A Restaurant Critic’s Life: The Worst Date

Our dining editor describes how sometimes her job and a night out can sometimes clash.

A critic, dinner and an iPhone- Stefanie Gans

Photos of Food
Photo by Stefanie Gans.

“Quick,” my husband whisper-yells as I find the right angle, in the sliver of natural light, as our server turns the other way. I snap a picture of his plate.

I take a picture of mine too, and the appetizer before that, and the bread and butter before that. Maybe I’ll try to grab a photo of a particularly interesting light fixture or tapestry, and the menu. My husband still embarrasses with my constant picture-taking.

I tap notes onto my phone at the dinner table: the time of day, the buzz of the crowd, dish descriptions and first impressions. My dining companion will sit there and watch me work with my face snuggled into my phone. Typing and tasting. This isn’t a night out; I’m on the clock.

I’m lucky today to work as a professional restaurant critic in the time of mobile technology living. I need not run to the ladies’ to scramble notes in the privacy of a stall. No ink splatters. No food stains on notepaper. I just look like the worst date—on my phone the entire length of the meal—but I also look like any other food-obsessed, iPhone-entranced diner. Snapping pictures. Ignoring others at the table.

Before I start writing the review, I return to my phone—my all-in-one-critiquing-machine—and I browse pictures first. I’m a visual learner. My phone is my guide back to that very dinner I will transcribe.

I still feel the need to defend my constant snapping. He knows the routine; he just doesn’t want any extra attention our way. I work anonymously. I whisper-yell back to my husband, “But everyone else takes pictures of their food. And everyone else is on their phone.”

He looks up from his Twitter feed. “What?”