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Joanne Kates is leaving the Globe!

  • t

Tomorrow's restaurant will be her last. A new restaurant critic to be announced on Tuesday. http://www.torontolife.com/daily/dail...

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  1. I stopped reading the Globe many years ago, but Kates is one a few writers that I miss. She refused to lower her standards on food, service, and atmosphere, and I was especially sympathetic to her complaints about the cold shoulder she received from 20 something stick figures dressed in black who seemed to think they were doing Kates a favour by seating her. My only consolation is, if Sandra Bullock was right, those 20-somethings will all be eating at Taco Bell a few years from now.

    26 Replies
    1. re: FrankD

      She has to be commended for having the guts to rip popular spots when justified. Remember how certain people on this board got their knickers in a twist when she demolished Sado Sushi? That was a thing of beauty! Even if she was fired, she lasted almost 40 years there; how many people keep the same job that long these days? She must have been doing something right all that time, despite what certain people like to say about her, or she'd have been gone a long time ago.

      1. re: TexSquared

        And Sado Sushi, alas, is no more. Still open under the same name but with new owners.

        1. re: Tatai

          Sado is closed and nobody will ever know if it was because of JK's nonsensical review and its negatve impact on the "sheep", or because Sado wasn't more than a flash in the pan to those who liked it.

          1. re: justsayn

            There is a restaurant in the middle of JK's list of 100 that was a couple weeks away from closing some months after it opened- and closing would not have been surprising given what it was serving. Then it got a vapid but glowing review in one paper and a stupid but glowing review in another a few weeks later. The reviews attracted custom and it became a success. Still going strong.

            JK's review of Sado wasn't silly- it talked about the food - which is a surprise with JK. But she looked at the place and the food through glasses that made her not like anything. And it was transparently damning in a transparently unsuable way (to me anyway). She was entitled to see things this way and she was right for Japanese "traditionalists"- you know, the sort of people who lived near the place, near Bathurst and Eglinton. Who knows what would have happened without the review, or with a good review, but a bad review doesn't help a place.

            I thought that she went out of the way to hoist the posters who criticized her on their own petard. It was Sado's misfortune to become a battleground. (mixed metaphor? what's a petard?) Maybe they deserved to fail anyway , but who gets their just desserts in the restaurant business in Toronto?

            1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

              Am I missing something about Sado Sushi??

              What is this controversial review everyone (but me) seems to know about?

              I went there once 2 years ago. Subpar food. Horrible, cheap atmosphere. Small portions. High prices. Went to Subway for a meatball sub afterwards. Never went back.

              I just assumed it was a nothing neighbourhood joint.

              So what is this Kates review on Sado? Enlighten me!

                1. re: jayt90

                  Thank you jayt90, this is appreciated.

                2. re: magic

                  I didn't get there to try it for myself, but I do believe that in the early stages of a resto, as it was, JK could kill them with a bad review, especially in that area of Toronto. In my opinion, we will never know what would have come of that joint had she never gone in.

                3. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                  Also, who cares about Joanna Kates anyways?! What is all this fuss about her retiring. Hers is one voice, but with a spotlight platform. That's all.

                  Personally, I give published reviews the same attention and consideration as I would a single posting on CH. No more. No less. Actually, probably less.

                  1. re: magic

                    I agree about the value of any one given review/reviewer 100%. But there are many people including some on here who think that anything that comes out of the Globe and Mail is sublime. And, that having a long career at something means pure excellence. So unfortunately there are many sheep who hang on her words.

                    Keep in mind that the majority of people eat out much less often than a CHer and therefore they feel they need to be very careful with their choice/chance for a good meal. So they trust the reviewers for supreme guidance. I had an aunt who followed everything Waxman had to say.

                    1. re: magic

                      +1 Hers was just an opinion...agree or disagree. Only different from CHders in that she was not anonymous.

                    2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                      a petard is a small bomb, basically a grenade, "hoisted on ones own petard" means to be blown up by your own bomb.

                      1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                        A petard is a bomb. Being hoisted on a bomb is literally being blown up in the air.

                  2. re: TexSquared

                    There is nothing commendable about ripping restaurants. Restaurants have off nights. If you don't like it don't write about. Constructive criticism is one thing....ripping is another.

                    1. re: dcArtisan

                      Before writing a negative review, most professional reviewers will revisit a place a week or two later just to cover this possibility. If I recall, Kates went to Sado twice and hated it both times. If it's good one night and bad another they'll say service or quality is "inconsistent" rather than just rip it apart.

