Restaurant Gig While Wearing a Wig

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

I seriously doubt any restaurant is going to recognize me anytime soon. Regardless, I'm tempted to throw on a pair of rectangular rimless glasses, a thrift shop t-shirt, some low rise, trendy un-trendy jeans, and pumas and go as some Emo child and head to the next soon to be chic culinary hot spot. I would not only look Emo, I would become an Emo; annoying and disenchanted with everything. That's called sacrafice for art people, as I hate Emo kids (and goths, hippies, and any subculture like that in general). I would go undercover, and hide my true identity from the watchful kitchen staff. All for the sake of an honest, and real, review.

Okay, so I doubt I'm known enough (if at all) to need a disguise. I'll also probably go and dress up for fun anyways, but most likely if you read Garlic and Sapphires - The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, then most likely you're digging around for your old wig from that Halloween back in 87' thats somewhere in your closet.

Ruth Reichel, the current editor in chief of Gourmet magazine, and previous restaurant critic for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times chronicles her (mis)adventures as she recently takes on her position at the NYT. The memoir opens up as she's on the plane to the Big Apple, when a restaurant worker on the next to her informs her of the bounty on her head. Ruth learns that every cook, prep chef, restaurant owner, waiter, and hostess is part of an army of personal stalkers. Even the plump plane lady can recite Ruth's personal information. This is how horror movies usually start.

Ruth realizes her predicament: How can she retain her anonimity, and still correctly review a restaurant? Why, go in disguise of course! Ruth begins to develop (with a little help from friends for hair and makeup) a series of identities in order to infiltrate her targeted eateries and provide an accurate review. One that the everyday patron can take to heart on their own visit.

However, each disaguise begins to take on as aspect of Ruth. She doesn't simply make up a persona to match the disguise, but she becomes that persona and subsequently a hidden personal outlooks of her own Ego. This leads to her confronting her dark side in the bitter and lonley Emily who snaps at the wait staff, adopting her bright and bubbly inner child as the smart and colorful Brenda, and recognizing the sexy-powerful Chloe and her apparently dangerously flirtatious tendencies. Each alter-ego strives for the experience that any everywoman would receive. Regardless who she is, she always provides an captivating experience for the reader.

Of course, Ruth also goes into the nitty gritty, showing her devotion to her art. The politics her job plays in the food world, and the sacrafices in her family and social life that she makes due to it lay out the real life drama involved in the glitzy big city food world. The insight into how her personal and work life intertwine, and how her history of food has made her who she is gives pulsing motion to the book, putting life into the pages to be absorbed by the hungry reader.

No review can really do this book justice. I picked this up on a whim with the intention of reading it for a week or two. I finished in in one weekend. I laughed out loud, and I sat on the edge of my seat. Any self proclaimed restauranteur should pick this one up right away.


  1. I am so glad to find someone who shares my emo kid disdain. That was a pretty funny paragraph. =)

  2. He he thanks, but it was easy to write cause Emo kids suck.

  3. Found you through Robyn (TGWAE) and I see you like Hikaru Utada as well! I lived in Japan for several years and thought her stuff was interesting.

    And yes, Emo kids do suck. Like a drain :P

  4. Have you read any of Ruth's other books? She has two previous memoirs covering her pre-Times life that are both really excellent, too.


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