Food Critics Are Not What They Used to Be

Winds Cafe Restaurant Yellow Springs OhioThe Dayton Daily News, a typical mid-sized city newspaper, used to have a pretty good food critic — Ann Heller.  Then she retired. And, like so many businesses looking for ways to cut their budget, they replaced her with a warm body and quality has suffered as a result.

Ann would describe the food such that we could taste it, smell it, and visualize it; she would give details about the restaurant’s atmosphere so we could experience it — all vicariously through her written words.  The incidentals, such as parking, were noted, but appropriately given second fiddle.

Not so with her lack-luster replacement.  He has engineered his weekly reviews into a boring, useless set of predictable words.  He matter-of-factly takes us linearly through his experience starting with his review of the parking.  It is always ample (but living in the Mid-West, parking is always ample — we don’t have this problem here). 

Every week he uses the word “tasty” or he may say the dish is “fine”. This reminds me of my sister-in-law who was offended when she asked her husband, my brother, how she looked in her new outfit, and he replied “fine”. He didn’t know what the big deal was, so to prove her point, she asked me to rate which was better “fine” or “nice” — the answer being “nice”.  “Fine” merely meeting the lowest of standards.  It is not descriptive enough to give helpful information.

Food is meant to be an experience and a food review should reflect the first impression of one’s experience from an emotional perspective first, then expand to more descriptive phrases to support the restaurant’s ability to deliver on those expectations. 

For example there is a wonderful one-of-a-kind restaurant called The Winds, in a truly unique Bohemian town called Yellow Springs, Ohio.  From the moment you walk into the cloistered courtyard that greets you with fresh flowers and bohemian colors, you know you are in for a night of culinary delight that you will long remember…

Comments

  1. CoCo,
    You are so right on.
    As the public’s interest in food peaks because of food TV and accessibility to chefs, newspapers slash their budgets as far as palate educated restaurant reviewers.
    I was a former restaurant reviewer but now I mostly announce new restaurants, food events, and dining trends.
    An educated restaurant reviewer has studied food preparation, probably but not always is a marvelous cook, and instead of describing a dish as fine knows how it’s supposed to taste and can embark on its history, presentation, aroma, and taste.

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