Judge, Jury & Executioner
Food Critics: Does Anyone Care?
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What happens when a restaurant reviewer’s aspirations exceed his role as a journalist?
Perhaps you missed the brouhaha surrounding The Sacramento Bee’s restaurant critic, Blaire Anthony Robertson (a.k.a. “BAR”)? The paper’s veteran restaurant critic, Michael Dunne, ended a long, distinguished, and many would argue, still thriving career at The Sacramento Bee in 1999 by reportedly taking a buyout. The Bee brass replaced Dunne with a rigorous job interview process: a grout dinner with all applicants present and “a few days” to write the review that would secure the coveted position. Blair Anthony Robertson, who remembers the process as having been “grueling,” “came out on top”; and has been something of a nasty thorn in the region’s dining-out lions’ dens ever since.
KCRA has dined with the petulant picky eater, hidden cameras rolling, to document if his dining experiences were really as bad as he often claimed they were. There was the “kerfuffle” over BAR’s piece on The Waterboy, critical mostly of the wait staff and décor. Faithful Waterboy diners rushed to the establishment’s defense, pouncing on Blair for not knowing his pasta from his risotto and his affinity for — gasp! — blush wines. They posted more than a hundred “likes” and dozens of glowing reviews about their personal Waterboy experiences. There was the Orphan review, at which BAR later described overhearing a “job interview” wherein the applicant was asked if he was having sexual relations with his girlfriend, a conversation, Robertson admits, which colored his dining experience there. Orphan subsequently banned BAR, as did Plan B. (Robertson responded that he wouldn’t eat again at either restaurant unless he was paid to do so.)