critics of all kinds were reeling from the erosion of their pulpits.

What you see in Time Out now in print rarely happened anywhere before it started happening online. Now that so many print publications are playing catch-up in the race for relevance, you see it there too. But this is nothing new -- there has been better and better-informed criticism of the critics online for a decade.

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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Danny wrote the book, so he gets to tell the story his way. And it's a New York Times bestseller so that's the way a lot of people will hear it, though I'm sure Gael Greene and others have their own versions.

I thought on the whole he did come across as too sensitive, but he also made some points that needed to be made not only about critics who can be bought for the price of a free meal but also about critics who have agendas. Danny isn't the world's greatest writer, and he wears his heart on his sleeve in a way that can sometimes make him seem like a whiner, but his chapter on the critics goes right up there with the must-read literature on the subject.

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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After looking at the list, it's obvious the NY Times chief food critic is ranked the worst. If the "influence" factor is eliminated, he would need a scale of his own.

And since the influence factor is because of the paper and not him, his "real" score should read 3.375, which is far lower than any other critic when using the first four factors.

It's about time.

Rich Schulhoff

Opinions are like friends, everyone has some but what matters is how you respect them!

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Gee!

A left wing publication focusing on entertainment and food-- what's next?[...]

I haven't read the article and I'm not sure I'm interested enough to do so, but are you making a joke or are partisan politics actually relevant here? And if so, how? I frankly don't read Time Out often enough to have any impression of where they fit on an ideological spectrum.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I've just noticed this stimulating thread. In The Taste of America, John Hess wrote the last word to be said about regularly scheduled restaurant reviewing. Along with his wife Karen, he had

yielded to an urgent appeal to take over the critic’s job at The New York Times in early 1973, with the understanding that he would not have to stay longer than a year. We threw in our napkins after nine months, sick of the gourmet plague that had marked our first meal for pay, and our last, and most of those in between.

What he depressingly discovered was that newly opened high-end restaurants are usually 10% cuisine and 90% hype. The communication that takes place in the cooking and eating of food can be like a conversation between friends, but more profitably it's a blatant hard sell, because that's what makes the biggest noise, gets the most attention and makes the most money. There are good restaurants out there in all price brackets, but a weekly column can’t devote itself to saying over and over that X is still serving Y and still doing it very well.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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