When people hear that I am a food critic, their eyes open wide. “I bet you go to some pretty nice restaurants,” they stammer. I nod in agreement. “Tell me about your favorite food.” I get this request incessantly. I go into my usually patter about gourmet food, home cooking, exotic delicacies, and trends. They seem interested so I go on and on. I like talking about it. I never get tired of the subject.
I also get the question, “how do you become a food critic? Is there special training?” Do they think I went to culinary school? Of course not. You must have a passion for it and be willing to learn. You have to try a lot of dishes to know what is creative and original and what is old hat. You have to spend the time for years and years. If you are a chef, so much the better, but this is a different hat to wear. A chef likes to not only make fine fare but to create new recipes. He or she discovers new ingredients and combines them in unique ways. Then the critic steps in to judge it.
A food critic must have a trained palate and sensitive taste. It is essential to detect the components of a dish. He or she must read about foreign food and travel to taste it in its own environment. This is the only way to recognize new spices and techniques when you encounter them at home. You also travel far and wide in your own country to determine the best regional dishes that reflect long-standing traditions. Many smaller restaurants specialize in grandma’s recipes and they are irreplaceable.
This is the life of a critic in a nutshell. I have been practicing the trade for some time. I have worked for different news outlets and enjoy opportunities that arise. For example, recently, a new online food magazine offered me a column. I love being courted. They gave me the best business backpack I’ve ever seen, filled with swag appropriate to the industry including travel utensils, a cook book, a package of napkins, and some coupons. The backpack was very cool and clearly displayed the site’s logo. It was a clever way to recruit and it may work. I will check out the quality of the posts and see if this is a place I want to be. I will find out about the typical readers and if there is a question and answer exchange. I like to communicate with my followers.
The site seems to check out and I expect it to be successful. The demographics are just right and include men and women of various ages and occupations. The site will feature a job market which I think it is a great idea. It will specialize in the food, beverage, and hospitality industry. If someone wants to be a freelance critic like me, I can write more about it. Otherwise I will talk about my favorite spots and highlight the best dishes.