Baker’s Hours

December 16, 2008

Thoughts on Food Critics

Tomorrow night, I will be joining Melissa Chang, food reviewer for, at Gazen Izakaya. Ever since I was notified earlier this week that I was picked to join the group of tasters, I’ve been giving a lot of thought about food critics in general. In particular, professional food critics for major newspapers, magazines, etc. I believe the problem with critics from major reporting agencies, like the New York Times, is that it is impossible for them to give a fair and accurate review. How fair and accurate their review of any given restaurant, however, is not a reflection on the reviewer’s abilities. What does effect the accuracy of their review is in fact their status as a professional food critic. 

I can tell you, dear reader, from personal experience that food critics do not get the same level of service that you or I would get, and as such would not have the same dining experience that you or I would get were we to dine at the same establishment. The second that the reviewer steps foot into the restaurant, every employee in the restaurant knows about it. The reviewer is immediately given the best table in the restaurant, they are waited upon by the best servers on staff (if not personally serviced by the manager), and often times their food is cooked under the direct supervision of the Executive Chef. Hardly a fair indicator of the kind of service that that restaurant offers to the average customer.

If a critic wanted to truly give an accurate assessment of the service a restaurant provides, then they would have to be completely anonymous. However, the instant they publish their picture next to their first column, all anonymity is thrown out the window.

So, what does this mean for me as I am less than a day away from taking part in an official restaurant review. Yes, I may sound like a cynic, but I am also honest. Since I highly doubt that anyone from Gazen reads my drabble, I am fairly certain that we will not be receiving any sort of special treatment. I promise to give a fair and accurate review of any restaurant that I may critique on my blog, but please don’t hold it against me if the accuracy of my review is skewed by some over zealous restaurant manager.  


Song stuck in my head at the time of this post: The MacGyver Theme



  1. Surprisingly, I have never really gotten special treatment from restaurants I’ve tried for Metromix. In fact, I get slightly blown off by one set of restaurants (who shall not be named), even when I tried to bring them more business by booking a party. It was kind of weird.

    I will confess that when we went to ZenShu, we found out one of the owners is Jen’s COUSIN, and then found ourselves with comped edamame ($4.50). The only place that goes out of their way to accomodate me is Hank’s, but that’s because I’ve eaten more hot dogs than the average person should.

    Oh! And I always ask what high school our servers or chefs grad from. If they grad from McKinley, I tell them I did too, and then I can truly expect special service. It’s not my assignment status; it’s the pedigree of high school that gets me hooked up. LOL.

    Comment by Melissa — December 16, 2008 @ 10:44 pm

  2. Have fun! Remember…no eat your food until Melissa has a chance to take all her pictures. She’ll slap your hand if you pick up your chopsticks.

    I agree that restaurant reviews would be more relevant if critics went undercover, like mystery shoppers. That’s a true test of a restaurant’s service!

    So enjoy your night out with Urban Mix Plate lady and send an occassional tweet between bites, ok?

    Comment by Shawn aka hulamom — December 17, 2008 @ 9:38 am

  3. I’m looking forward to finding out how the review goes. I always thought that restaurant reviewers would be “known” to the restaurant industry, thus spoiled and not getting the “real” experience of the restaurant. Good to know this is generally true.

    Still, I’m always so impressed by reviewers, really good restaurant reviewers. The words they use, the foodful language, I wish I could speak cooking and eating like they do. I’d love to see you blog about the art of speaking food and food reviews. That would be awesome.

    In fact, I’d love to take a class on learning to speak food. 😀

    Comment by Lorelle — December 17, 2008 @ 3:45 pm

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