                      1. re: TexSquared

                        Agreed. It seems to me the idea of embarrassing a hardworking restaurant owner in a national newspaper is not a commendable activity under any circumstance. Ms. Keates has a one way dialogue but has no checks to balance her own errors. For example the ammonia smelling uni complaint is not at all surprising in Toronto. Ocean fish come in fresh on Tuesday and Thursday to Toronto. If you eat it any other day it has started to oxidize. I know this and do not eat raw fish on the off days. In my opinion food writers are in the fortunate position to add positively to food culture and it is my wish that they do that. :)

                        1. re: TexSquared

                          Critics always go more than once. And I think it's a service to the public to warn about places that may not be worth the expense, rather than just writing about the ones that are. Clearly people on CH want to know, or else no one would post or ask about negative experiences.

                          1. re: piccola

                            While that may generally be true for those who have a column, a magazine that hires numerous reviewers to write their reviews may only compensate the reviewers for one meal at a given restaurant. Unless the reviewer is paying for his/her own second visit (which doesn't happen because then he/she wouldn't earn any money), then the review is, alas, on the basis of only one visit.

                            Kates' budget may have provided for more than one visit - I have no idea how it worked for her.

                            1. re: Full tummy

                              That's why you'll find magazine reviews far less critical. They're generally more "previews" than actual reviews. Also because their lead times are huge and a lot can change before they go to print.

                              In any case, newspapers traditionally insist on at least two visits, and if I recall correctly, Kates herself has alluded to that several times in her columns.

                              1. re: piccola

                                Unfortunately, most of us don't know how these things work, unless we are in the business, or have a connection. Publications should disclose this sort of information, in my opinion.

                                1. re: Full tummy

                                  Many reviews mention more than one visit, describing a dinner and a lunch meal. They can't lay out their entire process in each story because that would take too much space and get really repetitive. I guess they could make a note online, but there would never be room in the paper.

                                2. re: piccola

                                  I recall Toronto Life requiring at least two visits before a review can be written about a restaurant. Amy Pataki of the Star usually describes at least 2 different visits in her reviews (bringing different guests, and ordering different items), to highlight this.

                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                    I personally know three people who wrote reviews for Toronto Life, and they definitely visited once on behalf of the magazine and were compensated for one meal (for two people).

                                    1. re: Full tummy

                                      Yeah, I've heard the same. But you'll notice Toronto Life is less critical -- they do more profile-ish pieces than full-on reviews. I've yet to see them really take a restaurant to task for anything.

                                      1. re: piccola

                                        Well, they do give stars, which seems pretty review-ish to me. The reviews are short, so they may not be as detailed as a column devoted to one restaurant. And, the people who write for them do consider themselves to be reviewing their meal. As long as I have known anything about the magazine, it has generally been their approach to only write up what they can at least recommend, even if they identify issues. Which differs from other publications.

                                        1. re: Full tummy

                                          I did restaurant reviews for Toronto Life about 25 years ago. These were all re-reviews of standing restaurants, no new places. I took my wife, we went once to each place, we got our bill (two meals, two drinks total, tax and 15% tip) paid by Toronto Life. I wrote it up, it got fact-checked, they made some changes without consulting me (that was Ok since my name was not attached to the review). I suggested the stars used, they either accepted or rejected it. Tight control all round.

                    2. I predict Chris Nuttall Smith will get the position.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: haggisdragon

                        Gosh Haggisdragon- you were right ! Nuttal-Smith is taking over G&M restaurant column


                        1. re: haggisdragon

                          Good job on the predicition! I'm not surprise, but a bit disappointed G&M went with the tired and true rather than a fresher voice.
                          Kates and Nuttal-Smith fill a similar function to the same audience.

                        2. I for one will miss her as she was a nearly infallible guide - if she raved about it, it was a must avoid. She was the George Costanza of restaurant critics, if you know what I mean - what ever she says, do the opposite.

                          I exaggerate only slightly. But her views were obviously colored by many preconceived biases. The most notable was that if it was a Mom & Pop operation, she loved it. If it had more than one branch, she hated it.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: evansl

                            So you're saying that every one of her Top 100 are avoids? Take a look...


                            1. re: TexSquared

                              The list
                              There are only so many "nice" places to choose from.
                              If you throw enough shit on the wall, some of it has to stick.
                              How would the list look from random selection, say like bingo numbers?

