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  • simonathibault 3:21 pm on November 12, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Adam Pearson, , , Ivy Knight, Lucy Waverman, , Melissa Buote, ,   

    Getting ready for Devour 

    Yes, it’s here once again, Devour: The Food Film Fest is revving up once again for five days of film, food and much, much more.

    Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 1.47.55 PM


    Sure, Anthony Bourdain will be there, but a few Passable people will be there as well doing some great workshops!  For those of you devoted to making food porn, Matt Armendariz and Adam Pearson are going to be talking about food photography and food styling on Friday morning at 10:00 am, down at the Al Whittle Theatre in Studio Z.

    On the food writing front, I will be moderating a panel on food writing that will include Passable’s own Melissa Buote, as well as Lucy Waverman and Ivy Knight. That takes place on Friday afternoon at 2:00 pm in Studio Z in the Al Whittle Theatre.

    I’ll also be hosting a chat with chef Craig Flinn talking about the craft of writing cookbooks on Saturday. The talk will include advice, anecdotes and maybe even a little culinary surprise. It takes place Saturday afternoon at 2:00 pm in Studio Z at the Al Whittle Theatre.

    See you down there!

    (Full disclosure: As well as being a moderator for these two panels, I am also a programmer for Devour, and have been since 2013.)


  • simonathibault 5:06 pm on February 20, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Anonymity, Melissa Buote, Restaurant Criticism, Sam Sifton,   

    The visible face of restaurant criticism 

    Note: In April of 2012, I published a story on the subject of anonymity amongst restaurant critics.  It was presented on a now-defunct website called OpenFile. The story included interviews with Passable’s own Melissa Buote and former NYT critic Sam Sifton. Unfortunately, the site is now down, and so the story was no longer available online.  Since its publication, anonymity has become less and less used by restaurant critics, with most recently New York Magazine’s Adam Platt plastering his face on the cover of said magazine.  I thought it would be interesting to republish the story and ask once again: what is the role of anonymity in restaurant criticism today?


    In 2005, Ruth Reichl published, “Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life Of A Critic in Disguise” about her experience as restaurant critic for The New York Times. In it she details the myriad ways – wigs, costumes and makeup lessons – she worked to make herself as anonymous as possible.

    But is it possible to be anonymous as a food critic when social media and our increased online presence has changed the way we – and let others – view our lives? Facebook and Twitter have changed the way we curate our private lives. For most people, this is a non-issue, but for food critics, staying anonymous has always been a major concern.

    “I think that the reader of a restaurant review wants the person to be an everyman (or everywoman) who gets the same treatment they do, and nine times out of ten, that experience is an anonymous one,” says Melissa Buote. Melissa is the food critic for The Coast and has been writing about food for the past two and half years. (Full disclosure: Buote and I also write for the same food blog, Passable.ca) To maintain her anonymity, Melissa has made changes in her life. She strictly limits access to her Facebook profile, even using a pseudonym, and her Twitter profile shows the image of a cat. “There is an idea that privacy doesn’t exist anymore, but that’s only true insofar as you let it be true,” says Melissa. “Yes, it’s impossible to be completely anonymous. But that has always been true to some extent. You will always meet people or be put in social situations where a friend-of-a-friend knows who you are, or someone can point you out to a stranger, be that a server in a restaurant, a chef or just a random person on the street—and that it’s-a-small-worldness is amplified in smaller cities like Halifax.”


    Sam Sifton, former critic for the New York Times (Image via Food Republic)

    And that’s the key here. In terms of population and dining options, Halifax is a relatively small city.  It’s not like New York where restaurateurs will do everything in their power to find out what food critics look like. Sam Sifton should know. He recently finished his two-year stint as restaurant critic for the New York Times.  “I always reserved under a false name,” he explains.  “My cell phone numbers were fake, or only led to my line through proxies. I had credit cards registered under more than a half-dozen names, and I changed all these regularly. I had a few disguises, though these rarely worked more than once.” Sifton even found himself hounded by photographers when he announced that he would check out KFC’s Double Down.  Although he found the attention a little strange, he still believes in the importance of anonymity, or at least, as much as it is possible in today’s world. “Anonymity is going to be increasingly difficult to achieve, given the popularity of Facebook and other social media outlets that allow people to post pictures of themselves,” he says.  “You can disable these accounts if you want to become critic. But the security’s porous. The Web’s wide. Photos are going to get out. It’s best just to follow our rules and hope for the best.” But what happens when your image does get out there? Does such a thing matter in a place like Halifax?

    (More …)

  • MB 6:39 pm on September 14, 2013 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Melissa Buote, , Saveur   

    PEI in Saveur Magazine 


    This month I am fortunate enough to have a piece about the wonderful food of Prince Edward Island featured in what I consider one of the all-time great food publications, Saveur Magazine. This piece means a lot to me; it’s about the food passed down from my grandmother—my father’s mother—to my mother, who was kind and interested enough to take up the mantle and adopt a lot of Acadian recipes into her originally Manitoban repertoire. As a kid, the charm and simplicity of a lot of Acadian dishes—boiled dinners, fish cakes, simple stovetop beans, scalloped potatoes—was lost on me. I would pull up a big wooden chair to my Grammy’s table and stick to her fluffy homemade rolls with big dollops of butter and slices of sharp cheddar cheese, avoiding whatever was lurking beneath pot tops on her stove. The salty steam that would hang in the air from boiled pork neckbones or fresh fish was the last thing that would ever whet my appetite. Whether my tastes simply changed or if it just boils down to nostalgia being the sweetest spice of all, those Acadian basics are all comfort food to me now, and make me think of my PEI home. From the time I was a kid, and my parents would bring me, my brother, and my sister to PEI to wander the red shores to walk, swim or dig clams (like my uncles are doing in the above photo) or knock around in our grandparents’ fusty basement, to every time I get to go back to the Island to visit my parents who now live there full-time, PEI has held a very special place in my heart. But more than anything, this article has been a wonderful way to celebrate the thing I love most in the world: my family. Nothing could be more delicious than that.

    I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the magazine or read the story online at Saveur.com.

    • naomi 1:40 pm on September 16, 2013 Permalink | Reply

      congrats…you write so well…

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