Sunday 22 March 2015

Bon Appetit: How to Write Like a Restaurant Critic

How do you write a restaurant review for a newspaper or magazine without sounding like an amateur?  Here are some tips offered by former food critic David Farkas (

1.  Avoid superlatives

Don't use words like best, awesome, incredible when describing each dish.  Instead, compare the dish to one eaten at another restaurant.  It's all about setting the context for the reader.

2.  Assess Food

Don't write down every dish you and your group of friends scarfed down.  Concentrate on a few dishes, the ones that stand out.  Pick the ones that you really enjoyed and the ones that you did not like.  What is the presentation like?  How about the temperature of the food?  How was it cooked ex. to perfection, under-cooked, overcooked?

3.  Observe the Staff

Are the servers having a good time?  Are they dressed professionally?  Are they distracted?  Are they attentive?  Have they set your table neatly and promptly?  Can they answer your questions competently?  Do they know the ingredients of the dishes?  Are the vegetables organic\/  Is the beef grain fed?  How do they respond to your compliments or complaints?

4.  Describe the Ambiance

Describe the restaurant's decor.  Is it comfortable ex. air temperature?  Are the other guests enjoying themselves?  Is the restaurant half empty?

5.  Eat on behalf of the customer

Put yourself in the customer's shoes.  Rather than filling your review with the pronoun "I", use "you" to include the reader.

6.  Write frankly

Did the hostess size you and your date up before she seated you?  Did she give you a lousy table?

7.  Write succinctly

Use vivid description when explaining your dining experience.  Avoid vague language ex. "The Caesar salad was boring" or "The chicken was bad."  Instead, try "The Caesar salad lacked flavour " and "The chicken was dry."

8.  Turn a clever phrase

Avoid cliches ex. "There's atmosphere in spades here."  Use unique words and phrases.  Read critiques of the professionals like Pete Wells of the New York Times, but at the same time make your own personal voice through.

9.  Eat dessert

Dessert can either be a disaster since many customers forego dessert or a thing of beauty.  It may be an experience well worth having.

10.  Remain anonymous

Try not to record your opinions at the table.  Staff will pick up on it right away.  Instead, wait until you get home to start writing your review.

For more information, read Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob.

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