FAQs of a Restaurant Reviewer

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People are intrigued when they hear I write about restaurants—far more than they are about my day job. And they all tend to ask the same questions:

1. Does the restaurant know you're coming?

No. That would defeat the purpose. The idea is to get the same experience that you, the reader, are likely to get, no special treatment. I don't use my name for the reservation. I pay cash, or use my companion's credit card. I remind my co-diners not to talk about the fact that I'm reviewing in front of the server.

You'll remember how careful Ruth Reichl, former critic for the New York Times, was not be spotted—she used to wear wigs and all sorts of disguises. She tells how the famous and snooty Le Cirque actually took a menu away from her to give to a male diner, when she was incognito, and fell all over themselves to be sweet another evening, when she'd phoned them in advance.

Metro area bistros don't have pictures of me posted like New York restaurants did of Reichl, but I'm still careful.

2. Do you get paid?

Yes. Writing is work.

More FAQs later...

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