Food for Thinkers: Why We Don't Need Any More Anonymous Critics

Anonymous food critics, come out of hiding! Food is too important an issue for our smartest voices to lurk in the shadows.

Late last year, Los Angeles's food world was upended when the veteran Los Angeles Times critic S. Irene Virbila went out to dinner. After 45 minutes of waiting for a table at a buzzy, busy new restaurant, she was approached by one of the restaurant's young partners, but he was not there to seat her party of four. Instead, he snapped a rather unflattering, red-eyed photo of her, dismissed her from the restaurant, then triumphantly posted the image along with a disapproving rant about her writing on their website. In 16 years of being the Times's critic, Virbila had not once had such a photo taken, yet in a single moment, her anonymity had been snatched out from under her. She had been, as the Times dramatically put it, "unmasked."

When a surreptitious camera phone can plaster someone's photo across a Facebook page before they've handed their keys to the valet, it sounds ridiculous that any critic would attempt to retain their anonymity. Last year, The New York Times critic Sam Sifton was followed by the blog Eater after he mentioned via Twitter he was leaving the office to go purchase KFC's poultry abomination, the Double Down. The photos of him eating it were posted promptly, as was Sifton's "review" where he noted the "geek paparrazzi" hiding in Herald Square's landscaping.

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