Identifying Features: A carefully honed ability to spoon forkfuls into the mouth whilst taking notes with the other hand.
Distinctive Markings: A notebook, and an array of disguises.
Natural Enemies: Waiters that hover and ask her what she’s writing and any other restaurant reviewers. Especially ones with different opinions.
Mating Call: “Share the assiette of mini-desserts?”
Zara* sighed and pushed the menu to one side. Another hard day, sampling the best Jersey’s chefs have to offer. Exhausting. And to think people say she has the best job in the world. They think it’s just free food and a chance to sit at the island’s best restaurant tables. If only they knew.
For a start, there’s all the relentless fine dining. Does anyone realise how many circuits she has to do in the gym to work it all off? She’s risked life and limb for the restaurant cause in Jersey – take that canapé she choked on at one restaurant launch last year, if it hadn’t been for the swift Heimlich from the quick-thinking Maître D’, that prawn dumpling would have been her last. It’s a dangerous job being a restaurant reviewer, she can tell you.
‘People just don’t understand how hard it is to eat, have a critical opinion about what you’re eating, and then manage to write it down without being noticed’, Zara tells anyone who will listen. It’s not such a dream job after all. Zara thinks the best job is not being a restaurant reviewer, but being a restaurant reviewer’s guest. They don’t have to hide a notebook under the table or search for new ways to say the food was great. They just have to turn up, eat, and come up with the odd printable quote every now and again. Zara’s discovered she’s very popular since she turned restaurant critic. Everyone wants to come with her to try the new Suma’s menu or the 7-course tasting menu at Tassili. The best ones know they have to be prepared to meekly order whatever Zara tells them to, and have quiet voices. She can’t risk anyone else blowing her cover like one notable date with a foghorn of a voice who broadcast to the whole restaurant ‘So when’s this review coming out then?’. That was him off her list of lunch dates.
To preserve her anonymity – Jersey’s a small place after all – Zara has a whole array of disguises; wigs in a range of colours, glasses, and a couple of outré hats that pull down low over the eyes. She’s even pretended to be pregnant a couple of times – although the tottering heels and the couple of glasses of Chateau-Lafitte she insisted on trying may have given her away. But everyone’s a critic these days though, and if there’s one thing that Zara hates, it’s a budding restaurant reviewer with a different opinion to hers. She always points them in the direction of Tripadvisor and My Favourite Jersey. No deadines, no demanding editors, ‘and no spell check’ she adds when she’s feeling particularly bitchy.
She’s used to commenting on her food, and can’t stop herself when her friends are cooking for her. ‘Good punchy flavours – not sure exactly of what though’, or ‘tastes just like a meal I had on an Air India flight once…’ were a few of her more memorable quotes. She’s not invited out to supper much anymore. But it doesn’t matter. With a new restaurant opening every few weeks and new menus to review, Zara’s hardly desperate for a ‘home-cooked’ lasagne…
But her life changed when she got an iPhone for Christmas. There’s GPS to make sure she doesn’t get lost in the Green Lanes, the online thesaurus comes up with 101 different ways of saying ‘tasty’, and she can Google the chef to make sure he really did work at the Fat Duck. And better than anything – it’s got a Dictaphone app so she can talk into it instead of taking notes. Just don’t mention the time it accidentally fell into a Hungarian Goulash…
*Some names have been changed in this article. But not this one.