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Right to refry

11 March 2009 1,151 views No Comment

The food critics are in a tizzy on the release of the guidelines of the Business man’s Lunch Restaurant regarding the handling of unfavorable food reviews. The Food and Restaurant Organization of Gourmets (FROG) has denounced the arrogant restaurant, calling on its members to express their indignation at this latest attempt to curtail its “freedom of the fresh.” Its statement states that the muzzling of comments on mussels and such is a clear attempt to pass off stale seafood as fresh by curtailing fresh freedom.

The issue is quite complex and we are grateful to have a chance to chat with the chair of FROG. Without being asked, she launches immediately into a condemnation of the controversial provision of BLR known to the cognoscenti as the “right to refry.” We ask what this brouhaha is all about.

She says that the onerous provision requires any food critic who writes an unfavorable review of a particular dish to refry the same item and offer it as recompense to the offended chef. And furthermore, the chef has to agree that the refried version is acceptable to him.

We agree that this is not a fair contest as food writers are not all cooks.

She asks, “Why should a chef get free food just because a critic finds his cooking below standard?”

How does she define the role of a food reviewer?

“The legitimacy of a reviewer’s role rests on his being an arbiter of taste. He serves as the guide to what food is fresh and provides value for money. He is an objective appraiser representing the interests of the diners. He does not claim to know how to cook so why should he be forced to refry anything. He is the customer’s representative and adviser for good eating. ”

“Doesn’t the offended party have a right to fairness?”

“It is the customers who finally evaluate the chef and his restaurant by their patronage. We rely on a track record of taste and objectivity to call it as we taste it. There are two ways that the subject of criticism benefits from this wicked guideline. First, the critics will be too cautious in evaluating chefs. Second and more important, the chef decides when he gets the right to refry and obtain a free meal.”

We can add two more benefits for the supposed victim. The target can take offense even on the most innocuous comment and quickly claim the right to refry. Who decides on what is offensive? The truly devious chef can even hire a little-known food critic to write that he uses artificial food seasoning for his arroz a la cubana. This planted attack then entitles him to have the right to refry, using the same plate.

Is this really about fairness?

Our spokesperson doesn’t think so. “This is about getting a free ride and inviting attack so that even an unheralded chef whom nobody has heard of can get his free meal.”

The Businessman’s Lunch Restaurant is enjoying all this controversy as it distracts the food critics from other issues like the unauthorized expenditure of grocery money when the security guards went on a training program. The case of the food additives distributed to different catering outlets is still under investigation and has not come up with a conclusive resolution.

FROG is incensed being put on the defensive. Rather than their targets for sloppy service and below-par pasta seeking to improve their craft, they decide to let writers cook for them.

Refrying is good for leftover meals to take with breakfast (like death threats). But requiring food reviewers to actually work for the chefs puts them on notice that their ability to inform readers of bad service is severely curtailed.

There is also the little-noted possibility that chefs will stop attempting to improve their culinary skills and availing themselves of good ingredients. They know they can get a good meal by simply declaring themselves offended by any writer, including those who have problems with grammar.

The rule for chefs as well as certain other occupations has been: If you can’t stand the heat in the kitchen, pick another profession.

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