"The towering figure SF chefs are afraid to say no to"

Excerpt from August 2016 San Francisco Magazine:

What this is really about is a city whose impact on the nation’s—and arguably the world’s—culinary culture stands in direct contradiction to its innate provinciality. San Francisco is a village, one that’s full of chefs who have spent their entire career under a single critic and have been conditioned to please him and to not, with very few exceptions, ask any questions. It’s a place where you can go to a party at the home of that critic, look around at all of the chefs in attendance, and realize, as one past attendee of one Bauer-Murphy soiree did, that “if you dropped a bomb on the house right now, the food scene would be done.” Many of the people I interviewed for this story raised the comparison with New York: This would never fly at the New York Times, they said—can you imagine any of the paper’s all-powerful restaurant or theater critics getting away with such clear, and long-standing, conflicts of interest? Current Times food critic Pete Wells declined to answer this question when I put it to him over email, but no—of course you can’t imagine it. For one thing, the Times, unlike the Chronicle, recycles its restaurant critics every few years. The Chronicle, meanwhile, seems more than content with the arrangement: When I emailed its publisher, Jeff Johnson, for a response, he replied, “Frankly, I don’t see much here to comment on…. We believe Michael Bauer conducts his work with the highest level of professionalism and takes his responsibilities very seriously as an independent critic.”


Is the article overstating the influence of Michael Bauer? He reviews and likes a specific type of restaurants. There is a wide range of restaurants that he doesn’t review. And if he does, I am skeptical his opinion has as much influence on the owners/ chefs/ diners at those restaurants.

The way which the article paints the situation is pretty bad. I wish this is a very case or overstated.

This review of Royal Feast from Bauer really gets on my nerves:

Opening sentence: 'Thomas Keller, one of the country’s most decorated chefs, might want to meet Zongyi Liu. They have something in common: the Bocuse D’Or.’

‘The gravy in the Sichuan-style beef stew ($12.95) was almost like an intricate French sauce.’

Closing sentence: 'I think Thomas Keller would be impressed.’

Now exactly why Bauer felt the need to validate a Chinese chef’s accomplishment by talking about Thomas Keller? Just talk about the chef’s food. Talk about the chef’s medal if he wants to. Chef Liu’s sauces doesn’t need to be like French’s to taste good, thank you.