I’m writing this a couple of days after the editorial meeting in which the folks responsible for writing about food and drink at New Orleans Magazine decided the restaurants to be honored in the December “Best of Dining” issue. For reasons I can’t explain, I am one of those people. I can’t tell you any of the things we discussed or the decisions we reached, but I’ll be damned if I can’t mention it in a context in which it seems like I’m being self-deprecating but in reality I’m letting you know I have a small but important role in things of this nature.
Attending that meeting brought to mind the problems with any “best of” or “top 10” list where restaurants are concerned, and it also reminded me of an issue that comes up now and again when I talk to people about food: Where is the New Orleans restaurant critic?
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’m not a critic. I write, mostly, about meals I’ve enjoyed. I’ve always said that’s at least in part because if I have a bad meal somewhere I’m not going to return, and it’s not fair to write negatively about a place you’ve only visited once. That’s true, but it’s also true that New Orleans is a very small town.
I have never had a meal I could not criticize. It is a lot easier to be critical and amusing about a meal than it is to find a way to describe why what you’ve eaten tasted good. As an example, I offer this drivel from a famous food writer and asshole named Jay Raynor.
Here’s an example of his prose:
If Beast were a chap, he would be a part-time rugby player smelling of Ralgex who’s trying to tell you he’s deep and thoughtful, even though he’ll later be implicated in an incident involving a traffic cone and a pint glass of his own urine.
That’s from Raynor’s review of a steakhouse he didn’t really like. When’s the last time you’ve seen anything of that nature about a restaurant in New Orleans written by a writer based in New Orleans?
Raynor can get away with writing that sort of thing because he will never return to that restaurant, nor will he ever see the owner or chef on the street. Again I’m not aiming to be a critic, so this doesn’t really apply to me, but to the extent you are wondering why we don’t have our very own Jay Raynor, that’s one explanation.
Not everything Raynor writes is negative, but that’s his schtick, so it’s hard to judge how his criticism of good restaurants holds up? If you’ve got some thoughts, by all means levave them in the comments.