Food Critic Anonymity: Not Dead Yet
There's a bit of a kerfuffle -- that's French for "shitstorm" -- about Pete Wells' latest restaurant review for The New York Times. Wells weighs in on Daniel, chef Daniel Boulud's fine-dining French outfit in Manhattan that's enjoyed a lengthy four-star run in the paper. While dining there, he enlisted the help of a friend who sat at a different table. They both ordered the same tasting menu and compared notes after dinner.
The food, it turned out, was exactly the same. But there was one difference: Wells was recognized by staff as the Times critic; the other dude wasn't. Wells' service was significantly different. Combined with some other food snafus, that service helped knock down Daniel to three stars.
See also: - Slow Bone's Bravado
Now the review is being used to revive a never-quite-dead discussion about food critics and anonymity, which I am now using as a hook to point to this week's review of Slow Bone. (Sly, eh?)
Despite Eater posting two small pictures of me after I arrived in Dallas, I've done my best to eat anonymously here whenever possible. I'm not so naive to claim that I'm never been identified, but l dine anonymously most of the time. My recent review of Five Sixty was certainly conducted anonymously. Or, if the staff knew I was dining there, they should be ashamed.
And that's the point: We all share the hope that restaurants will treat everyone the same.
I was busted at Slow Bone, on the other hand. Every. Single. Meal. Jack Perkins and I have bumped into each other a few times at Maple and Motor, which is right up the street from Observer HQ. He can definitely pick me out of a crowd.
At Slow Bone, he worked the counter, which is right next to the front door, three of my four visits. The first time I bailed and grabbed a burger at Off-Site Kitchen, which is just about the best back-up meal in town. The second time I gave up. I couldn't get around him.
The one time Perkins wasn't working the counter, the register had a hiccup and my credit card was declined. Then another card was declined, and then a third. "I'm going to grab the manager," the cashier said as I desperately mined my pockets for sufficient cash.
Oh. Hi Jack.
Thankfully Slow Bone is one of those places where the food is cooked long before you arrive, and Perkins doesn't seem likely to confer special treatment on anyone. The only thing his employees could do was ladle a little more of this and that on my tray as I moved down the line.
Here's hoping your portions are as generous as mine were.
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