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2 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

The Times doesn’t exist to get Victoria Blakey investors.

The Times is a newspaper. 

yes and the times restaurant critic is viewed as an authority in their field. and  supposedly uses their position as a kind of customer service, which the star ratings sometimes did.

that remark about class up thread reminds me of this:

“The voice is still there, yakking away. When I receive weekly letters from people who think it is indecent to write about $100 meals while half the world is hungry, the voice yaks right along. "They're absolutely right, you elitist pig," it hisses. And when it asks, "When are you going to grow up and get a real job?" it sounds a lot like my mother.

“And just about then is when I tell the voice to shut up. Because when my mother starts telling me that all I'm doing with my life is telling rich people where to eat, I realize how much the world has changed.

“Yes, there are still restaurants where rich people go to remind themselves that they are different from you and me. But there are fewer and fewer of them. As American food has come of age, American restaurants have changed. Going out to eat used to be like going to the opera; today, it is more like going to the movies.“

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We had one of those lessons in 7th grade. I was called up to the front and presented with a NYTimes (I guess because the teacher assumed I'd not be familiar with such a sophisticated paper). She start

keep buying lotto tickets

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6 minutes ago, Sneakeater said:

Try explaining to some "normal" person who doesn't hang around on foodboards -- your husband, say -- how and why a restaurant that gets two stars can be as good as, even better than, a restaurant that gets three stars.  See how far you get.

i think i did at one point and to our friends, and their reaction was, “you’re really passionate about this”.

 

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33 minutes ago, Diancecht said:

Going out to eat used to be like going to the opera; today, it is more like going to the movies.

If there's any sentence that can make me stabbier than this sentence, I don't know what it is.

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10 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

My friends' reaction was, "that's nuts.  You can't possibly be right."

Though it is very common for someone to say "I know restaurant X is two stars and restaurant Y is four stars, but I just like restaurant X better". Which is framed in the language of personal preference vs. objective assessment, but it's a certainly adjacent to this.

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12 hours ago, Sneakeater said:

And to be clear—  because I know I haven’t been — when I complain about classism, I don’t mean in terms of intended audience but rather scope of coverage.

For example, to me, Taqueria Ramirez is one of the very best places to eat in New York right now.   For it not to get the same level of coverage as the far inferior Mena (see? I knew I could yank this back on topic) would be ridiculous, as well as a misrepresentation of the New York dining scene.  Under the current regime, it has.  Under the former regime, it wouldn’t have.

Because even if Taqueria Ramirez had gotten a starred review under the old system, is there anyone here who wouldn’t have argued that it would have been absurd for it to get the same three stars we’re guessing Mena would have gotten?

What surprises me is that institutions haven't expanded the star system given it's popularity. It would be very easy to say "The Times star system was built to evaluate a certain kind of restaurant - traditional, formal and, historically, European. While we think the star system is important for evaluating those restaurants, and we think that the star system has proven to us to have great utility for evaluating other cuisines that follow a "fine dining" model, we recognize that not every restaurant in New York falls into that framework, and such a framework is not useful for evaluating the vast majority of restaurants that make this city great. Therefore, we have decided to introduce a new 10 point framework for evaluating the bistro, the taqueria..."

Outside of the intrinsic merits of a points based system - there is good reason why it has been jettisoned in rock and classical criticism - if Pitchfork teaches you nothing else it's that numbers and lists sell. It's much easier to think of political, as opposed to economic, stories as to why the times took this tact. 

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3 hours ago, Adrian said:

 Therefore, we have decided to introduce a new 10 point framework for evaluating the bistro, the taqueria..."

I wonder if the NYT has demand from their general reader to go that granular given this information is available elsewhere (e.g. Open Table categories like "best for foodies" "special occasion" etc. (let alone Eater  which probably has more an audience like this board.) 

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I know you all know the history, but maybe it's worth a reminder. I don't know if the Michelin stars were the first restaurant rating system, but they're almost 100 years old and probably the most influential. Let's recall that they didn't start out as a way of celebrating the arts of gastronomy and the talents of star chefs. They started out as an entirely practical guide for French men (yes men) who traveled constantly for work and needed to know which restaurants and indeed hotels to book.

