Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Critiquing the Food Critic

Now that I've resolved to writing restaurant reviews during the little time I have away from working in the kitchen, it is quite fitting that I dedicate a post explaining how professional food critics formulate them.  I've also outlined my own reviewing style here so that readers can decide how to judge my own assessments of restaurants I decide to write about.

First Time's a Charm

Most professional critics visit restaurants several times before compiling their reviews, and they are able to do so because the publication they work for takes care of the bill. Unfortunately for me, I work solo. So I literally cannot afford multiple visits especially when it's an expensive restaurant I decide to review. This may work for or against the restaurant's favor based on which dishes I choose to order. 

Me Me Me

Reviews are written so that readers can make better choices in selecting which restaurants to spend their hard earned money at. Yet, the irony in this is that the articles will always be rooted in the reviewer’s own opinion and based on his specific experiences only. It is impossible to separate the element of subjectivity from a review or the critic from the critique. You have to simply trust him based on his authority and the quality of his previous work.
I have been in the restaurant industry for almost eight years now and have had the good fortune of dining and working at some of the best rated restaurants in the world. I have also been writing restaurant reviews in India and the USA for three years now. My credibility should speak for itself.

Secret Diner

Good critics do not disclose their identity at the restaurant in any way. Restaurant reviewers for major publications like the New York Times have been known to use false names while making reservations, fake credit cards to settle bills, and on occasion even arrive in disguise to keep their identities hidden. 

Restaurants, on the other hand, work equally hard to distinguish critics so that they can take better care not to mess up anywhere. Chef Eric Ripert makes sure there are pictures of the current top critics in the back area of Le Bernardin restaurant so that the chances of the staff identifying them are greater. Some restaurants even offer a bonus to employees who successfully spot reviewers at a table.

In my case, hardly anyone in the industry knows me or would recognize me, so the restaurant staff will never realize that they’re being reviewed. Even if they do, I don’t have much of a readership and therefore my opinion will not particularly matter to them (yet).

Neutral like Water

Like professionally compiled reviews, my work will also be completely unbiased. They will solely depend on my experience at the destination from start to finish. I will try my best to not be influenced by other reviews or word of mouth, and will not review restaurants that I could be reckoned partial towards, like the one I work at for example. 

A Job Nevertheless

A full-time paid food critic gets to dine at a whole lot of restaurants at someone else’s expense. These may  be incredible or disastrous experiences but more often than not, they are simply ordinary. And believe it or not, a good write up takes hard work. The critic must be constantly observant and critical of every aspect of the dining experience and therefore usually cannot afford to enjoy the meal.

Being a hotel management as well as a culinary arts graduate and having had to learn the nitty-gritties that make up a great dining experience, I cannot help but be critical every time I dine at a restaurant anyway. The only difference when I’m reviewing a restaurant is that I'll write about it later.

Wrapping Up

The polarity of a restaurant review is based on several factors including, but not limited to, food, service, value for money, and ambience. Great service can sometimes make up for mediocre food but excellent food can easily be ruined by terrible service or an uncomfortable ambience. However, in the end, it is about the experience of dining as a whole that lends the final verdict and the answer to the question, "Is it worth your while to go dine there?


  1. Hi,

    Would sincerely appreciate a post on the books/blogs you've read and recommend. Maybe even your top ten places to eat in B'lore.

    It is uncommon to find a professional Chef actually maintain a blog. When do you get the time? It would be great to pick your brain.


  2. @gaayathry: I'll definitely work on those ideas for future posts.

    I happen to love writing almost as much as I love to cook, so I make time. You can pick my brain anytime you want.

  3. man dont reduce this blog

    to a fornication-find like facebook

    keep it Professional

    pick ya brains anytime ?

    is it bheja fry time

    fuck man

    last comment
    cheerio COOK