Anooska peering over the top of a menu at Montrachet restaurant, in Brisbane’s Bowen Hills. Picture: Annette Dew
Anooska peering over the top of a menu at Montrachet restaurant, in Brisbane’s Bowen Hills. Picture: Annette Dew

Dark side of being a restaurant critic

"Oh my god, you have the best job in the world."

If I had a dollar for every time someone said this to me I'd be so rich I would have long retired - living it up on my mega-yacht in the south of France, eating caviar - Belugas of course - and making it rain $100 bills.

Being a restaurant reviewer is undeniably a great job.

We have the privilege of dining at some of the best restaurants in the country - and sometimes the world. We enjoy morsels of food so refined, so clever, so delicious your heart feels like it may actually burst with joy.

We meet and are inspired by chefs and producers so passionate about their craft it makes you want to eat better, live better and be better.

We're also occasionally fortunate enough to be invited to dinners filled with fabulous food, and wines so fine we'd need to mortgage our house to afford them ourselves.

But most excitingly, we're able to fulfil our passion - driven by a hunger to never stop learning; realising no matter how much we devour or how far we travel, there'll always be a dish we've never tried and something new to fall in love with.

 

Anooska at Montrachet restaurant in Brisbane’s Bowen Hills. Picture: Annette Dew
Anooska at Montrachet restaurant in Brisbane’s Bowen Hills. Picture: Annette Dew

 

But while I adore my job, it's not all French champagne and foie gras - it has its dark side.

For each truly orgasmic meal - queue Harry Met Sally-style moans and groans - there are at least 20 you'll want to spit out like a bowl of over-boiled brussels sprouts.

Three years ago I spent two weeks straight eating almost nothing but fish and chips trying to find the best in the state.

After facing food dripping in more oil than a BP refinery and frozen fish mushier than a Renée Zellweger film, the sight of anything deep-fried and battered still induces a little dry-retching. And on the topic of cuisine greasier than a mechanic's workshop, is the issue of what dining out multiple times a week does to your body.

You see, chefs don't just cook with oil, they cook with oil and butter and fat and salt and all the things that make food insanely delicious, while ensuring your cholesterol is higher than Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg in a weed plantation.

A recent visit to my doctor confirmed exactly this, as she revealed my lifestyle had put me on the express train to heart attack station, with clogged arteries the only stop.

The one thing slightly slowing down my rapid approach to an ambulance ride and heart resuscitation is my obsession with keeping fit.

I work out multiple times a week and even bought a stepper to put at my stand-up desk so I could burn calories while I typed. The laughter around the office was deafening, but I like to think they were just jealous of my brilliant idea.

The seemingly endless exercise is still sadly never enough to stop the gradual, persistent weight gain or infiltration of cellulite. But hey, dimples are cute, right? Even the ones that make your arse look like a dirt road near Uluru.

Possibly the worst part about restaurant reviewing though is the spirit-crushing hate slung at us online if we ever write a negative review.

 

Anooska writes that the life of a restaurant reviewer isn’t always glamorous. Pic Annette Dew
Anooska writes that the life of a restaurant reviewer isn’t always glamorous. Pic Annette Dew

 

My favourite of all time is this delightful Facebook comment: "She's clearly not getting laid enough. If she was, maybe she would have had a much better experience."

Why thank you Mr Stirling of Morayfield for those insightful words. While sex does certainly put a little spring in one's step, not even a Sting-style Tantric marathon would be enough to save some trainwreck dining experiences.

But on a positive note I have way more "friends" after becoming a restaurant reviewer. I mean, sure they're thirstier for a free meal than a Bachelor contestant looking for love and 15 seconds of fame. But I get the glory of looking like a baller dropping my work Amex to cover the cheque.

Of course, there's also the bad service that comes with reviewing.

From being served a pizza topped with a pen casing to croquettes that have slipped off the plate and across the dirty table (clearly the waitress was banking on the three second rule), I've experienced it all.

There have been waits for dishes so long I could have hired a 4WD, gone out to a paddock, shot, killed and cooked the animal in less time. And staff turn a white, dry-clean only dress into a Jackson Pollock artwork by trying to clear too many plates at once, only to drop them sending food flying.

Probably the worst experience was at a small cafe where three separate dishes were all laced with hair. Now had I been in the wig-making business, it may have been OK, but as a diner, not so great. FYI, I never ended up reviewing that eatery. I figured they had enough problems. However, I did consider sending them a box of hair nets.

So while restaurant reviewing may be a fabulous job, remember, just like all the photoshopped images on social media, not everything is as perfect in real life.

Unless, of course, you enjoy flossing your teeth with someone else's tresses.


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