Can a Food Critic Write a Magazine Feature?

Several SideDish readers have called me out for writing an expletive-deleted piece on Nick Badovinus. One Disher says, “Probably anything D publishes that’s positive about Nick will have credibility issues.” Another asks, Nancy, how does it work when a restaurant critic does a story on a chef? Will you not review this particular restaurant?” Let’s talk about this.

For better or worse, I am a magazine writer who covers the restaurant industry. My job is to write columns, features, and reviews. That said, when an interesting story in the business comes along, I write, like I did with Nick Badovinus, a feature that allows you, the reader, to see a more colorful side of the industry. Does that prohibit me from reviewing his restaurant when it opens? In my mind, yes. In this case I traded the opportunity of writing a feature story over reviewing the restaurant. Will the fact that I wrote a feature on Badovinus cause “credibility issues” with D Magazine‘s review? Hell, no. Why? Because I care about publishing educated and true dining experiences.

I’ve covered restaurants in Dallas for almost twelve years. Do I get recognized? Yes, sometimes I do. Does that make the chef a better cook when I am in the restaurant? No. Does the fact that they know I am reviewing create better service? Most times, yes, but, surprisingly, a lot of times, no. If I do get recognized, I include the fact in my review and, before it is published, I send another staffer in to retry the restaurant. Unlike some other publications in town, D spares no expense in reviewing a restaurant. Example: when I was reviewing the Mansion just after John Tesar took over, the kitchen sent out 9 desserts compliments of the chef. I can still hear our accountant screaming over the final tally of my dinner bill–I insisted that all 9 be included on my bill. The next night I sent another reviewer and she went unnoticed.

As a magazine reporter, I make all kinds of contact with chefs, restaurateurs, waiters, and owners. Some I call; others I interview face-to-face. It’s a reality of the job. That said, I will say that I get recognized during a review maybe once every thirty reviews. And yes, I do wear wigs, glasses, and hats.

The Internet has made everybody a food critic. I love reading the opinions about local restaurants on Chowhound and DallasFood.org. People are passionate about what they eat. However, sometimes I like to get out of the box and tell a story. Am I wrong? Tell me, I want to know.

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