If you’re reading this, you probably know all about the food world. You’ve been to all the restaurants on all the best-of lists. You know your Danny Bowien from your Daniel Boulud, and can rattle off the difference between Contra, Costata, and Cosme. But how much do you know about the people who are really running things?
No, not Elite Yelpers, no matter what they try to tell you; the world’s best restaurant critics have the power to command legions of loyal readers to swarm a restaurant or ensure no one ever darkens a door again. Though people are debating the future of restaurant criticism now that we all live on the Internet, where no one can be anonymous and any semi-literate goon can write their own review of the latest hot spot, a critic’s job is much too complex to be replaced by algorithms and crowdsourced recommendations. Real criticism demands an encyclopedic knowledge of food and history, a literary way with words beyond “nom nom nom,” and an ability to taste the subtle elements of a dish that us mortals so often miss. When you get all those qualities in one person, you get a legend.
Knowing who to read and who to trust is crucial if you want to save your hard-earned bucks for the places that really matter—but first, you need to know who’s out there. To help you unlock the foodie swag, we’ve rounded up the 15 biggest critics in the game. As a test, we’ve pulled some of their best lines from some of our favorite reviews. See how many you can name.