Michael Bauer's reviews have become a hot topic in our office these last few weeks. After Sara posted her response to his harsh review of Acme Chophouse, we received an unprecedented number of emails and comments. Some people told us off. Others, notably lots of chefs, heard just where we were coming from. Many of them said they too were sick of the Bauer tyranny, but also so afraid of his influence—both here and nationally—to go on the record about how they really feel.
Then this week I noticed that the Thursday review of Contigo—arguably one of the bigger restaurant openings in what has been a slow spring—was written by staff writer Amanda Gold. Weird, no? It reminded me of the Orson review, which came out about this time last year. It was a huge project from a notable chef and Bauer sent Miriam Morgan to cover it in his stead. But the head-scratching capper of the week was the Sunday review, which is where Bauer normally flexes his muscles. This week, the column space was given over to Esin in Danville, written by former critic for the Contra Costa Times, Nicholas Boer. Now, I know M.B. was in New York for the James Beard Awards (undercover, of course), but still it makes one wonder—what’s going on at the Chron?
But it also got me thinking—everyone is nervous about being reviewed by Bauer, but I'm sure that though Gold and Morgan and Boer are accomplished writers, Orson, Contigo and Esin are probably disappointed to have missed the opportunity to be reviewed by Baueriffic himself. Ah, the double-edged sword of being reviewed.