It's not my job to pass judgment on a chef's character | Craig LaBan

An interesting read by Philadelphia’s food critic regarding what is the critic’s role and responsibility in evaluating chefs’ behavior. Apparently the James Beard Foundation has requested its members take a chef’s character/conduct into account. However, as LaBan points out, 20 years ago he had no way of knowing about John Besh–it took a two month journalistic effort to expose Besh (a very different task than writing a weekly dining review).


Sort of agree with this. It’s not a food critic’s job to research a chef or a restaurant owner, dig up what they can on their character, and then if they’re seemingly clean, only then write about the food. A food critic’s job is to write about the food. It’s an investigative reporter’s job to investigate situations.

Of course, if a food critic knows about a situation involving a chef, then yes, I think they should not promote that chef and his/her food.


Houstonia article on Paul Qui

Top Chef Winner Paul Qui’s faults have been well publicized here in Texas.

I’m torn. My father was physically abusive and I only saw him twice between the time I turned 18 and the day he died some 30 years later. And I don’t regret it at all.

I’m particularly sensitive to physical abuse.

But for most petty crimes, I would say a chef’s peccadilloes are none of my business. If the food’s good, I’m there. John Mueller of the Mueller BBQ Dynasty here in Texas lost his Austin trailer for failure to pay sales taxes to the city. Moreover, his investors lost their money. But the next time I’m in Georgetown, I’m at his new place for a beef rib, I can promise you that.

Physical abuse is probably across the line for me, even after it’s been adjudicated and the perp has received the counseling and therapy so desperately evidenced. But, I wouldn’t obsess over it and if an out of town client wanted to go there, I’d do it.

For now, I can’t imagine going there of my own volition. If he can stay clean and stick to the straight and narrow, who knows?

However I can’t see how driving an unquestionably talented chef out of business is good for anyone. If he’s bankrupted by a negative PR campaign, will he learn his lesson and be less likely to abuse drugs and lovers in the future?

(If you think so, you don’t know how drug abuse and poverty work!)

My $0.02.


Agreed, there are peccadilloes, “victimless” crimes and serious offenses. That’s where I agree with LaBan’s approach to note concerns such as wage issues, fake farm-to-table assertions or previous mob ties and then leaving it up to diners to decide if these issues would diminish their enjoyment of the food,

The most recent issue locally is a chef who had been well-reviewed and turned out to be guilty of child porn. Had LaBan known this, he admits he would not have been so kind in his review. But the dilemma is, how was he to know? Even the chef’s business partners were caught unaware. Now that it is known, when chef Capasso opens a new restaurant in 2038 (after serving his 20 year sentence), the Philadelphia Inquirer food critic would have every right to mention his sordid background/refuse to review the restaurant/refuse to vote for him for a Beard award.

Agree. It is not a food critic’s job to research and investigate anything beyond the food quality, restaurant…etc. However, it is also not a food critic’s job to ignore known fact. Kind of like Harvey Weinstein. You cannot possibly give him a film award and ignore the known facts.

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It isn’t about him though. It is never about reforming the person. It is never the job of a company/organization to reform or educate a person. It is about setting an example and standard for others of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. It is about removing that negative influence from the environment.

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Making noodles. Phongdien Town, Cantho City, Southern Vietnam.
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