Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Food Critics But Were Too Afraid to Ask

"So many critics. Do any of them have any training?" A question posted by a chef to the Food Media section of the Chowhound forums four years ago.

From the same forums, earlier this year: "How do people become food critics?" And eHow asks about the "salary range for a food critic."

I found the answer -- $90,000 at the top end? -- laughable (we are certainly paid a good salary, but we are not rich people), but the fact remains that as food becomes an increasingly popular topic of pop culture and conversation, so too do the jobs in its periphery.

While some people entertain great aspirations of becoming the next Ferran Adrià or Thomas Keller, still more are just as fascinated with the how, what and why of becoming a food critic.

"When I tell people that I'm a restaurant critic, everyone immediately thinks I have the world's best job," says Lauren Shockey, food critic for the Village Voice in New York City. It's similar to the way people fantasize about the imagined fabulousness of busting your hump behind the line in a busy kitchen. But Shockey is the first to admit that -- as with any other job -- there are other considerations than simply eating food and writing about it.

"While it is certainly a great job, there are some aspects that people don't often think about."

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Katharine Shilcutt