The End of Anonymity

Should a food critic always be undercover? Is it important—or even possible—anymore?

Comments

1
This was lovely Bethany!
2
Bethany there is a distinct difference between being anonymous and being aloof ...I’ll admit in Seattle being anonymous is impossible but being aloof is not. As a critic you must make a distinct choice between being an insider or being a very informed enjoyer .. what I mean by this is that a critic must have little or no emotional attachment to the people whose creations they must critique. We readers must be able to trust that we are reading detached almost emotionless observations and criticism.
I’ll admit I often feel like food reviews in Seattle are written by a club member talking about their own club ... and while I know it must be hard to be tough, it is an integral part of the job. I don’t think a restaurant critic has any business chumming around with chefs or restauranteurs .. I know its a difficult separation to make. That said I don’t think a critic has any business touring the raw Corson space w/ Matt Dillon or paling around with chefs after hours .. if one wants to do this then they should be writing about food culture and happenings and let someone else be the critic.
3
Food writing's too easy. Every grad student looking for something to think about other than Voltaire's excruciating humanity; every mom trying to distract herself from the mind-numbing cheerfulness of child care by aiming her her cellphone camera at the stove; every lawyer, artist and retiree: everyone's a critic. You could virtually and literally eat dinner reading blogs and scrolling through Facebook.

It's our own fault. We've made restaurant cooks into chefs and chefs into heroes. We acknowledge our own imperfections, and now, like the Roman rabble, we expect a verdict. We look to the arena's Tribune for a sign...spared or Chopped?

All politics is local, all food writing is personal. If your taste is all in your mouth, you're probably better off keeping your opinions to yourself. But for those whose palate has a bit of range and depth, if you're worth listening to, then, sure, go ahead and write it up.
4
This was a delight to read. Thought-provoking; it's true that anonymity and writing about eating seem a little precious these days. I'll still read restaurant reviews; I love to eat, and I'm too lazy to write about it. And a beautiful tribute to Christina Choi. Well done.
5
This was an absolutely wonderful piece, so much so that as soon as I post this I'm going to look for directions on how to nominate pieces for Perseus's annual best food writing collection. Thank you, Bethany.

And Cornichon: Food writing might be easy, but good food writing is not. It's the rare writer who can vividly evoke the experience of being at a restaurant, or weave stories into the dishes, or transform the art of the meal into a different less tangible act of creativity. Everyone's a critic, but not everyone is a writer, and it's the latter who make food writing what it should be.