Padma Lakshmi

Andrea Strong answers the tough questions.

on Aug 22, 2007

Last week, we published the "Restaurant Wars" featured blogger Andrea Strong in this space. Many 'Top Chef' fans posted comments this week, questioning Ms. Strong's experience and credentials as a food critic and blogger.

Though we've been reading her for years, it seems that many readers were taken by surprise when reading her review of the restaurants featured on last week's episode. We've been following these developments closely, and thought we'd pass along an exchange Andrea had with one viewer, Tina, that may shed some light on the subject.

Dear Ms. Strong:

I am a devoted TC fan, and I just posted on your TC blog. The gist of my post questioned your authority. But, after reading "The Long Story," I stand corrected and apologize. You have a wonderful story, and as a newly admitted attorney, I am inspired by your passion and heart. Perhaps TC could put some of your bio before your blog? Padma did you no justice by introducing your comments as just a mere "guest blogger". Good luck in all you ventures, and I look forward to your continued blogs.

Best regards, Tina PS: I have friends that would kill for a job at Sherman-you must be exceptionally bright and to be a WOMAN in their M&A department is quite a feat! Kudos to you!

And Andrea responds:

Hi Tina,

Thank you very much for your note about my blog on Bravo, and I really appreciate your apology. There are many people who seem to think that as a blogger, I have no restaurant background, and no journalistic credentials, when actually, I do have both. Personally, it's been a huge bummer to read the comments on the Bravo blog and how many people just hate me and think I am a hack, with little basis. I guess I would've hoped that viewers might have more faith in the producers to chose someone with credential to be a guest judge on the show, but I guess it's easier to throw stones than to do what you did, which was to look up who I am. I really feel very harshly judged by the viewers. I had to stop reading the comments. I have been in this business for many years, and have not only worked in restaurants but I have opened them, and I have been a food journalist for almost a decade with my work appearing in the New York Times (where an article I wrote was named in the "Best Food Writing of 2003"), New York Magazine, and in the New York Post, among other magazines and newspapers. I fully stand by my critique of the restaurants from last week, and I invite dialogue and difference of opinions, but I think the sort of negativity and nastiness on the Bravo blog and elsewhere is unfortunate, and I really do wish people did a bit of research about who I am and how I am qualified, before they lashed out at me. Just a thought. In any case, I so appreciate your taking the time to write to me, and I hope you continue to enjoy Top Chef.

All my Best, Andrea Strong

The Strong Buzz And here now, the aforementioned bio:

Andrea Strong is a freelance food writer, reviewer and self-confessed "eater" -- covering all things related to life in and around the table -- eating, drinking, and being merry in general. She is the author, founder, and creator of THE STRONG BUZZ -- a weekly blog (www.thestrongbuzz.com) devoted to New York City's food scene -- insider dish, news, reviews, chefs on the move, restaurants openings and closings, events, and the like. In her role as THE STRONG BUZZ -- a New York City dining authority and food blogger -- Andrea was selected by American Express, along with acclaimed chefs Jacques Torres and Daniel Boulud, to be part of their New York Dish campaign, a website devoted to dining out in New York, which launched in November 2006. Her TV appearances include the Food Network's Heavyweights, Gourmet Magazine's Diary of a Foodie on PBS, LX.TV, and New York Eats. She has also been a guest on Martha Stewart Radio on Sirius and on "The Restaurant Guys Radio Show," on WCTC 1450 AM in New Jersey. Andrea's writing appears weekly in The New York Post. Her work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Time Out New York, Metropolitan Home, Real Simple, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, Food & Wine, Gourmet, and Organic Style, among others. In October 2003, Andrea was honored when an article she wrote for The New York Times entitled, "An Ode To Sloppy Joe, A Delicious Mess" was selected for inclusion in THE BEST FOOD WRITING OF 2003, edited by Holly Hughes (Marlowe & Company, 2003). Andrea is also the co-author of the cookbook, Sparks in The Kitchen, with Katy Sparks, edited by Judith Jones, and published by Knopf in 2006. Andrea is the founder of Dining for Darfur (www.diningfordarfur.org), a charity she created to raise awareness and funds for humanitarian relief in response to the genocide in Darfur. Since 2006, she has raised almost $100,000 for the people of Darfur. Her humanitarian work for Darfur was profiled in the 2007 book, "Not on our Watch" (Hyperion), by Academy Award-nominated actor Don Cheadle and Africa expert John Prendergast. Until September 2002, Andrea was the associate food editor at Restaurant Business Magazine (a bi-monthly magazine to the trade), where she wrote regular columns about food trends, chefs, industry news, and restaurant-related business issues.