What’d I miss?
What’d I miss in the two-plus years since I stopped reviewing restaurants full-time?
Not much. A bunch of new restaurants opened. I want to go to Gnocco. That place looks good. Some new places I don’t think I’ll ever go to, now that I’m not dining on the company dime. I’m surprised how little I care about a place like the Rec Pier Chop House at the Sagamore Pendry Hotel. (I had to Google the restaurant’s name just now, and also its executive chef, Andrew Carmellini).
The only possible reason why anyone would care about the Rec Pier Chop House is because it might say something to an outsider about the state of Baltimore dining. But that’s a bad reason even if it were true. And it’s not true. I promise you that not a living soul outside of Baltimore has an opinion about the dining scene in Baltimore. I think that’s a good thing.
I don’t miss reviewing but I miss reporting on the restaurant industry. I arrived at The Baltimore Sun in a time when the person writing reviews was also the person reporting on the restaurant industry. That was rough, and it didn’t work well. Reporters need access, but access compromises. That compromising position was only one among tons of reasons why I never managed to write good, long articles on the restaurant industry about the following subjects among many:
Sexual harassment in the industry. The only way we would have realistically written about this at The Baltimore Sun was if someone formally charged someone else. I don’t think we would have ever committed resources to developing a longform story on this issue. Of course, everything’s changed now. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that someone at the Sun is pitching this story. And I think the Baltimore Beat will be writing about this. Segregated dining in Baltimore. We actually did talk about this phenomenon at the Sun, but we never got very far. There is a way to report on this, but not one that jibes with the paper’s tidy approach to reporting, which typically involves an over-reliance on expert opinion. Some stories are chaotic and messy and unresolvable. But they need to be told anyway.
Here’s what I really don’t want to write about:
Service: There is an important, ongoing story about the income divide between the back of the house and the front of the house, and how tipping factors into this divide. Otherwise I don’t care about service in restaurants.
Barbecue: I love people who love barbecue, but I don’t enjoy reading about it and really don’t like writing about it.
Dining trends. What is there to say about them? That they exist?