One story over the holidays that caught my attention took place a couple days before Christmas in LA.Â Apparently, an owner of the restaurant Red Medicine came up to the noted restaurant critic for the LA Times (S. Irene Virbila) while she was waiting for a table, took her picture, and posted it on the restaurantâ€™s website.Â This would not have been nearly as big a deal if the critic had not been working anonymously for the paper for the past 16 years.Â Â The ownerâ€™s reason for this public outing:
â€œOur purpose for posting this is so that all restaurants can have a picture of her and make a decision as to whether or not they would like to serve her. We find that some her reviews can be unnecessarily cruel and irrationalâ€¦”
Oh, and did I mention that the owner then kicked the critic out of the restaurant, along with her three dining partners?Â Talk about adding insult to injury.Â
When I read this story, I was outraged.Â I realize that a bad review can really hurt a business, especially in an ultra-competitive market like LA.Â That said, itâ€™s not like a critic of this stature just goes in once, orders an appetizer, and then offers up their influential review.Â The method is more like going in at least three different times, sampling a plethora of items on the menu, and then making a ruling on the success of the overall operation.Â Â I think what this owner did was cowardly.Â He is no martyr, but rather a fool who thought it was a better idea to hurt a career over a possibly poor review.Â Weak sauce.
As someone who loves to eat out and also read restaurant reviews, I like knowing that the reviewer received an experience similar to mine, if I had gone.Â But, this only works when the critic is not easily identified.Â If they are, the service could be far better, the chef could make special preparations, and the experience could be different â€“ thus, the review would lose credibility.Â
What do you think, readers?Â Do restaurantÂ reviewers have too much power?Â Should they all be outed?Â Speak your mind.
And to critics like Tom Sietsema from my beloved Washington Post: just remember to keep your head low.