Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Not everyone is a critic

Perhaps the title of this post should be "Not everyone is a GOOD food critic." I was reading a piece about French food critic François Simon in the New York Times, and was stopped by  Jean-Claude Ribaut's quote:

Mr. Simon also showers criticism on other French food critics, faulting them for identifying themselves in restaurants, cozying up to chefs and taking free meals and gifts. “It is much easier to turn into a courtesan, to be inside rather than outside the house of the chefs,” he said.

But other critics call his aloof approach sterile. “I want to get to know the chef, to understand what he feels, his frame of reference, his roots,” said Jean-Claude Ribaut, the longtime food critic at Le Monde. (Mr. Ribaut pays for his restaurant meals.) “I want to know if he grew up on a farm, if his father grew vegetables. If you go anonymously, you can’t ever have this kind of dialogue.”

Ribaut is simply wrong (although he does right by paying for his meals). The proper way to review a restaurant is to go incognito, so that you are treated like any other diner who walks through the door. Then, afterwards, you call the chef to discuss his or her background, anything that was amiss in the food or your dining experience, questions on techniques and ingredients, etc.

To read the full story on Simon, click here.

Photograph: Disney/Pixar

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