Cedric Crucke from The UnOfficial Food Critic, via his Urbanspoon.com profile page.
A recent addition to the Northeast Ohio restaurant criticism scene, Cedric Crucke from The UnOfficial Food Critic established a system for rating restaurants based on chef’s hats before gaining some notoriety in theUrbanspoon.com realm. When Ohio.com revamps its website, it will feature his reviews on its RSS feed. A business major currently working for a large company in Akron, Ohio, Cedric says he always enjoyed food and found blogging to be an accessible outlet for his thoughts on eating out. I asked him about the methods behind his criticism via e-mail and about what got him interested in the first place.
Critical Gastronomy:First, how did you start your blog? I read your first post, but perhaps you can elaborate?
Cedric Crucke: Too often you read reviews that don’t give enough detail; or the other extreme of way too much irrelevant detail. When I go to a restaurant, I’m paying for an experience, and this is more than just how the food tastes. It starts from the moment you park and start walking in – I wanted to give people a summary the whole experience of what dining there could be like – not just a review of the food. So I thought, why not give my perspective?
CG:Talk about your reviewing method and what a typical one is like.
CC: I haven’t changed my methods of going to a restaurant just because I will be writing a review about it later on — I always have been somewhat of a critic. I’ve been to many restaurants — both extremes: upscale and down to earth Mom & Pop places. Each has their specialty and depending on what you are looking for, both can be excellent.
As I’ve mentioned before, the experience starts with walking in from the parking lot. What does it look like? What vibe is it giving me? Just like with people, impressions are made within the first moments – external look and the initial greeting as you walk in. …
I always visit a restaurant with my wife, and usually with another couple. We tend to share a bit of each others appetizers so that we can get a better sense of how everything tastes – plus we love eating and enjoying flavours, so this helps us experience more! I don’t take notes at the time, per se, but I do discuss how everything is going with the people I am with. … Usually everyone “likes” their meal, but I look at more than just the basic taste. I look at the presentation, the combination of ingredients and how each bite tastes — the flavours [British spelling? I love it! - CG] involved, how it compares to previous similar dishes, etc. Our dinners usually are for more than an hour, again, I like an experience when going out — the enjoyment of being served food and drinks and not worrying about cleaning it up!
On what happens when he doesn’t like a place…
I am a bit harsh, and if I don’t like a place, I tend not to go back. Even if it was an off night, I think that a solid place should act as if every night is their first opening night. You never know when someone is going to come for the first time and if they don’t like it – bam, negative verbal feedback – not good!
What annoys me is that I just read a review in the local paper that said how great it was — but they didn’t talk about any food they ate! They talked about the renovations and the chef and the owner. BUT never about the food, or the service! Those are the types of reviews that I can’t stand.
CG: Why the chef’s hats, and what does it take to be a 10-hat restaurant?
CC: Ten Chef’s Hats — ha! That took a while to figure out what my rating symbol would be. Ten hats probably will not happen. Lola got 9.5— it’s truly a great place in it’s own way. Unfortunately, I”m tempted to bring it down to a 9 because had we not sat where we did, I probably would not have enjoyed the atmosphere as much. … I think you can get some idea of what it would take: great atmosphere, polite and energetic servers who don’t crowd or rush you, but are attentive when needed, and food that is unique and tasty, but doesn’t weigh your stomach down. Sounds simple, but I haven’t had an experience that does all of that well. A lot of the restaurants are interested in turning tables, or servers just don’t know when to leave you alone.
CG: Where do you see your reviews going?
CC: Ultimately, I’d love to run my own restaurant — when the moment is right. I’ve got a lot to learn about running a business to go into that right now, but it is a dream of mine that I am planning on living. Right now, I’ll just keep reviewing, posting online and via the Akron website, get feedback and see what happens.
I see a lot of what I’m doing now in Cedric, so will be taking what he says to heart. Now on to the kitchen, I have a roast to attend to.
This interview appears as submitted by Cedric Crucke to Critical Gastronomy with minor grammatical editing for clarity.