Back in those days, French cuisine, as well as standards of comfort and service, were relatively homogenous. Sure, you had cheap and cheerful bistros and grand places, but they were on the same spectrum. So the star system worked.

It was imported into other countries and contexts and as long as a degree of homogeneity persisted it continued to work. As recently, I'd say, as the 1990s, standards derived from French restaurants applied -- even if the restaurant wasn't French (yes, you can add analogous standards for Japanese and Chinese restaurants).

It's important to note that, in the case of Michelin, the Times, Gayot etc quite explicitly base ratings on factors additional to food (deliciousness) -- service, decor, wine list. Zagat, interestingly, separated some of these things out and provided a series of ratings.

The reason I drone on is that I think the insoluble problem with the star system today is less to do with food than these other factors. There simply is no agreed standard for comfort or decor any more. It's doubltess a generational thing. There are people who very sincerely find eating off mismatched plates and drinking out of jam jars at rickety, communal tables to be more comfortable than eating at a traditionally appointed restaurant. That's not likely to change.

It made sense to downgrade even the most delicious taco joint in the days when people agreed that it failed on decor, service, wine list, etc. It made sense to say, it's a one star, but go eat the delicious food. I don't think that does make sense any more.

And I regret it, but that's just me.

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17 hours ago, Steve R. said:

Of course it is.  We live in a class based society, with racism, sexism and many other isms.  But it almost seems like Sneak is expecting The NYT to step apart from it.  Never has, never will.  When I was in grade school, there was actually a lesson given by one of my teachers in how to read the NYT.  How to fold it, how not to expect comics, how to understand the high falutin' language used, etc.  It was assumed (rightfully) that the majority of us only had exposure to the Daily News or NY Post and that we needed to be exposed to what the folks above our parents' pay grade thought if we were going to rise above our class.  Obviously, I stuck with the comics (& sports section) of those other rags, even while rejecting their (worse) world view.

 

We had one of those lessons in 7th grade. I was called up to the front and presented with a NYTimes (I guess because the teacher assumed I'd not be familiar with such a sophisticated paper). She started her lesson in how to to fold it and in order to save her some time i excused myself and reached into my school bag and produced my very own personal perfectly folded copy of the NYT. 

This is the problem with artificial barriers to reach the upper classes. All you ever really need is cash and the ability to fold a newspaper. 

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52 minutes ago, Wilfrid said:

And I regret it, but that's just me.

There are also people who regret that The Times' music coverage now mainly focuses on pop music, which The Times critics now treat as seriously as classical music.

What a decline from the days more than 40 years ago when a Times music writer said, in these exact words, that he saw no need to learn about Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis when there was still a single Monteverdi madrigal he hadn't yet heard!

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19 hours ago, Steve R. said:

Of course it is.  We live in a class based society, with racism, sexism and many other isms.  But it almost seems like Sneak is expecting The NYT to step apart from it.  Never has, never will.  When I was in grade school, there was actually a lesson given by one of my teachers in how to read the NYT.  How to fold it, how not to expect comics, how to understand the high falutin' language used, etc.  It was assumed (rightfully) that the majority of us only had exposure to the Daily News or NY Post and that we needed to be exposed to what the folks above our parents' pay grade thought if we were going to rise above our class.  Obviously, I stuck with the comics (& sports section) of those other rags, even while rejecting their (worse) world view.

 

But did they teach you to understand how a restaurant getting two stars could be better, in the reviewer's own view, than a restaurant getting three stars?

***********************************

Sure, The Times has always been classist.  But if they want to walk it back -- even if it's only because they think it's what their Upper-Middle Class target audience is now demanding -- should we be encouraging them or obstructing them?

Every time The Times published a 1619 Project piece, should someone have posted something commensurately noting the contributions of White people to American development and the economic benefits of chattel slavery?  Cuz after all, The Times has always been racist.  Why shouldn't we keep it that way?  Why should we let it try to make amends?

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