Eating For A Living

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So you want to be a food critic? The job specifications are, to say the least, pretty weird.

You must love disguises, phony names and be able to eat out 13-14 meals a week, CBS News correspondent Martha Teichner reports.

Restaurant critics didn't really exist before 1900, when the Michelin tire people in France, hoping to encourage driving and therefore sell more tires, started putting out little guidebooks telling people about good places to buy gas, eat and stay.

Michelin started the star system and is famously stingy about awarding them to restaurants. Earlier this month, when the first New York Michelin guide appeared, only four chefs received three stars, the top rating. All except one of them, surprise, surprise, were French.

Duncan Hines, yes, as in cake mix, put together the first American restaurant guide. He was a traveling salesman who began compiling a list of the good restaurants he discovered on the road.

And thanks to the late New York Times food editor, Craig Claiborne, virtually every big city newspaper has a restaurant critic.

As he readies his disguise, complete with glasses better suited for a 1970s reporter, restaurant reviewer Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post says he only goes undercover maybe three times per month.

"You don't want the disguise to get in the way of the story and the reporting and the review, Sietsema says, adding, "but, no. I know what it's like to go to a big deal restaurant and drop $200 and feel as if you didn't get your money's worth."

As chief food critic for The New York Times, Ruth Reichl managed to spend more than $150,000 a year of her newspaper's money, eating out.

"It's very hard if you're a restaurant critic for an important paper not to have the restaurateurs looking out for you and ya know trying to roll out the red carpet when you walk in," Reichl explains.

These days, as editor of Gourmet magazine, she dines as herself, but in the six years she reviewed restaurants for the Times, she turned the need to eat incognito into full-blown costume drama.

In "Garlic and Sapphires," she recalls the collection of characters she created to deceive restaurateurs.
  • Sean Alfano

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