Alison Arnett has left her job as the Boston Globe's restaurant critic after an incredible fifteen year run and over 700 reviews tucked under her belt. Her farewell post on the trial tribulations of a restaurant critic is a fantastic read, but here's my favorite part of it, what she says is a critic's job requirement:
A thick skin. Early in my reviewing career (I had a respectable editing job at the Globe before this), I overheard a woman at the table next to ours discussing me. "You know, she's a vegetarian. Isn't that awful? How can she write about meat when she doesn't even eat it? That's so dishonest." Of course, I wanted to jump up and throttle her. After all, there I was about to dip into my juicy entree of beef. I soon learned that the job combines celebrity with anonymity -- everyone knows you and no one knows you. Over the years, I've had many doppelgangers, some of whom reportedly dined well by pretending to be me. I've heard myself described as tall, black-haired, and heavyset (I'm none of those); I've been told by chefs in phone conversations that they've met me at a recent benefit (I never attend any); and I have been chided for liking only expensive restaurants, large portions, noisy rooms (false!).
I really love the idea of doppelgangers in the restaurant world, dining on the reputation of someone meant to be semi-anonymous—I'm pretty sure there's a novel waiting to be written in there somewhere, something like the first half of Chuck Palahniuk's Choke.
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