Now the celebrated New York Times food critic writes about her experiences in her third book, "Garlic And Sapphires." Click here to read an excerpt.
Her book is not only about the many disguises she wore as the critic, but about how her personal life (maybe even her soul) was affected during this period.
"What I learned is that how we present ourselves to the world is really how we get treated," Reichl tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "So if you want to be treated really well in a restaurant, you really have to dress up. You cannot just show up."
To make sure she was not recognized at restaurants, she was advised not to just wear a wig but also to be sure to know everything about the character she was portraying.
She says, "When I started the idea of disguises, I went to an acting coach who said to me, 'You can't just put on a funny wig and makeup. You really have to become these people.' So, for six years, I transformed myself into many people and she made me have the back story: What do their husbands do? What do their children do?"
And so as Betty, a slightly disheveled old woman, Reichl noted that she was treated like dirt in every restaurant.
As Molly, a retired high school teacher who is suddenly rich from her husband's real estate speculation, Reichl noticed that, because of her character's shyness, she was ignored, mishandled and condescended to by the high-powered staff.
Reichl says, "She didn't know how to stand up for herself as opposed to, say, my mother, who was an old lady. But given the worst table in the house, she made such a fuss and was so demanding and obnoxious, eventually she got everything she wanted and then some."
But the most fun Reichl had was when she impersonated Chloe the blond interior decorator.
Says Reichl, "I did not know I had that person inside of me. Chloe can get a cab; stop traffic; doors are opened for you; everything changes for you. Not only that, Chloe knew how to flirt, something I didn't think I knew how to do."
Today, Reichl no longer needs a disguise. She stopped writing reviews.
"I really wanted to go home and cook for my family," she says. "I don't think there's one thing more important you can do for your kids than have family dinner."