Story pick: Guess who's coming to dinner
Restaurant critic goes out to eat. Restaurateur recognizes critic. Restaurateur doesn't care for critic's criticism; takes photo of critic, declines to seat critic, posts critic's photo online in an effort to out critic.
That's the quick and dirty summary of what transpired last week when S. Irene Virbila of the Los Angeles Times went to a new Beverly Hills restaurant, Red Medicine. She wasn't served, but she was photographed -- and within hours, her picture was all over the Internet, thanks to Red Medicine's owners. "Virbila's anonymity, which she'd guarded through 16 years as this newspaper's restaurant critic, was a memory," the Times reported in a piece headlined, "Food critic outed and ousted."
There was plenty of ensuing debate over what Red Medicine's owners did (they explained that they'd merely wanted other restaurateurs to be able to recognize Virbila so that they could decide for themselves whether they wanted her reviewing their offerings). But a side debate also emerged, centering on the question of whether a critic's anonymity matters at all.
Reading comments in the Times and elsewhere, I couldn't help but think of Ruth Reichl's famous review of Le Cirque, published in 1993, shortly after she landed at The New York Times. It's actually two reviews, reflecting Reichl's distinctly different dining experiences at Le Cirque -- before and after she was identified by the owner Sirio Maccioni, who knows from bifurcating clientele. It's a truly delicious read.
Posted by: chinaman1 | December 27, 2010 10:57 AM | Report abuse