                          2. Think she's one of many scheduled to walk the plank on the good ship G&M-- probably close to the front of the line, too. Just not enough allure to tempt readers through the impending pay wall. It's not age but outlook that did her.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: Kagemusha

                              You didn't necessarily have to agree with her restaurant assessments to enjoy Kates' reviews. She knows food, she knows what to look for, she has good insights and instincts - and, most important, she writes well (and entertainingly). My kind of food writer.

                              1. re: juno

                                Yeah, right. Like the infamous Ruby Chinese Restaurant review that ran the morning the health dept. locked it down. Never understood her long-standing aversion to the 905--like she needed a visa and updated shots to visit? Adventuresome she wasn't.

                                Just too many other sources for reviews now. Obviously, her audience--like her influence--shrank.

                                Writing? Try some vintage Craig Claiborne:


                                1. re: Kagemusha

                                  Yeah, I agree - I found her generally out of touch, usually snobby, and her palate or food-bias really schizophrenic and unreliable. I find many posters on Chow to be much more reliable guides.

                                2. re: juno

                                  I agree, juno. Reading her column and restaurant review books sparked my interest in Toronto restaurants. I don't always agree with her, but I think she's a good writer. While she isn't Craig Claiborne, she was never writing for the NY Times, so I wouldn't expect anything along the lines of Claiborne.

                              2. To more or less quote myself from my posts in the midst of the CH Sado Sushi -plagiarism discussion.

                                In my opinion Joanne Kates can't write, can't think for herself and to say that all her taste is in her mouth is to compliment...........

                                If I had written some of the things that she had, ( eg. Eek! The restaurant gives portions too large; There are no good wines from Provence and the cooking is no good because butter isn't used; Why would any one want to live in Mississauga?) I would not only wear a hat to cover my face, I would get a sex change operation.

                                Furthermore, getting her ass kissed seemed to become more important than the food as the years went on.

                                JK's biggest fault is that she failed as a leader and educator. She set false standards and failed to promote many place that deserved publicity and success.

                                I thought that JK's review of Sado Sushi was directed to the CH posters criticizing her and I would have wanted to go and come to my own opinion. Compare JK's writing style in that review to her style elsewhere.


                                10 Replies
                                1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                  "In my opinion Joanne Kates can't write, can't think for herself and to say that all her taste is in her mouth is to compliment..........."

                                  ...and yet she lasted at the Globe and Mail for 38 years? If she wrote for NOW or the Toronto Sun then you might have a point.

                                  1. re: TexSquared

                                    I never said that life is fair, or that the restaurant business is fair, or that Toronto is a great restaurant town, or that the Globe & Mail is a good newspaper.

                                    1. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                      Let me put it this way. If your opinion on her was right Kates would not have been hired by the G&M in the first place, let alone keep her job with them for 38 years. In addition, if her opinion of Sado Sushi was wrong they'd still be in business.

                                      1. re: TexSquared

                                        38 years ago, newspapers assigned the worst people to cover things like restaurants and movies because it wasn't real news. It's only in the last 10-15 years when newspapers starting becoming desperate to hold on to readership and switched to the entertainment business that being a restaurant or movie critic began to carry much cache. If I recall Roger Ebert got his original job as movie critic at the Sun Times because no one else wanted to do it.

                                      2. re: Vinnie Vidimangi

                                        Kates actually studied cooking in Paris, unlike any other Toronto reviewer, and, I daresay, you. She knows her chops, so to speak, and I give her far more credence than I do Sara Waxman or Gina Mallet or anyone else writing in Toronto today.

                                        Since I'm on the north side of 50 myself, when I go out to eat, I want a good meal, no attitude from the staff, and an atmosphere where I can actually converse with my dining companion without shouting. I don't have the income to visit every place she reviewed, but I found when she liked a place, I did too. In the end, that's what I value a reviewer for - how close his/her tastes match mine.

                                        You seem to have based all your venom on a single review. If that's an appropriate technique, why not base your opinion of CH on how they treated, for example, Chicago Pizza Kitchen in Vaughan?

                                        1. re: FrankD

                                          I don't recall - did she do the 15 -day course at Cordon Bleu or the 30-day one?

                                          Actually I always read her reviews - still consider her the most trustworthy reviewer of the 'recognised' reviewers.

                                          1. re: estufarian

                                            oooooh burn.

                                            this thread is hilarious.

                                            The only thing I have to say about tthis is.......What will Amy Pataki do now? Her reviews are always the exact opposite of Kates.

                                            1. re: estufarian

                                              You beat me to it. Who do these food writers think they are? They don't show us their credentials because we might laugh! In Ms Keates case it is Cordon Bleu (cooking school for rich housewives), a few trips to Paris and her summer camp kitchens.
                                              Sadly, she has the best qualifications of all Toronto food writers!

