Francis Lam

Francis debates what makes a good critic -- and a good dish for that matter.

on Sep 26, 2012

And no story is ever truly finished by its author -- it takes an audience to read it, to interpret it, to make meaning of it. So I loved hearing what this table full of critics had to say. Alan Richman, with his decades-worth of knowledge of the chefs who paved the way for today’s hotshots. Karen Brooks, whose grown-up punk rockiness I adore. Lesley Bargar Suter, who dares you not to crush out when she sasses about what it takes to get on base with her. Jane Goldman, whose toughness and smarts helped her build one of the internet’s great food communities. And speaking of tough, there was John Curtas, the pugilist-at-table, and across from him, Golden Boy Alan Sytsma, who could sweet talk the pants off of any beef heart. And of course Curtis, Ruth, James, and Krista, who you all know and love.

The chefs, just slaying their dishes in the kitchen, looked out to the room and fretted about who they were cooking for. They didn’t need to. They both cooked fantastic food that told genuinely moving stories: Stories about love and sacrifice and an unearthly commitment to their craft that can hurt the people around them. I think, in retrospect, gathering that table of pros wasn’t about intimidating them. It was about finding the most insightful audience for their work, people who will see what this means, who will, who must, now understand where they stand. Putting that table of critics before these chefs, really, I think, was a tribute to them.