Question Of The Week: Is Restaurant Critic Anonymity Really Possible?

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Apparently the week's most stunning revelation had something to do with Houston Press critic Robb Walsh dropping his anonymity.

Now, I've never met him and I don't have much time to check out restaurant stories beyond those written in or about Dallas. But I already knew his face. I just happened to stumble on some pictures after he made a promotional visit to local bookstores.

I think images of all of us exist somewhere. I was at a party--not a restaurant-related party, mind you--before Leslie Brenner arrived in Dallas and overheard one person tell another "we have pictures of her to pass around." Turns out these were PR types.

Likely they were dated images. I stay away from cameras, but there were a few shots published (despite assurances they wouldn't be) from media gatherings in the past.

And therein lies the problem. Most of us had other roles before stepping into the food critic position--ones that did not require anonymity. Some, like Walsh, have the talent and patience to write books. Publishers then want to generate a little buzz with appearances and book jacket photos. And there are cameras everywhere these days.

Fine--I can wear glasses, not wear glasses, dress down or wear that faux-hawk wig I bought in Prague. Someone may still recognize me. Same goes with any other critic.

Long introduction. Sorta got rolling there for a minute.

So--around Dallas we all plan to remain anonymous. Does it matter if old photos exist (and are passed around)? Can those working the restaurant floor spot a critic based on those shots? In other words, is it really possible to remain completely anonymous?

Results from last week, in which we asked if foods were over-regulated by local, state and federal governments...

Keeping in mind the question did not pertain to health inspection, which we all consider of critical importance, the general consensus amongst City of Ate readers was a resounding 'yes.'

Just a couple comments to illustrate.

Bob Dobbsson: Of course the food industry is over-regulated. The idea that you can't buy fresh real whole milk with all the cream and butter fat, unpasteurized is just plain stupid. It's a food mankind has been drinking for thousands of years and look, we still haven't died off.

The government should not be allowed to protect us from every conceivable thing that may kill us. If we were to turn over that authority to Big Brother then we'll just let them feed us prepackaged sterilized nutrient bars that contain exactly the calories and nutrients we need and nothing more. Then getting your 3 squares a day would really mean something.

Graygrrrl: The real problem is the "all or nothing" rule. You can't regulate one thing, but say another (similar thing) is safe. It is unfortunate that a few isolated incidents could ruin the "joy" of oysters for others, or that misconceptions about foie gras lead to an almost ban. Are you really going to miss lard in your french fries everyday? Now, more people can enjoy that product. We need to get off our asses and take back our food. Buy local! Buy organic! Support small business. Know where your food comes from and how it was farmed.

OK--so we all have a tendency to ramble on this site. Doubtful that sterilized nutrient bars will appear anytime soon, given the number of committees with a hand in the approval process...not that I've heard of any approval process. And I do miss lard in my French fries--every day that I order them.

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