Five Suggested Job Requirements for the New Orange County Register Restaurant Critic

Categories: Food Media
Have you read the job posting for the Orange County Register's new restaurant critic?

I'm actually surprised; they're calling for a critic who will delve into Little Saigon and Little Arabia (note to the editors over there: it hasn't been called Little Gaza in years), who is at home in high-end restaurants and ethnic dives. Maybe the Grand Experiment on Grand Avenue will result in a rebirth of the food section. I hope so. I'd like an excuse to subscribe to the paper again.

Perhaps they've learned from being spanked every year at the OC Press Club, because what they seem to be looking for is, well, us. Since a mass defection across the 405 freeway seems unlikely, here, in no particular order, are five suggestions for the Freedom Communications hiring squad to require from applicants:

5. Actually form opinions and write them down.

Writing about food news is necessary--people really do want to know that Mozza, Cafecito Organico, or Surfas are coming to Orange County--but those are not restaurant reviews. Openings of new outlets of fast food outlets and additions to Jack In the Box's menu could be consolidated into a weekly digest post. Going to a restaurant and then simply describing the dishes is not a restaurant review either; that's just an extended caption to the photo at the top. It goes further, though. The new critic needs to stop using phrases like "just okay", "really delicious" and "my take".

4. Review honestly and occasionally negatively.

I've danced around this topic before, and now I'm just going to say it straight out: Courtney Perkes, an avowed, presumably card-carrying vegetarian, needs to stop reviewing non-vegetarian restaurants. Reading her attempts to skirt the issue by altering dishes to her dietary constraints or quoting other people's completely non-differentiating remarks makes me wince and wonder why her editorial chain of command allows it. The best review she ever wrote was of Freesoulcaffè, because it was vegan and she didn't have to pretend.

Also, while it's wonderful to discover that hidden gem, there are relatively few hidden gems, and every single restaurant has a bad dish. Stop worrying about whether your name will be put up on a plaque inside the restaurant and review the food honestly. If it's bad, say so, and if it's terrible, say so forcefully. Most importantly, if it's mediocre, say so.

3. Ignore--or, really, kill off--the comments sections.

If the usual commenters on food stories and blog posts in the Orange County Register had their way, no ethnic restaurant would ever be reviewed in the paper. There are exceptions, of course, but the comments are generally of the "ew, it's brown and spicy" type. People who read the reviews online also read the comments. If the new management at the Register wants to improve the food scene in Orange County, kill off the comments section.

2. Don't accept the stigma of suburbia.

It's true; we are not Los Angeles, and the fact that we can be in a fancy "name" restaurant in the City of Angels with just an hour's drive does weigh on our food culture here. Ignoring that fact is disingenuous. That does not mean, however, that Saturday nights in Orange County are some vast, depressing foodscape punctuated by vibrating waitlist pagers. There are people--a lot of them--who seek comfort in the Olive Garden, but that's no excuse for lazy, phoned-in reviews of mediocre sandwich shops.

1. Don't write solely about restaurants.

Yes, in print, there needs to be a weekly restaurant review--but an engaged critic is a good critic, which is why Village Voice Media requires that each of its food critics also write a lot for the blog. There are a lot of artisans here in Orange County, and a lot of great stories ready to be told. Write about them. We've written about bee rescuers and their honey, backyard growers of esoteric Asian vegetables, golf course Italian farms; Orange Coast writes about the homegrown wine industry in a way we never could. Go out and discover.

Good luck, Mr. Kushner: you're going to need it.

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I think Dave's suggestions here are good, although I disagree on the "commenting" part.  (and I'm talking about the Food Frenzy blog, not the press-release one).  I don't really see too many of the FF comments as of the "ew, it's brown and spicy" type.  This seems like just so much disguised bashing of some mythical typical OC Register reader.  The comments I've seen are pretty far ranging and from all types of people, not some stereotypical demographic.  There are probably way too many of the "I've never been there but have you been to Joe's in Mission Viejo? They have the best XXXXXX ever!"  But, why cut out comments all together?  Most people, I think, understand that they can be completely worthless when making a dining a decision.  I think the biggest problem they've had since going to the FB format, is the lack of comments.  You might as well get rid of OCW comments because they often tend to often be just one line snark; and seem to be competitors in the Snark Olympics.  However, I agree on most of what you said, and believe that you've got a winning recipe, that the OCR would do well to adopt.


Here's a suggestion for Gustavo:


See, this is how you can still be smug without mocking the intellectually disabled.

JBinOC topcommenter

Yesterday [Thursday] morning, readers of Fast Food Maven were greeted before sunrise by a post which announced the final Golden Foodie Award nominations list. 


In each category, the nominees were, appropriately, listed alphabetically

[example: Best Seafood: (1) Bluewater Grill, (2) House of Big Fish et al, (3) Scott's Restaurant and Bar]. 


That is, they were listed alphabetically in all except one category...Best Food Blogger...where, surprise surprise,

"Fast Food Maven" was listed first. 


I'm hoping she wins just to completely eradicate any doubt that the "Golden Foodies" are as bogus, lame, and irrelevant as the event's laughable name. 

JBinOC topcommenter

LOL at

"The new critic needs to stop using phrases like 'My take'"

JBinOC topcommenter

 @MikeHs LMFAO -@-

"I'm talking about the Food Frenzy blog, not the press-release one"


We should have a contest to re-name the Fast Food Maven blog...

my first thought would be The Geyser, since it ceaselessly gushes for its own benefit


 @JBinOC I can confirm that the press release did not have it in that order. Also the blogs were the first thing listed in the release.

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