|In 1971, Gale Green often wore a hat during photo shoots.|
In the years leading up to my first break as a restaurant critic in 2002, when I started writing regularly for weekly magazines in Atlanta, I practiced learning the format. My study methods now sound like ridiculous relics. I've filled thick binders full of restaurant reviews written by the country's most compelling critics. I often printed them from the internet, and prepaid walls when I got tired of temporary jobs.
Among my research materials was a piece I came back to again and again for its sweep, intelligence, and audacity. It was published in 2000 under the headline "Gold Plate Special". This is a review written by Gael Greene, a critic for New York Magazine since 1968. Green, who died of cancer on November 1 at the age of 88, was one of the masterminds of modern restaurant criticism.
Greene has fashioned her food review into a literary form. She took the job at a time when the genre was defined by her candid observation of food, ambiance, and service, as well as her witty and occasionally biting profanity. Although she was a reporter, she became a frequent character. Her prose was perfectly lush. A proud sensualist, she wrote two erotic novels during her career. In her reviews, Barb often landed like a well-made beurre blanc that she must have frequented during the days when New York's French cuisine predominated.
See the "Gold Plate Special" essay. It was a critique of Alain Ducasse at Essex House, but it was also a broader social narrative around the celebrity chef's entry into Manhattan's dining scene. The piece details several meals, but likewise follows the arc of a restaurant reception by a New Yorker. Anyway, among the circles that cared about such an arrival, what began as a starry-eyed indulgence of the masses fell into a general distrust of exorbitant prices and uneven food.
|Gael Greene is eating at the restaurant.|
The consensus seems to be that the sex crowd didn’t think there was enough sex and the food crowd didn’t think there was enough food.
At 4,000 words, Green's review is about four times longer than a standard review and is a testament to the space magazines give writers then, and now, at the turn of the 2000s. Still the piece slips. Insults are great. The roulade on the sole is "pathetic". She says she's very excited about the rye tuile flavored with sun-dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. It's not a big deal. It's not a little embarrassing.
When she finally fell in love with something like a pear dessert? “I'm waltzing with Fred Astaire right now. is." In the center of the piece, she details a direct breakfast meeting with Dukas. she wrote: She grins at her words, but the reader is already frowning and perhaps giving a slightly mean laugh.
Green was born in Detroit. She worked as a reporter for the New York Post and freelanced for Cosmopolitan, Mademoiselle, and other publications before being hired by New York Magazine, where she served as a restaurant critic for 40 years. Greene wrote the column part-time for another six years when Adam Pratt was given the title of a critic in 2002. She was fired in 2008.
“It was a narcissistic shock: Moi?” she told the New York Times then of the news. “I thought I was a brand at New York magazine.”
In her memoir, she describes a tour of duty at a Michelin-starred restaurant in France, arguing with Elvis (from room service to a fried egg sandwich). (she said she asked her to order ) and revealed her relationship with Bart: Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, and some of the restaurant chefs she criticized. She defended her editorial decision by disclosing the relationship in print, as in her 1977 review "I Love Le Cirque but Can I Be Trusted?" (the news RK Times at the time). "I thought it was a New York magazine brand."
Greene told me over lunch in New York in 2016. The crowd didn't think they had enough food. "
I was a national critic of Eater at the time and had begun a passion project, an oral history of the women who spearheaded restaurant criticism in America, which unfortunately was not yet completed. Green was famous for his collection of hats. Since she wore them at public events and when being photographed, she reasoned that when she went headless in a review, she was less likely to be recognized.
I had met Green several times before and was always in awe of her vibrant grandeur. When she barked at her husky, she threw her head back at the laughter.
Restaurant criticism is a strange and idiosyncratic profession that is inevitably changing and sadly disappearing. Survivors in the wild will probably cease to exist, and there is a strong argument as to why they should. But Green was a living force, and the trail disappeared behind her, even as she burned it. while I believe she is willing to share it. She was supported by her work with Citymeals on Wheels, a New York home-based senior care organization she co-founded with James Beard in 1981. Citymeals served over 67 million meals in her lifetime.
Did she feel fully recognized for her contributions to American food writers? Over a few mouthfuls of gelato for dessert, she laughed out loud as we talked about the binder and quoted a few lines from the "Gold Plate Special." I hope she understood my gratitude.