                                            2. re: FrankD

                                              I can give you plenty of other examples of horrible reviews. My favorite is the time she went on and on about some mom and pop operation that basically sold salami and bologne sandwhichs for $10 - and this was 10 yers ago.

                                              1. re: FrankD

                                                I;d take Sara Waxman over Kates by a mile. Not that Sara Waxman is all that great either.

                                        2. I loved reading her reviews and thought she was a pretty good reviewer. Sure, many of the reviews on here have helped me a lot with choosing restaurants and have been spot on many times and maybe she was off sometimes. But, you have to remember that the advice you get on here is a compendium of tens and sometimes hundreds of people who experience a restaurant and as a newspaper restaurant reviewer she usually was only able to visit a restaurant once or twice before writing a review. That has in it some inherent deficiencies in terms of process.

                                          She didn't last as a reviewer for 38 years for nothing. I thought she had a good wit, was a good writer and found her reviews enjoyable. I wish her luck in her future.

                                          1. I loved her reviews! They were entertaining and insightful. I always take reviews with a grain of salt and check other sources before choosing a restaurant, but it really seemed like she gave the straight goods and her writing was highly entertaining. There seems to be less and less of the columnists at the G&M that I enjoy. I think the G&M and I are going to have to break up unless the next reviewer can charm me.

                                            1. Yes, I agree with the negative reviews of JK, and had long ago excluded her opinions from my portfolio of useful places to research "where to eat".
                                              I found her to be a bit of a dinosaur, often unpleasantly (and irrationally) snobby, and typically focusing on some odd little issue, rather than the quality of the food, etc. Reminded me of the occasional annoying chow or yelp posters that trash a place because of the attire of the servers, or a slowly-filled water glass, or not wanting to split a table of 10 into separate bills, or being asked that their bratty kids not be permitted to run between the tables, etc.
                                              Plus her food-bias and/or palate was also really schizophrenic and unreliable - often extolling a virtue of one place (like the courage to take a risk on a dish that failed or the simplicity of homey, comfort-food, for example) and then trashing another place doing precisely the same thing (as not following tradition, or too simple, unrefined and lacking innovation, etc)
                                              In the end, like many film reviewers, I found her reviews to be written from an egotistical place, designed largely to impress peers and/or provoke response, rather than honest, useful guides as to where to eat.
                                              I truly do find many posters on Chow to be much more reliable guides.

                                              1. I knew JK in an entirely different capacity - not as a restaurant reviewer, but as a summer camp colleague (and no, I didn't work at her camp but at a couple of rival ones!). I always found her to be very generous with her time and knowledge, superlatively caring of her campers and staff, and a witty, engaging speaker at camp conferences. I never found her snobby, but she certainly had high standards. Not a bad thing, when you're entrusting your children to her care.

                                                It was only after several years that I became aware of her G&M "sideline". I enjoyed her columns and never felt that I had to agree with them... but appreciated that someone with a fairly well-versed palate had tried out a restaurant before I did, and shared her experiences of it in (what I found to be) an amusing fashion.

                                                Thanks for many years of pleasurable reading, Joanne!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: BlueGoo

                                                  Sure Goo, pleasant reading I suppose, and ideal for a few moments of literary distraction, but for me entirely useless as a predictor of my future enjoyment of a restaurant, which was the goal in reading a restaurant review in the first place.

                                                  I've read some snappy, clever movie reviews as well, but I'd prefer less clever turning of phrases and more useful advice about the quality and entertainment or educational value of the film and it's plot, acting, directing, message, etc.

                                                  Passable bathroom reading, perhaps, but food guide and restaurant reviews, not so much.
                                                  Just one guy's opinion :-)

                                                2. She is talking on Newstalk 1010 right now. John Tory's show, kind of interesting to hear about her experiences.

                                                  1. and Nuttal-Smith's first review...


                                                    i liked it (maybe i'm a little biased being british and he's praising a british resto, lol)

                                                    2 Replies
                                                      1. re: downtownfoodie

                                                        What I found insulting about the review were his references to British food and Brits - some horrid reference to bad teeth among other things. For a food writer not to know about the food scene happening globally is pathetic. Hello, Fat Duck? Strange though, I took a quick look at the review online and it seems to be missing the horrendous tidbits in the paper copy.
                                                        BTW, had a nice tasting menu at the Grove, $65 for 5 courses with a decent booze pairing; agree about the cocktails - skip them, expensive and blah.