How Restaurant Reviews ‘Crumbled’ During Pandemic and Transformed Food Critics’ Role

”I couldn’t live with myself, personally, if I had the soullessness to be berating restaurants during an unparalleled time of disaster,“ the LA Times’ restaurant critic says

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closures of over 110,000 eating and drinking establishments across the U.S., the losses faced by chefs, line cooks, dishwashers, servers and bartenders seemed immeasurable. Restaurant critics, unable to taste menus and tell stories, were faced with a conundrum of their own: With most businesses closed for indoor dining, or shuttered for good, what was a critic to do?

The loss of indoor dining led to a period of self-reflection as traditional restaurant criticism “absolutely crumbled,” Bill Addison, the Los Angeles Times’ restaurant critic, said. But with so many businesses suffering, there emerged a balancing act between empathizing with the plight of the restaurant industry and the need to maintain skepticism as a journalist and critic.

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J. Clara Chan

Media and politics reporter • • Twitter: @jclarachan