WILD FOOD FROM LAND AND SEA, Marco Pierre White

From WILD FOOD FROM LAND AND SEA, by Marco Pierre White:

“A young female food writer once asked why chefs couldn’t cook a nice plain piece of grilled fish. Well, we can and we do, but we have to dress it up for our customers. No one would be happy to pay up to $60 per head for something that could easily be cooked at home. People come to restaurants like mine for precisely the foods and dishes they can’t easily get in their local shops, or are reluctant to cook themselves — like lobster, langoustines, and foie gras. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a nice piece of grilled fish, but most diners want something more exciting when they’re out to have a good time.

That’s what I dislike about food critics, whether in magazines, newspapers, or food guides, this lack of true insight into what we do, their blinkered attitude. Very few of them have undergone the long, exhaustive and exhausting years of training we have, yet they feel licensed to pontificate about restaurants, food, chefs and their cooking, sometimes destroying a hard-won reputation overnight. Far too often their reviews reveal to us chefs just how little they actually know about food.

There are only a handful of critics whose opinions I respect — they have been around a long time, they have eaten in enough establishments, and are cooks themselves. But sadly there are many more who lack style (would you come to a two-star restaurant wearing a cricket sweater, or bicycle clips?), who lack culinary knowledge (one revered critic’s last job was on the sports pages), who are envious of others’ success, and who are therefore lacking considerably in good judgment and understanding.

I think it totally irrelevant to criticize the decor of a restaurant — all such things are personal, and what does it matter anyway? — or to elaborate for half the review on the designer clothing worn by the restaurant’s clientele, male and female. Eating out can be an all-around experience, encompassing surroundings and fellow eaters, but it’s the food that matters ultimately. When critics home in on all these other things, it really makes me wonder if they can write at all about food. And in all honesty, I don’t think someone who runs sausage-cooking competitions in a newspaper should be allowed within a mile of top-class restaurant.”

What do you think?