From eating out every week to eating outrageous foods and even staying healthy, there’s more to being a food critic than meets the eye

Who needs an excuse to dine at the city's finest restaurants? Not a restaurant critic. It's just one of the perks of the job. But are reviewing restaurants always fun? Just what is it like to be a restaurant critic? 

“You get paid to eat!” That’s the most common reaction I get to being a food critic and writer. But the fact is: I don’t get paid to eat, I get paid to write. And this job isn't a bed of macaroons. 

When eating out is not all fun 

No matter how awesome it sounds that someone is going to pay you to eat fancy food at different restaurants, at the end of the day, it is just a job. I am out about four or five nights a week (even on days when I’d rather have a simple dal chawal at home). Most of those meals are not stellar, they are just mediocre. And just when you are down with a serious bout of food poisoning, an unbreakable deadline hangs over your head. But, by far, the most annoying thing is when stewards gather at a spot where they feel I can’t see them and stare and talk about me. No marks for guessing what they are talking. And then there are the humungous, never ending 15 course dinners that won’t end before your menopause!

I am not a walking talking ‘Just Dial’

As a food critic, I always get asked for restaurant recommendations. While I appreciate your faith in me, I don’t necessarily know of the best Italian restaurant in the suburbs with a great view or an impeccable wine list or the perfect, go-to restaurant for a quiet date night in Mumbai. The rare times that I have recommended has most often backfired! The fact remains that meals in restaurants are very subjective. Some nights you are in for a fantastic meal and on some occasions, you are left wondering not only if the chef had the day off, but also if he took the recipe book with him. So, stop asking me. I can direct you to Google, however.

The weight gain is real

I would have bid farewell to a 28-inch waist years ago, but for the ‘three bites only’ policy I learnt from another food critic. This little trick has helped me stay healthy. What it essentially involves is restricting myself to only three bites of a particular dish (the first one to taste it, the second to know more about the dish and the third bite…only and only if I really love it). To keep my weight in check, I try to finish only dishes that are truly delicious. Over decades of professional eating, this ritual has kept mountains of mashed potatoes and rivers of chocolate sauce and hopefully, an obvious paunch, at bay. And when I am at home, I try to compensate by eating healthy (lots of fish, vegetables and pulses).

Finding that foodie partner 

I always go with at least one other person, so I can try a bunch of different things. But finding that partner who would want to dine with you is much tougher than it seems. People have their own busy lives and finding three spare hours on a weeknight for them is a herculean task. The result is sitting alone in a restaurant with a table full of half-eaten food. The bigger problem is how you feel afterwards. In addition to being overstuffed with food, you are overstuffed with dull pains and despair.

So, do you have it in you to take on my job or would you rather enjoy your one-off eating out soiree at a restaurant of your choice?

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