LookyTasty on Sunday had the opportunity to chat with Lauren Shockey about last week’s Choice Eats tasting event as well as her life as a Village Voice food critic and blogger for Fork in the Road. Enjoy!
How do you decide what restaurants to invite to Choice Eats?
All restaurants are handpicked by Robert Sietsema and myself. We only feature restaurants we’ve reviewed in the Village Voice or on the paper’s blog, Fork in the Road, and they must offer delicious food. Basically Choice Eats is a celebration of all the food we love most in this city.
Where do you find your inspiration for your food writing?
Obviously by the foods I eat and stories I learn about new food spots. Great food makes for great food writing.
Who or what influences the next place you eat?
I look for restaurants with an interesting story, whether it be an underrepresented cuisine or cool culinary technique or interesting chef. There has to be that special something, whether it’s in the food or ambiance or service, that makes you want to share your discovery with others.
If you had an out of town visitor, where would you bring them?
I’d want it to be a mix of classics (NY-style pizza, a classic hot dog) plus upscale fare. I tend to take guests to ABC Kitchen frequently because it’s a great space and embodies a lot of what’s going on in the New York culinary scene.
What is your favorite aspect about being a food critic?
Getting to eat at the city’s top restaurants has been an amazing experience. Of course, it’s not been so great for my waistline!
Are you often recognized at restaurants when you dine out or you are reviewing their food?
I have never been recognized to my knowledge, and I always make reservations under pseudonyms and use a credit card in a different name, trying to keep as low a profile as possible.
Do you ever notice a waiter/owner being extra friendly if they might think you’re a critic?
Again, that hasn’t happened to me, but I’ve been in restaurants while other critics are dining there, and I’ve seen “gifts from the chef” being sent to them.
What are your criteria for reviewing a restaurant? How do you determine what dishes to order?
I usually visit each restaurant three times, so by then I’ve sampled nearly everything on the menu. I go that many times to ensure service and consistency.
What advice do you give aspiring food critics?
Start writing! Start a blog if you don’t have one to get your name and voice out in the public, and don’t be afraid to pitch your story ideas to editors. Also, be completely omnivorous and expose yourself to as much food as possible.
What’s the biggest misconception about food critics?
That we’re all super critical and stodgy. And fat.
Anyone can start a blog and write about food. Has the Internet made it better or worse when it comes to food journalism?
The internet is great in helping writers reach audiences they might not otherwise have. Same for our blog, Fork in the Road — it’s provided us with an audience in addition to those who read the paper edition. However, it can be somewhat difficult to navigate all those opinions on the internet, which is why having a single voice of a critic be valuable.