“Is Everyone a Critic?” asks Nick Fox of the New York Times Dining Blog.
Of course, this article caught my interest since it seems I am part of the ever growing shrivel of food and restaurant critics*.
But am I?
In my opinion, I’ve always been one. When I was younger and being taken out to dinner with my family, up turned my nose at something not quite right or if the noise level was too high. Older still, I started noticing the differences between good service and bad. And now, years since I’ve been able to travel and explore places and their innumerable restaurants and culinary offerings with friends, not just holding my parents’ hands, I’ve automatically switched to becoming… a critic. It’s only now that I’ve taken to sharing my views in some cohesive manner with a wider range of people – YOU.
“As with all reviews, objectivity of the review, irrespective of the source, is in the eyes of the reader which on the subject of food is highly subjective to begin with,” opines one of Fox’s readers, a certain AR from Boston.
I couldn’t agree more. Is one person’s opinion the be all and end all of a restaurant’s reputation? Hardly.
Your mood, the chef’s mood, what happened to the server ten minutes ago before he or she decided to withhold their smiles swinging by your table, what you’ve just eaten the previous week, that irritating draught from the door, a particularly heinous piece of art across from you, your personal abhorrence of horizontally sliced beetroots (or insert your favourite oddity here – I just made this up – I love beetroots and don’t discriminate on their slicing techniques), whom you’re dining with… there’s an abundance of factors that could influence a review.
Of course, there’s your occasional 100% bad egg of a restaurant upon which everyone’s opinions collide and happily meld.
I believe professional reviewers should try a restaurant several times (as Sietsema, Platt, or Bruni would) before issuing a well-thought out decree in writing, but sometimes it’s pleasant to just put a pen on paper (or fingers on keyboard, but pen on paper sounds so much better) as soon as you eat somewhere. First impressions aren’t completely devoid of use. Good restaurants should strive for consistent excellence, and in fact, compel you to be in a positive mood and ultimately, write a positive review.
Some of us read reviews to assess expectations of the food, some for ambiance, some for location, some for the pleasure of reading something well-written. So I say, review away, all ye who have time and inclination. Everyone IS a critic.
*Have you ever wondered what the collective noun for critics was? Shrivel, apparently. This site is a positive aggregation of them. Saved me from exercising any creativity there!