Catch a Falling Star

To the chagrin of chefs citywide, the Morning News changes its rating system.

photography by Stephen Karlisch

Mark down march 2, 2007, as the day the Dallas dining community collectively asked: “Who the hell is Bill Addison?”

That’s because Addison, the new lead food critic at the Dallas Morning News, had declared his intent to “start at the top” and revisit all the best restaurants in town to orient the dining listings to his taste. The paper had noted there would no longer be “half stars” awarded in its five-star system. And that morning, March 2, Addison had reduced the ranking of one of Dallas’ premier eateries, Aurora.

After only one visit, Addison had some less-than-kind things to say about the service: his waiter bickered with him about splitting a tasting menu between guests (generally considered a no-no in the upper-end foodie world). After generally praising the food and atmosphere, he rated the previously five-star restaurant as worthy of “only” four stars.

No big deal? Chefs around town think so. Aurora chef Avner Samuel really thinks so.

The day the review ran, his wife and business partner, Celeste Samuel, sent a letter to Lisa Kresl, Addison’s boss, saying they believed the critic’s goal was to “rip apart the most controversial chef and upscale restaurant in the city, and—gasp!—reduce our star rating from five to four stars.” The Samuels asked for the review to be retracted and the five stars reinstated. (The News declined their request to speak to Addison, as well as ours.)

Avner is still angry. “In 27 years in this city,” he says, “there’s still not a single operation that comes close to the service we provide here. It’s like magic what we do here.” He says other chefs are very concerned. “They say, ‘If he did this to Avner Samuel, what can he do to us?’”

Avner’s complaints did produce two changes: corrections in the review (Addison had mistaken duck ravioli for pumpkin ravioli) and an internal policy that similar reviews of high-end restaurants will require at least three visits.

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