January 14, 2016
Given all the recent noise about a restaurant review (and you know which one I’m talking about), I thought I’d post this little bit from Garlic and Sapphires.
To put it in context, this conversation takes place in the office of the Editor of The New York Times, Max Frankel in the spring of 1993. At the time I was the restaurant critic of The Los Angeles Times, and Max and his deputy, Joe Lelyveld had invited me into their office. The current critic was leaving the job and Max had just asked what I thought of their restaurant section. In an act of madness I told the editors of the most powerful paper in the world that they were doing things wrong.
“Your reviews,” I said, “are very useful guides for the people who actually eat in the restaurants you review. But how many of your readers will go to Lutece this year? A thousand? That leave out more than a million readers. And at a time when people are more interested in food and restaurants than they have ever been in the history of this country, that’s a shame. You shouldn’t be writing reviews for the people who dine in fancy restaurants, but for all the people who wish they could.”
I remember Joe looking at Max over my head and saying, “This is interesting. And you know, we’ve heard this argument before. Only it was about books. What she’s really saying is that we’ve been selling restaurants, and that isn’t our business. We should be selling newspapers.”
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