OC Register's Brad A. Johnson Named America's Worst Food Critic in Chef Poll--Tee-Hee!

Categories: Really?!?!?

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It's almost going to be a year now since the Orange County Register hired James Beard-award winning food critic Brad A. Johnson to be their first full-time food critic in years, and he's been everything we expected him to be: thoughtful, bitchy, skewing toward Newport Beach and South County tastes at the expense of ethnic restaurants, but ultimately a welcome, essential voice to OC that still couldn't beat Edwin at the Orange County Press Club. Seriously: we like his stuff.

So color us surprised when foodie website The Daily Meal released its annual poll of the best and worst food critics in the United States as voted on by chefs--and Johnson placed dead last. Just as he did last year. WHAAAA???

The poll is here, along with their methodology, rankings of what they call the nation's 20 most prominent reviewers (unsurprisingly, Jonathan Gold tops nearly every category). Daily Meal also enlivens their poll by sharing comments from those who participated--anonymous, of course. "We wrote a long letter to the editor about Brad and how disparaging his reviews have been in Orange County, but they didn't publish it," one wrote. "Let's just say he's not my favorite and I'm in good company on that one."

That wasn't all. OC's chefs also deemed Johnson America's dullest food critic, one with the worst prose style (one of the quotes Daily Meal excerpted was that Johnson is "obsessed with tearing apart everyone's french fries"--HAHAHAHAHA! IT'S TRUE!), the third-worst when it comes to integrity (i.e., not accepting free meals, which isn't my idea of Johnson), and the critic they'd least like to share a meal with ("I invited Brad to share a cup of coffee with me, but he declined," wrote one anonymous chef, and DUH, diva: Johnson values his anonymity. Should we tell you how many meals Edwin has declined over the years and will continue to do so?).

Yes: instead of delighting in Johnson's evisceration by OC's chefs (I wonder who was polled..), we're going to defend him. We actually have exchanged pleasantries for years, even though Johnson told me the last time we ate (at El Borrego Sagrado in SanTana--where's that review, Brad?) that he didn't trust me, a comment that still mystifies. Johnson knows his high dining and even the dives, so OC's chefs need to accept the pain with the pleasure--that's what food critics are supposed to do. Of course, that's what Edwin and I don't do in our dead-tree edition--I'm still of the opinion that we'd rather tell people where to go eat instead of where not to go eat--but then again, that must be why Edwin is America's least-appreciated food voice.

Anyhoo, carry on, Brad. And have you heard of a place called SanTana? Lot of good Mexican restaurants there, Mexican restaurants you've never reviewed in place of lame-ass El Farolito in Placentia...

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10 comments
tppbfan
tppbfan

I only buy The Register one day a week and it's only for Brad Johnson and the food section.

I wish he would discover Santa Ana but on the whole I enjoy his reviews

ted.mendez
ted.mendez

I just checked out his blog, which isn't too bad. I won't subscribe to The Register because I sorta' detest that newspaper but I'm loyal to OC so it's nice to get some feedback on the restaurant scene here, even if it's the clipped version of his reviews. Thanks for the heads up.

Douglas Mason
Douglas Mason

I loved reading him until the damned paywall went up!

jsmisko1
jsmisko1

I would guess it was someone from El Corazon at least.  

jmcguinness
jmcguinness

Nice piece. It's refreshing to read something in the Weekly that doesn't bash the Register. also, it seems that being dead last in a chefs' poll on reviewers is more of a comment on the chefs that are participating in the poll and their hurt feelings. As for the fries, Johnson obviously wants you to make them fresh. How hard is that?

JBinOC
JBinOC topcommenter

"We wrote a long letter to the editor about Brad and how disparaging his reviews have been in Orange County, but they didn't publish it."  



Well, unless there was a check in the envelope made payable to Aaron Kushner and Eric Spitz, and the words "good news" were in the 'memo' section, of course, it's not going to get published.  


I haven't read Brad A. Johnson since the paywall was erected, but I agree with everything you said...his reviews squeeze in a lot of relevant detail within very lively prose, and he's a breath of fresh air when you realize half of the people in this county are probably devout followers of Jamie Gwen in Riviera magazine. 


But the real story here is the poll proves that OC's "chefs" have a sickening sense of entitlement and dismiss anything that may tarnish the glitzy images they work so hard to preserve.  The real chefs -- Pascal Olhats, Florent Marneau, David Kesler, Hiro of Cafe Hiro, etc. -- are too busy churning out great food to whine in these polls. 

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@jmcguinness Don't get us wrong: The Register is a weenie newspaper just like its weenie owner. But when there's stuff to praise, we praise. That said, Brad DOES obsess over French fries—when I read that quote, I plotzed...

GustavoArellano
GustavoArellano moderator editortopcommenter

@JBinOC Would LOVE to find out which chefs were polled—lemme dig...

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