I am so excited today because this evening I will be joining my friend’s writing group at a local restaurant where I will offer a lesson in restaurant reviewing. I am honored, of course, that I have reached a level of professionalism that warrants invitations to lead writing groups but most energized by the act of sharing my love of writing about food with other people. The plan is to go to a restaurant and enjoy a meal while I describe some of the points of restaurant reviewing and food critiquing. Then they will go off somewhere else and write up their impressions. If they choose to email them to me I will post their reviews on this blog.
Taking on this little project reminded me of Anton Ego’s speech from the charming animated foodie film, Ratatouille. Ego has just eaten the meal of his life and discovered that the chef, who he insists on meeting in person, is a rat. An actual rodent rather than simply a bad person. I actually tear up when I read this or hear it in the film it hits so close to my critical little heart. It just viscerally sums up the role of the critic the oxymoronic importance and senselessness of the job. So in the spirit of initiating some new food critics into the fold, I offer Ego’s beautiful words:
In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize that only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France. I will be returning to Gusteau’s soon, hungry for more.