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Going Undercover With NY Times Restaurant Critic Pete Wells

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May 13, 2019

New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells has been called the most read and most feared food writer in America. He can make or break a restaurant with the power of one of his reviews.

When Pete goes out, he makes reservations under fake names and fake e-mail addresses because he doesn't want restaurants to know he's coming. He doesn't want special treatment. Even once he's inside he hopes not to be recognized. That's why there's only one old picture of him online, and why only his mysterious arm appears in the above photo.

This week, Pete Wells takes Dan on an undercover mission to a New York restaurant.

Pete covers a lot of ground – from places where dinner for four costs $3,000 to mom and pop shops where you can feast for $10. When he finds a place he really loves, you can feel his excitement in the review. When he ate some great wontons recently, he wrote of the shrimp inside:

You can see their bodies glowing pink through the thin skins of the wrappers, whose loose ends trail behind the plump, round wontons like comets’ tails.

When Pete doesn't like something, he’s not shy. He’s probably best known for his 2012 takedown of Guy Fieri’s Times Square restaurant. But Dan especially enjoyed Pete’s pan of one of the most expensive sushi restaurants in America -- Kappo Masa.

Pete eats out five nights a week, so he has plenty of bad meals. How does he decide which places warrant bad reviews? And how does he account for the fact that different people have different tastes?

In this week's episode, Pete explains his code of conduct as a reviewer. He also discusses the power that comes with his influential position and his efforts to wield that power responsibly.

Today's sponsors:

Interstitial music in this show by Black Label Music:

- "Mellophone" by JT Bates

- "Morning Blues" by JT Bates

- "Simple Song" by Chris Bierden

- "Talk to Me Now" by Hayley Briasco and Ken Brahmstedt

- "Still In Love With You" by Stephen Clinton Sullivan

Photo by Dan Pashman

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