David Rosengarten , former Food Network host (his show Taste is still my all-time favorite Food Network show), former Gourmet writer, etc. sells a subscription service called the Rosengarten Report, but also has an interesting free newsletter called Tastings. In a recent issue, he steps into the recent restaurant vs. critic fur-flying incidents and proposes a certification program for restaurant critics . I guess certification fever is in the air at the moment.
To quote Mr. Rosengarten:
This is not a training course; critics who participate are not “taught” restaurant criticism. Rather, it’s a testing program to determine who has “it” and who doesn’t. You come to the academy, or wherever it’s held, and the top restaurant critics in the world supervise a day-long, or two-day long, series of dishes that are served to the participants.
Some of the dishes prepared in the kitchen are thought to be “perfect” by supervisors and chefs; some are thought to be mildly flawed; some are thought to be fatally flawed. The participants, after tasting each dish, are asked written questions about the quality of the dishes. I firmly believe that the excellent critics will have a very high positive correlation in their responses—and that the less gifted critics will be all over the map.
I am not sure if this is feasible. In all likelihood, resistance from the existing restaurant critic community, not to mention amateur critics who think they know better anyway, would be quite strong. On the other hand…if there can be official training for sommeliers , why not for critics? Isn’t a wine taster just a critic who concentrates on one kind of comestible?