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May 8, 2008 09:29 AM

Minimum requirements you want in a food critic?

Not talking about bloggers, but food critics in newspapers.

And specifically, what you WANT a food critic to have (not what an editor necessarily requires).

Besides an ability to write (and perhaps even write well), what minimum things should a food critic bring to the table (pun intended) in your opinion?

Background in restaurants?

Background in cooking?

Background in restaurant management?

Strong local connection to the community?

Not too young?

Not too old?

Certain type of ethnicity (e.g. WASPs shouldn't be reviewing Malay food and maybe vice versa)?


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  1. My minimum requirement is for the person to be chowhoundish.

    1 Reply
    1. re: limster

      Ditto that! I'm not so interested in their background as I am their ability to communicate clearly enough basic information for me to know if a resto might interest me. That is, can I read a review and quickly know where, ambiance (so I know if I need to dress up or not, is it more romantic, more kid-friendly, etc.), price range I can expect to find there, what dishes really shine there (obviously just the critic's opinion but it gives me an idea of whether the place is for me), and anything pertinent that might be helpful to know (there was construction going on next door, what's the parking situation, that sort of thing). A bad review won't necessarily put me off a place but I want less rhapsodizing and editorializing and more information sharing if that makes sense.

      And if it's not a review then good writing will suffice. I don't give a fig where they went to school. If they can write and they love food, I'll probably enjoy reading it.

    2. You'd be surprised how few food critics are actually well written. That's really my only requirement. Each food critic brings their own unique palate, likes and dislikes to the table. As long as they can eloquently, even wittily, convey their experiences, that's all I really want.

      3 Replies
      1. re: gini

        Nero Wolfe isn't exactly a critic, but he's well-written.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          If only he could solve the mystery of the missing asparagus, then we'd be in business.

          1. re: gini

            My goodness! Didn't you know it was eaten by Peter Rabbit? :)

      2. A good appetite, an open mind, an abundant enthusiasm for all kinds of food, and a nose for sniffing out places the rest of us have missed.

        Several orders of magnitude more interest in the food on the plate than in the service, china, flatware, linens, furniture, drapes, or the resumes of the chef, designer, or owner.

        1. One thing I really hate is when critics are part of the restaurant "scene" and fail to give rightful criticism to friends. There's a group of guys in Seattle who own several (bad) restaurants - generally disliked by the Chowhound community which keep getting glowing reviews by the critics who should know better, but are friends with them. It's irritating to no end.

          2 Replies
          1. Not pompous and with broad experience as cook and diner.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

              A few overly idealistic but desirable attributes for the critic of the future, just off the top of my head:

              Enough self-discipline to never, EVER, include the phrase "to die for" in a restaurant review.

              Some travel experience to places where food is not cheap and abundant--to the locals, that is.

              A thick skin, and no friends whatsoever in any aspect of the food business, except maybe home canning.

              The sense and the nerve to step back from it all at least now and then and say, "Hey, who could possibly afford that, and why should they?" Likewise, "Should we really be eating lettuce when it's 20 degrees outside?"

              The ability to read the Chinese on the daily specials board.