In honour of his Where to Eat in 2014 list, longtime New York Magazine restaurant critic Adam Platt has revealed his biggest secret — his face.
New York Magazine tweeted out a picture of its latest cover featuring a headshot of the critic, which was accompanied by an essay written by Platt himself on the decision to stop the “time-honored kabuki dance that takes place between chefs and restaurateurs and the people who job it is to cover them.”
But the big reveal of Platt’s appearance — which he describes as “a tall, top-heavy, round-faced gentleman” — was not a surprise to almost every chef and foodie in NYC. Andrew Zimmerman even tweeted, “Big Reveal…for the 3 People in NYC who don’t know what he looks like.”
Thanks to social media and Google image searches, the appearances of “anonymous” restaurant critics have been an open secret for years. Despite disguises or stand-ins, critics like Platt and Pete Wells at The New York Times are easy to spot by the experienced restaurateur. As Platt explains:
Do they know who you are? (Of course they do.) So why do you register under an assumed name? (Because chefs would otherwise prepare for my arrival.) Will they come up and say hello? (Probably not.) Why not? (Because they’re pretending I’m not here.) Why are they doing that? (Because they want to pretend I’m having a “normal” dining experience.)
If someone had the ability to destroy your livelihood on a single bad review, you better believe you would go to extremes to find out what they looked like, too.
The real takeaway from Platt’s essay is that traditional restaurant criticism is at a turning point. London critics have been publishing their pictures next to reviews for years, and GQ’s Alan Richman told Eater NY in 2010, “Everyone is unanonymous these days.” Perhaps it’s time to stop the charade.
Platt argues that the shift away from anonymity could help critics better evaluate a restaurant’s consistency: “The quality and enjoyment of your dinner can vary dramatically depending on where you sit, what time of day you eat, how long the restaurant has been open, and what you happened to order,” Platt says. “If a critic’s employer allows for enough paid visits to a particular restaurant, even the most elaborately simpering treatment won’t change his or her point of view.”
However, Platt insists that he will continue to use pseudonyms since “the art of surprise has always been the critic’s most useful tool,” and to book reservations at odd hours.
New York City restaurants, you’ve been warned. Read the entire worthwhile essay over at New York Magazine.
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