dining with food critics

Joined Aug 11, 2000
I had dinner with a local food writer this past week....spur of the moment, I let her select the restaurant since she HAS to eat out at a variety of places and can't go back to the ones she likes....
(amazingly she pick one of my best friend's restaurants...I'm in the kitchen couple times a week)
Anyway she asked a question that I thought I'd throw out to you...
She takes reading material in when she works....the waitress at the last restaurant she ate in chastized her and her date for having reading material.....thoughts?
Also interesting in how thoroughly she reads a menu....I mean with a finetooth comb.
Joined Jul 31, 2000
I'm not sure I understand why she would have reading materials.
I would think they would take away some focus on the reviewing procces. I mean,what do you mean by "reading material" is she reading Cosmo or people magazines while doing a review.

Are they somehow related to her ability to review?or maybe to through off the staff.

I think if your in a starbucks having a cup of joe I would not worry about it,But to review a nice spot I don't get it.

I helped along time ago do a review of lespanisse,(my director of opts is very close to the fodors people)There were six of us and the gentleman who was to write the review had a tiny tape recorder in his breat pocket so he could record all our comments and add his own. We all took parts of the menu to crituque,made verbal notes then exchange menu parts. The entire focus was on the food,the service the room,the table ECT.

I think there are different levels of people who "review" for a living to. I have had reviewers call and let us know that they are coming ??? whats with that...I have always felt that there should be some very strict guidelines for reviewers as far as there study of cuisine/restuarant ops/service standards ETC. One reviewers Boullibase is anothers fishermans stew. Opps.I'm ranting,sorry shroom :)
Joined Aug 11, 2000
She does not want to be obvious about notetaking during dinner....was not "fine dining" but not diner dining....I told her that I take notes in better restaurants...depends on who I'm with.
Chicago Ritz offers to buy mag for singles dining....I thought was very considerate....did not take them up on it, was too busy absorbing the dining room goings on.
I was very aware of our service the other night....young waiter who asked multiple times whether he should remove a dish or fill a coffee cup (6x for me.....became obnoxious). I did not want to call attention to him nor embarrass my friend (the owner) so we continued to send him away empty handed......
She was also going over a review she was writing and said she'd recieved a stale dessert at a restaurant....did not return it because she didn't want to call attention to herself. So, for you opening new places...one month grace period then make sure your staff knows it's better to be "out" than to serve stale.

What is really fun, that I get to do and she never does is have the chefs do a tasting menu....always cool....always really great.
Joined May 26, 2001
In both restaurants Shroom and her writer companion were at, the FOH staff seems to need better training:

Human relations, 1: it is NOT right for a server to "chastize" a guest. Stopping a guest from clearly destructive behavior, or loud and rude (or worse) speech that disturbs the enjoyment of others, yes, that's a server's job. But discipline of the type described, no. Management should not let servers behave in ways that make guests uncomfortable.

Basic service principles: unless the guests indicate otherwise, servers should remove all empty plates at the same time; that is, wait until all plates are empty or all guests at the table have clearly stopped eating, then remove them. There should be no need to ask.

Human relations, 2: servers need to learn how to "read" the guests. If the guest doesn't want the service, it shouldn't take more than 2 attempts (maybe even not more than 1) until the server backs off and waits for the guest to indicate that the service is required. Of course, this means that servers need to be constantly alert and scanning their tables. That's often a major lack.

Because so many servers are not professionally inclined, it's really the job of management to train them properly and thoroughly and then to monitor and correct their behavior. I'm usually more likely to fault management than the waiter. (The problem is that management often doesn't know, either. Sigh.)
As for returning (or not) the stale dessert: had I been in the writer's position, I would have. That way I could see how the staff reacts -- after all, it's not only reviewers who recognize such errors; "normal" guests surely do, too!

Finally, re: note-taking: I do, too, if I want to remember the meal and the place. Once it got me into a very funny misunderstanding that gave me the chance to tell the chef I wanted to work there, so I got a trail! But usually, there's no response. The writer should remember that a lot of people have trouble being conscious of much outside themselves, and that means both that she doesn't necessarily stick out as much as she thinks, and that FOH staff may not even notice.
Joined Mar 4, 2000
That was my first reaction, too:

What kind of idiot waiter thinks he can tell a diner not to bring reading materials into a restaurant. Fine dining or not, that is the diner's option.
Joined Oct 13, 2001
Suzanne you have spoke the truth , what more can be added .
Management is responsible for the hiring and training of staff , be it front or back . Of course thats just my opinion.........:chef:
Joined Aug 11, 2000
It is a huge weakness in St. Louis....on the whole our food can stand up to any, but service is generally not great....I'll be shot at sunrise, though I'm just publically saying what many have said in the past.
This Christmas Eve I'm cooking for an extended private dinner....finding REALLY GOOD STAFF to serve drinks and dinner is HARD!!!! Usual suspects are OK in 90% of my work, but this one I need the 10% at the top.
Joined Sep 21, 2001
I gave up on finding competent staff years ago and moved to a place with lower expectations of restaurants! The "Best place in town"? The RED LOBSTER! I know most of the writers for the local paper and was told the reason why they don't critique or write about restaurants is they like my place, but then they would have to "critique" the rest of town and that they would make everyone angry. Oh well. Small town politics.

I'm used to people drinking the fingerbowl. Its' just when they ask for seconds.......
Joined Nov 18, 2001
I worked in a restaurant that was recently reviewed by The New York Times, on one of thier visits the reviewer and his wife read The Racing Form throughout the entire meal...
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