No more masks, silhouettes, disguises, or hiding behind potted plants. Food critic Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times writes today that he is giving up even the "pretense of anonymity." His photo appears along with his essay, in which he acknowledges that it's been a losing battle for a while now. A photo inevitably slips out here and there, and pretty soon it's like this: "I have become adept at pretending not to notice that a restaurant staff is pretending not to notice me noticing them noticing me." Gold writes about how the age-old tradition of food critics going to extreme lengths to keep a low profile has begun to crack of late, and he's fine with that.
"In a way, the game of peekaboo is harmful both to critics and to the restaurants they write about," he says. "If chefs truly can cook better when they know a critic is in the house, then restaurants without an early warning system are at a permanent disadvantage. A critic who imagines himself invisible may find it easy to be cruel." Besides, most restaurants can't crank up the quality simply because a special guest is in the house. "In general, a kitchen team tends to cook about as well as it cooks." Click for his full column.