Adam Platt, the longtime restaurant critic of New York magazine, has abandoned his anonymity in a cover story about the very topic. The magazine's cover features a big photo of Platt, looking a little grumpy:
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) December 30, 2013
Platt explains that his supposed anonymity eventually became a "dated charade" and that the gig's up -- and has been for some time.
"Mostly, though, anonymity has been a powerful marketing tool. It’s lent a sense of impartiality and Oz-like mystery to the dark art of restaurant criticism, and if members of the clubby fine-dining world didn’t always believe it, then at least the public sometimes did," Platt writes.
Platt argues that he's basically just confirming the inevitable. And he's already in good company. If you Google image search Jonathan Gold, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic of the Los Angeles Times and one of the country's most respected restaurant critics, over a dozen images appear.
And any restaurant worth its salt probably knows what the critics look like anyway:
re: Platt: Having been in dozens of restaurant kitchens with (reasonably accurate) photos on the wall, critics get spotted regardless.
— Carey Jones (@careyjones) December 30, 2013
So will restaurant criticism be fundamentally altered as more critics are "unmasked," either by choice or by necessity? Platt doesn't think so.
"Now that the Platt mug shot is officially part of the public record, I don’t plan on changing my routine very much. I will continue to book restaurant tables at odd hours, under a string of ridiculously random made-up names, because more than a wig or a set of false whiskers, the art of surprise has always been the critic’s most useful tool," he writes.
So how exactly can a critic keep his "art of surprise" going? New York Times critic Pete Wells learned earlier this year that sending in a "decoy" table can be a fruitful exercise in determining if critics are treated differently than other diners.
While one can argue the ins and outs of objectivity and bias for hours, even if critics are recognized, it doesn't necessarily make the food taste any better.