While preparing to open a vein during the interminable time it took to get through the Miami New Times' Lee Klein's lulling review of Adriana, I switched over to the Miami Herald's Victoria Elliott's rhapsody to Brosia. The one thing the reviews had in common, other than an unbearable ennui, was that both Lee and Victoria seemed petulant over their treatment at the hands of some of the restaurants' staff. Lee has complained bitterly before, about not being acknowledged, and this time it's more of the same. Missy Elliott is even more miffed. “On another visit, the staff kowtowed to a flashy woman claiming to be a restaurant critic while ignoring my husband and me. (Note to restaurateurs: Legitimate critics neither announce themselves nor solicit free meals.)”
This got me thinking, who exactly are the “legitimate critics” she speaks of? There are your major daily types (VPE among them, of course), your alternative weekly types (Kleiny), your alternative, alternative weekly types (moi), and then the lowest class of all, the vermin, the scum of the earth, the Belgians. I mean the bloggers. Although the Belgians rate a close second. Just ask Monty Python....
So who are the 'legitimate critics'? They don't pay for meals (their company does), but they don't solicit free meals. Except when they're invited to try new restaurants' food and wine at various free events, open only to the press, or trade. This results in exactly the opposite of what, I believe, Ms. Elliott is referring to. Bloggers not only announce themselves, they do it with the hope of freebies, and I'm sure that's who the “flashy woman” the staff was “kowtowing to” was. I even think I know who it was. Don't people on blogs, and even in the dailies/weeklies, foam at the mouth about new places where they have eaten for free, as guests of the owners? And how are we to trust these descriptions, when everything is great, wonderful, but if you are in the least critical, you can kiss your free meals and all the status of having restaurateurs kiss your ass, goodbye.
I feel ya, VPE, these flashy morons invoking 'Critic's Privileges' are getting in the way of real discourse; and for all my complaining about the print critics in Miami, the bloggers and their kiss-ass philosophy are just as tiresome. With few exceptions, the food blogging scene in Miami is dreadful. The lack of knowledge about the basics is stunning. And the smarmy desire to please celebuchefs for freebies is meretricious at best, bordering on the obscene. Randomly pick out a few, and you will quickly see who is getting the royal treatment and why. Try to figure out who is simply a Press Release whore, who feels privileged just to be on Brustman/Carrino's email list, and who is really doing the work-paying for their meals, learning about the mountains of shit they never knew existed (because there's a lot of stuff out there, my friends), traveling to the city's different neighborhoods, and never setting foot in pretentious, outrageously over-priced 'Celebrity Chains', because that always leads to despair.
In my mind, there are only two kinds of food writers. Those who have the knowledge, background, understanding, education, experience, and, most importantly, critical judgement; and the ability to communicate all that in one's writing. And then there's the rest. Whether you're getting paid or not, that doesn't define your 'legitimacy'. What defines it is ideas. And that is what is in short supply here in Miami. See you Meche's.