Yesterday on Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema's weekly chat, a reader wrote in with a story of two unnamed restaurant general managers who accused The Washingtonian's critics of accepting — or, rather, expecting — free meals while working on their annual 100 Very Best Restaurants issue. Though Sietsema defended his fellow critics on the matter, them's fightin' words.
And so to defend herself and fellow critic Todd Kliman, Washingtonian food and wine editor Ann Limpert reached out to Eater with a rebuttal to these claims, writing that, "We definitely do not, and we're fortunate to not have to" accept free meals. Here's her full response, which touches on critic anonymity and her own expense reports:
"I just want to respond to the anonymous general managers’ claims on Tom Sietsema’s chat that Washingtonian critics expect—or accept—comped food, wine, or anything else. We definitely do not, and we’re fortunate to not have to. Both fellow critic Todd Kliman and I go to great lengths to remain anonymous—and believe me, it’s a pain (What name did I book under, again?)—but we do it because a dining experience can be pretty different for an outed critic.
Does the food change that much? Stylistically, probably not. But this is what would happen when a critic would come into one of the restaurants where I worked as a cook: the executive chef, who rarely jumped on the line, would take over (in one case, he came in on his day off). He'd handle all the cooking and plating himself. An order with a luxe ingredient like foie gras might be doubled. And as a critic, the ability to gauge the quality of a place's service is pretty compromised if the staff knows who you are.
We're very, very lucky to have a publisher who understands how important critical distance and independence is. 100 Best Restaurants is a huge project for us, and it's not cheap. I've got a year's worth of expense reports to prove it."
So there you have it. Point and counterpoint.
· Ask Tom [WaPo]