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Restaurant News

Reader Opinion: Chef / Restaurant Critic Dynamics

The John Tesar / Leslie Brenner battle has everyone talking. Can there ever be peace between critics and chefs?

If you haven’t already heard, John Tesar banned Leslie Brenner (Restaurant critic at The Dallas Morning News) from his restaurants. This followed an angry late-night tweet (he later took it down) about her latest 3-star review of Tesar’s restaurant Knife.

There is a ton of feedback coming from all over Dallas on the topic of Tesar and Brenner. See some of the responses here. See Brenner’s review and Scott Reitz’ review (Observer).

Our 2011 cover story. Is this just anger over a bad review, or is he on to something here?
Our 2011 cover story. Is today’s battle just anger over a bad review, or is he on to something here?
We did a story on Tesar back in 2011 called “The Most Hated Chef in Dallas.” In May we interviewed him about that. His style has definitely earned him a reputation, as Anthony Bourdain has colorfully related in the past.

Here’s what we want to know:

Knowing how much bearing a critic’s review can have on restaurant business (especially using a star system), is John within reason here? He’s never been a fan of Brenner’s reviews. Should the star system be a thing of the past? And what about critics–should they only be focusing on relating the relevant information in their reviews, or writing about their own preferences and tastes? Certainly we all like different things and no two opinions are alike.

Take Brenner’s quotes:

“I couldn’t pass up the $14 bacon tasting: five strips, one (Benton’s, my favorite bacon) severely overfried; altogether, it was as impressive as those new duds the emperor bought…While there’s clearly something special going on here, and the restaurant has great potential, Tesar might well be a victim of his own exuberance and energy. I can’t help but feel that if the menu were half the size and more care and thought put into each dish, Knife would be twice as good a restaurant.”

There’s freedom of speech, and then there’s a restaurant’s livelihood. Where should the line get drawn? Should critics be careful with their words, or should restaurants just be expected to maintain perfection to compensate for reviews?

Having been on the restaurant side myself, I definitely understand John’s frustration. But a critic gets paid to critique, so it gets murky. The publicity this story is getting has everyone buzzing, so sound off for us. Can this kind of thing be remedied, or is it just another part of the ever-entertaining restaurant industry?

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