Well, that didn’t take long.
In his first major decision as the new Times food critic, Jim Webster pussies out of making a major change to the newspaper’s grading system, which is currently based on an anachronistic four-star system.
Pretty much in response to my unending criticism of the Times‘ grading system, specifically my criticism of Laura Reiley’s seemingly unending awarding of 2.5 stars to almost every restaurant she reviewed, Webster posted on the Times‘ must-be-redesigned blog about dining out that:
So, here’s the plan. We’ll still work on a four-star scale, but acknowledge that zero stars is an option. How often will a review include zero stars? Very rarely. It’s not my nature to be nasty, and my general goal is to point you to restaurants you should go to. If a restaurant was undeserving of any stars, I wouldn’t be likely to review it unless its arrival is an event in and of itself. Then I’ll be honest and diplomatic.
As a result, you can probably expect many restaurants to end up with a one-star rating. And one star is perfectly acceptable. It means that if the restaurant sounds like something you’d be interested in, check it out. Two stars will mean that the place is better than average. Three stars mean something special is going on there. And four stars mean that the place is among the very best in the area. I really hope I get to give a place four stars in my tenure, but it will be a high bar.
“It’s not in your nature to be nasty”??? You’re the food critic, for the loves of truffles. Get nasty. Jesus, all Laura Reiley did was love to death every restaurant she went in to, so much so that her reviews were less criticism than they were advertisment.
Bottom line, I don’t want the food critic to be diplomatic. Reward the good restaurants and punish the bad ones. Simple as that.
Not updating the grading system is just an absolute waste of an opportunity to make the newspaper’s criticism more relevant in informational marketplace stocked with food blogs and sites.
Hell of way to get started, Jim