What Is the Role of the Food Critic?
Welcome to Chow Bella's Bites & Dishes, where Valley chefs and restaurateurs respond to a question New Times food critic Laura Hahnefeld has on her mind. Have a question you'd like to ask? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Writer, analyst, restaurant rater? To the reader, the job of a food critic may consist of several responsibilities.
But what about Valley chefs and restaurateurs? What do they think a food critic should be doing? I stuck my neck out (gulp!) and here's what some of them had to say.
Chef Christopher Nicosia, Sassi
As chefs, we often get caught up "playing for the band rather than the audience." It's necessary for us to push the limits occasionally, but we need to have people who can objectively let us know if we are moving in the right direction and remind us who we are cooking for. Food critics are those people. Unfortunately, everyone who logs onto Yelp automatically thinks they're a food critic. We can take constructive criticism -- we just have to make sure we're listening to the right people.
Farah Khalid Chef and Owner, Curry Corner
A food critic is, at times, judged a lot more harshly than other people in the business. The ultimate goal of a food critic is to find out where the masses are going and make the general public aware of what they are getting for their money. They can help narrow down the options by presenting the best of the best.
Bernie Kantak Chef and Partner, Citizen Public House
Food critics play a vital role in our business. Lots of people have their favorites that they read whenever a new review comes out, and if we do our jobs properly, we have little to worry about. They inform the public of new openings, new menu roll outs, and hits and misses. I read them frequently and they certainly influence where I go, to a certain extent.
Romeo Taus Chef and Owner, Romeo's Cafe
A food critic should provide thoughtful, well-informed, and unbiased information so that the public can make decisions about where to spend their money. A well-developed palate and professional integrity should be part of being a food critic. It's our job as operators to be ready to put up our best regardless of the guest (food critic or not). All guests are food critics and some of them get published.
Aaron May Chef and Restaurateur
I'm reminded of the time Alain Ducasse was given a less-than-stellar review by the New York Times, and he responded with a letter to the editor explaining that he had earned more Michelin stars than anyone else on the planet, was an expert in his field, and how amusing it was to him for a dilettante food writer to pretend to understand the food better than the chef.
Chef Stephen Toevs The Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix
Food critics get the opportunity to eat at brand new restaurants and compare them to the older, more established ones. A good food critic will take into consideration both food and service. In some instances, a food critic can make or break you.
Chef Chris McKinley, Atlas Bistro
The role of the professional food critic is to give balance to all the amateur writers, bloggers, Yelpers, etc. Also, it's a platform where everyone can be judged on an equal playing field.
Chef Don Newman Taps Signature Cuisine & Bar, Mesa
Food critics are a necessary part of our culture. Their role is to deliver an unbiased opinion of your food, presentation, and taste. For the most part, it works, until some of them think they are the only definitive person in their field. No two people's palates are the same, so having more than one critic is great.
Pauline Martinez Chef and owner, Perk Eatery
To make restaurateurs and chefs nervous as hell. In this day and age of technology, a bad review can really hurt you and it spreads like wildfire. A good review can give a start up the boost they need to get rolling. Every critic is different, every person is different, everyone's palate is different, so it must all be taken with a grain of salt. I think the best review is your own -- be adventurous.
Chef Massimo de Francesa Taggia at FireSky Resort & Spa, a Kimpton Hotel
Food critics are well-practiced professional diners. These are individuals who dine out more than anyone. We trust that their experiences are valid and accurate snapshots to share for the public. They are able to create culinary awareness for communities, locally and nationally.
Christopher Costantino Chef and Owner, Costantino's Kitchen
To keep the restaurant on their toes. You never know which guest is going to be the food critic that could potentially make or break your establishment. Good restaurants treat every guest as though they might be a critic. Especially with Yelp and TripAdvisor, anyone is a potential critic.
Chef Ehren Litzenberger BLD, Chandler
Food critics tell it like it is. The general public are not considered food critics.
Eric O'Neill Chef and CEO, SmartKitchen.com
A food critic's role is pretty simple: critique. I love when food critics voice their opinions on what they find right and wrong about something and don't sugarcoat things. I look forward to being critiqued and I really concentrate on the negatives. If I don't hear the bad things, then I can never improve my craft and my business. Without critics, there would be no growth.
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