Leslie Brenner, Morning News Food Critic, Defends the Paper's Star System
Leslie Brenner went all radio superstar yesterday. The critic some love to hate talked for an hour with Think host Krys Boyd about the DFW dining scene, culinary trends and and the mechanics of good reviewing.
Brenner described a blossoming scene that still had some hurdles to handle. While a handful of chefs in the area have been producing exciting results, Brenner says, most appear bound by a core dining public that's not willing to step out of its comfort zone. Lucia in Oak Cliff was specifically cited as a forward-thinking restaurant that embraced pickled sardines and shunned beef on its menu. But to a Terilli's regular accustomed to a traditional Italian American menu that hasn't changed in years, traditional Old World Italian cooking might seem challenging.
When asked about the star system that's received some negative attention recently, Brenner defended the construct, saying the quantified measure frees up her writing, allowing for a more literary take on restaurants. The story tells a story, in other words. The stars just give you the score.
Of course, everyone's scorecard is different. She pointed out the many seemingly glowing reviews that outgoing New York Times' food critic Sam Sifton has written for restaurants that received just one star.
This runs counter to AFJ guidelines, which define one star as fair, or just OK, a place not worth rushing back to. The guidelines further clarify that "although most readers have a sense of what the stars mean, every review should run with a box explaining the ratings."
But Brenner pointed out that reviews with fewer stars could be interpreted subjectively. Not everything should be fine dining, after all. Sometimes we crave a one-star experience. (The Observer doesn't star its reviews, which I prefer, because I can't count to four.)
If you're interested you can stream the broadcast in its entirety here.