This week in amusing, Chicago Tribune reporter Kevin Pang directed us to this delightful list of “how to identify food critics, media & bloggers,” which was affixed to the wall “a well-known Chicago restaurant" and sent Pang’s way by an anonymous source. The list, made by an ambitious manager, is intended to help waitstaff identify a food writer on the loose. And it’s sort of amazing.
Here are some of the tips, plus our unsolicited, we’ve-been-critics-before opinions:
"Guests who ask an unusual amount of questions regarding the product and concept of the restaurant."
Got a loquacious dad at your table? He might be a critic!
"Guests who are observing the dining room very closely"
Spies and secret agents, you are about to get a bunch of free food sent your way.
The list’s final two tips are apparently really pretty crucial, as they require ALL CAPS:
"SINGLE DINERS, it is imperative that we are hospitable and pay close attention to these guests."
All the single ladies! All the single ladies. This one is accurate and inaccurate at once; a critic who travels frequently might be dining alone, but most critics try to drag along as many humans as possible in order to try more food.
"FACT: Michelin Inspectors are required to finish all the food on their plate!!!!!"
Despite its five assertive exclamation points, this is one we’ve never encountered. (We tried to confirm this factoid with Michelin, but maybe they were busy cleaning their plates?) It seems a little counterintuitive; most critics try only a few bites; Ruth Reichl would famously bring plastic bags to the table and shovel food right off of it into them, in order to look like she’d consumed more food than she had.
Perhaps the best part of the list is the “protocol” for what to do when identifying said famous diners, which reads rather like a fire drill: “1) Under no circumstances should we reveal that we know their real identity; 2) Remain calm and composed. No gossip; 3) Notify a manager immediately.”
Here are the tips we think the list missed:
Guests who seem insanely preoccupied with the food and the space.
If you’re dealing with a good food writer, she is going to talk about the food, the space, and the wine, alllllll throughout the meal. It will sound downright obsessive.
Guests whose friends wish they could move on to other topics.
Keep an eye peeled not only for an over-the-top, obsessive eater, but one surrounded by other humans rolling their eyes and looking like they wish they could move on to topics other than acidity levels and whether the food is salty enough.
People whose reactions to eating are supremely outlandish.