This is the third in my series of nominations for the World’s Easiest Jobs. My first nominee was an individual, Andy Rooney (currently of CBS’s “60 Minutes.”) My nominee for second Easiest Job was a group of people, “Weather Forecasters.” Today, I am pleased – tongue both tasting and in cheek- to nominate as the third Easiest Job in the world, the group of people called Restaurant Critics. They get paid, eat and report their experiences and opinions. Not a bad life for a gourmand (or glutton) who can chew, taste, swallow, judge and string words together.
Most professional critics have two groups of followers. Whether the subject is food, books, movies, music or anything else, the professional published critic will attract the attention of those who 1) tend to agree with most of the critic’s reactions and reviews – thus using the critic as a guide about new things to experience, or simply to validate and reinforce ones own opinions and 2) think the critic is nearly always wrong, who disagree with nearly every opinion they express and who use their reviews to scoff at, make jokes about and help guide them away from things they would not want to bother spending their time or money experiencing. I do believe that every critic is followed by both groups – though the first is probably more substantial. Some critics do gain followings, however, because people love to hate them.
Restaurant reviewers/critics, in particular have a pretty easy time of it. They get to eat pretty much anywhere they choose and are paid by whoever publishes their reviews for the cost of the meals. Although they attempt to visit places and dine, usually with groups of friends so a variety of menu items can be sampled, once they are known in a community – they are readily recognized by the establishment staff. If you think they, once seen and identified, get the exact same preparation and service you or I would – well, I suppose there is a place for everything in this world – even naiveté.
In any event, the critic and those lucky enough to be the critics invited guests (a great position to be in!) eat, discuss, share their impressions and the paid member of the party – the critic- writes it up and it gets published along with rating stars, spoons or plates – in an attempt to 1) showcase the eating and writing talents of the critic and 2) influence the decisions of others about whether or not to eat at that particular restaurant. The critic has no responsibility to anyone by him/herself and his/her publisher. Their taste buds are theirs alone and their perceptions about service, presentation, ambiance and other variables are just as idiosyncratic as are their tastes and taste buds.
For some of them – especially in major metropolitan areas, this is a very good life. Reviewers for national and international publications – up and including the much touted Michelin Guide – make their livings giving entirely personal opinions. I suppose I am doing something similar right now right here – but this is not a living, it is a hobby. And in case you do not write for Associated Content, I am definitely not getting rich by doing it nor is anyone offering me a free meal to review a restaurant. Don’t get me wrong. Should I ever receive such an offer, I would probably jump on it. After all, who among us would turn down the world’s third Easiest Job if we are doing anything harder?
So, by all means – read what critics have to say. But try whatever looks or sounds interesting to you. And along with Andy Rooney and Weather Forecasters, count them among those lucky enough to get paid well to eat well by performing one of the most categorically easiest jobs in the world. A little envy would be more than understandable.