Today brings the debut of blogger-cum-Daily News food critic Restaurant Girl, real name Danyelle Freeman. When the news was announced a week ago, we were frankly skeptical of her lack of skill and anonymity. While she has yet to openly announce that, no, she can't write very well, she has fully embraced her own faciness. Freeman's mug appears on the paper's website no fewer than three times.
To be fair, her first review, of Gemma, isn't written that poorly at all. And we might even agree, partially, with it. Though there's her troubling use of weirdly anatomical verbs to contend with: "The enormous wood oven also births sweet sensations...."
What remains stuck in our craw is not that she has a face but that she shoves it everywhere she can. She then tries to mask what is essentially vainglory with bizarre contortions of logic. As Joe Dziemanowicz puts it in an odd announcement-feature in her new paper (accompanied, of course, by a picture):
"I have consciously made the choice to be accessible to readers as well as chefs and restaurateurs," she explains, "in order to communicate my experience of whether or not a chef has successfully achieved his or her goals." [...]
"I was looking for a critic to identify with," says the 33-year-old Harvard graduate from New Jersey. "There was no one that I could relate to because I couldn't put a face with a voice."
I'm sure that those of you who don't know what Walter Benjamin or Lytton Strachey or Clement Greenberg or Anatole Broyard looked like and thusly just "couldn't relate" to their criticism can empathize with Ms. Freeman's troubles.
And if that doesn't convince you as to why she should plaster her face everywhere, the following surely must convince you of why she can.
"I fundamentally believe restaurants don't bring in a new chef or run out to get new ingredients just because they spot a critic," she says. Her radar will be tuned to determine whether she's getting special treatment."
Well thank god her radar will be attuned! On the other hand, if her goal is to guide the common restaurant-goer as to what to order or where to go, she must have some sort of shared experience with the common man. She's right. When she walks into a restaurant, they probably don't have some guy in the kitchen frantically write a Craigslist post "NYC Restaurant Looking For New Chef To Start Immediately!" or dispatch some poor barback to the Greenmarket. But Freeman must be delusional to think that she won't be sucked up to at nearly every restaurant she reviews. She'll get the super soigné treatment wherever she goes and this serves only two people: Herself and the restaurant's chef. She writes for a paper with a circulation of 795,153 and it might be time she stops being the restaurant's girl and becomes the readers' girl.