Andrew Carmellini is the executive chef for A Voce restaurant in New York CIty. In 2000, Carmellini was named Best New Chef by Food & Wine magazine. He also won the James Beard Foundation Award for Rising Star Chef, and was nominated as Best Chef in New York City by the foundation in both 2002 and 2004.
Question: How do you feel about restaurant reviews?
Andrew Carmellini: You know, times have changed also in the critical arena of food journalism. When I was a kid and I started like reading magazines and reading cookbooks just for recipes and that kind of thing, I mean there was, um, you had Andy Bersh [ph?], you had Gourmet Magazine and Amy Sheraton reviewer at The New York Times. Now with the internet magazines you have so many outlets for food criticism it’s just, it’s who keeps up with it really, you know? And, you know, the reviews that matter, you know, The New York Times, New York Magazine, you know, as far as New York goes, and then, you know, the internet is a funny place. You know, there’s a real difference between Jeffrey Steingarden who has traveled all over and has years and years and years of writing about food then just someone who’s very enthusiastic about food and commenting on it. Because to really criticize, I think, dishes for what they are, you know, if you’re really criticizing it, you should have perspective and you should have historical perspective, you should have a taste perspective. You know, before you really can talk about a ramen shop, you probably should go to Japan, then, you know, just commenting on it or criticizing it because if you like it or not, or if, you know, the same thing goes with haute French cuisine or a traditional Italian dish. But then again, you know, it’s like wine. You know the wine geeks can talk about wine until they’re blue in the face but my dad, just if it’s good, it’s good. If he likes it, he likes it. So it’s a funny situation, you know, because there’s the enthusiasm and then there’s the criticism. But critics have agendas. It doesn’t matter if you’re a music critic or a movie critic or a restaurant critic, there is an agenda. You might like--maybe you don’t like Italian food, or you think Italian food can only reach so high on the excitement meter, or maybe you only really want fine dining restaurants and you don’t want casual restaurants. There’s always some, you know, kind of agenda and that’s where the personality of, you know, when the writing comes out. I had a very, very, very famous food writer, who will go unnamed, said that restaurant reviewers only review for other restaurant critics. A little bit like restaurant designers only design for other restaurant designers, and movie critics only-- it’s kind of a phenomenon. Some people love what I do and some people hate it. And that’s always going to be the situation.