Photo Courtesy: Omid Tavallai
Does food dictate your life? Does it feel like someone has insulted the very sanctity of food when they fail to produce Italian food in proper Italiano standards? If yes, you should certainly consider a career as a food critic.
Here are 6 commandments of becoming a hands down good food critic:
1. Passion for food
There are a lot of us who are complete foodies and literally â€œlive to eatâ€ rather the other way around! However, if you want to be a food critic, youâ€™ve got to really, really love food. Just being a foodie is not enough, you need to be passionate about your food and take it a tad rather seriously.
Try eating at as many different restaurants as possible. Experiment with different kinds of cuisine and when you do eat, remember itâ€™s not all about trying out a new dish or eating just to fill your tummy â€“ youâ€™ve got to observe the minutest details and note every possible flavor that you can detect. Basically, you should be deeply passionate about food in every possible way â€“ cooking, eating, experimenting, learning, and of course, reviewing.
2. Presentation of food
If you want to make it big as a food critic, you must take every aspect of your food seriously â€“ especially its appearance. Before the food reaches your stomach, itâ€™s going to reach your eyes, and you certainly donâ€™t want your eyes to send any wrong signals to your stomach, do you? So yes, youâ€™ve got to have an eye for the presentation or the aesthetic appearance of the dish youâ€™re about to dig into â€“ since thatâ€™s the first thing a food critic is supposed to notice. Be it the color variations in the dish, the garnishing, the texture of the food, or the placement of food on the plate, nothing should go unnoticed if youâ€™re a true food critic.
If youâ€™re looking to be a food critic, and a good one at that, youâ€™ve got to maintain the objectivity in your reviews. This is extremely important. You must keep your personal preferences or personal likings at bay, in order to come up with a fair and honest review, even if youâ€™re writing a negative one. You must remember that by writing a biased or unfair review based on personal tastes (literally), you might be putting someoneâ€™s career or livelihood at stake. So, be careful with your words and write a fair review.
4. The end result â€“ taste
In order to be a great food critic, the whole thing narrows down to one essential aspect which is also the most important one â€“ taste. This is the main aspect of your job so you need to make sure you get it right. The food must taste good to you, so make sure your palate gets plenty of training. Being in this industry, you need to be able to indentify even the most minute and subtle nuances of seasoning and flavors in the food.
This ideally involves detecting what spices and seasonings have been used, the texture and the consistency level of every ingredient used, the freshness of the ingredients used, whether the food is uncooked or overdone, the combination of each ingredient, and the flavors released by different ingredients. Youâ€™ve got to look into all these aspects and think how every ingredient matches with the other, since ultimately itâ€™s the taste that is going to determine whether the review is going to be positive or negative.
5. Never stop learning
The food industry is vast and constantly evolving and so the learning never stops. Even if you think you have enough knowledge, chances are that you donâ€™t. However, there are quite a few ways to increase your knowledge/skills and become better at your job. Try reading cookbooks by master chefs as well as popular food publications across the globe, pay a visit to fresh food markets to learn about various products and herb seasonings, study culinary arts to get an understanding of various cuisines, preparation and presentation techniques.
Also, do your research and try learning all you can about culinary trends, cooking techniques, pairing of ingredients, different sauces, flavors specific to different foods, restaurant service, history and culture of food, trends in the restaurant industry, and so on.
6. Writing skills
Another important part of the learning process involves working on your writing skills. As a food critic, youâ€™ve got to have the knack for communicating effectively with your readers. You need to convey to your readers what was good or bad about the food, and why. If youâ€™re preparing to become a food critic, you could get yourself enrolled in a writing course where you can master the expected writing style by newspapers and magazines. You must be able to write clear and objective reviews for your readers to rely on.
John David is a part of the team at Prestige, a renowned catering company in Perth. He is an earnest employee, and he enjoys cooking for his children when he gets the time.