All I have is my reputation, a sense of authenticity and honesty. And all I want is my reader to find and share in the magic of a great meal. Our tastes might be far from similar, but I promise you my consistency and integrity. One that shuns special attention and faux sincerity and any other bell or whistle that isn’t backed up by food, at the very least, made with care.
I don’t hide what I’m studying when asked, but I do cringe at the thought of labeling myself a “critic” or representing myself as anything other than a man who enjoys eating. The sad truth is that even at–perhaps especially at–the very highest level of dining there exists a privileged class of diners. Be they privileged by wealth, fame, or by virtue of regular visits and friendship, they WILL eat better than you and me. Decades ago it was much more obvious, and in some cases it still is.
Pete Wells has admirably held restaurants at NYC’s highest end accountable for these double standards, which doesn’t just extend to “extras” but the care of preparation and tone of service. Less reputable “critics” betray their readers in exchange for status. I treasure the relationships I have built at restaurants but am indebted to the trust of my readers. When many fine dining meals break $200 or even $300 per person, criticism should appraise the investment as impartially as possible. I think that anonymity is a personal choice but believe a critic ceases to serve their public when they review a rarified experience few readers will be able to replicate.
It may sound trite, but the most consistent (and unavoidable) special treatment I receive comes from mere eye contact, gratitude, and sincerity. Every time my water is filled, utensils are set, or a plate is taken. If you do that and express enjoyment and pleasure (when due), I trust your experiences at these same restaurants will accurately reflect my own. If this ever changes, and I do believe my meal benefitted from some additional factor, it will be noted in my review (and I will look to parse the effect it had on the food or service). I also (sadly) make all of my own reservations and as a rule shun the parasitic PR wheeling and dealing that grants early access to the hottest new this or that.
In this ethically and intellectually bankrupt era of food journalism, I present simple, candid thoughts on my meals. Thoughts rooted, above all, in a love for the warmth of the dinner table and those I’m lucky to share it with. I hope through my reviews we can both better understand food and share in many more great experiences ahead.