Looks like the Union-Tribune’s restaurant critic Maria Hunt is on the hunt…not for a meal, but for a mate:  Her picture appears as “the most eligible bachelorette” in Forbes Magazine’s recent issue for best cities for singles (San Diego ranks 7th).  She shares the page with “most eligible bachelor” real estate developer Fredric J. Maas, Chair of Centre City Development Corp. 

Buzz wishes her well, but wonders how that will keep her “anonymity” when she’s reviewing restaurants for the newspaper. Actually, we wonder if there is anonymity with any of this city’s restaurant reviewers.  Feel free to sound off on this one.

6 thoughts on “Restaurant Critic Appears in Forbes

  1. The only way a restaurant reviewer can stay anonymous is not only by writing under a phony name and reserving under other (and varied) phony names, but by staying strictly away from pre-opening restaurant parties, “special dinners” and all the other alluring freebies offered to the food press. As far as I know, I’m the only local critic who manages this. (And sometimes it IS a sacrifice! I’ve missed some exquisite meals.) It was a condition that I set for accepting the job at the SD Reader that I would have a food budget ample enough to cover my restaurant meals, so that I would NEVER have to accept a freebie or a comp to do my job. Hence, neither is my face known by “the industry,” nor do I “owe” anything (like a good review) to restaurant owners or their PR agents. (Hey, I even censor my taste in clothing so as to look as unmemorable as possible when I eat out.) So when I go to a restaurant as a representative of the general public, I’m sure to receive the same quality of food and service as any Joe Sixpack or Jane Jereboam. (And I could tell some interesting stories about the different treatment that “known” reviewers have gotten at certain restaurants, compared to that accorded to Miss Anony Mouse! )

    In contrast, I noticed in today’s UT Food section that Maria reported on a splashy new restaurant’s huge pre-opening press party, attended by numerous restaurant industry personnel. (I was invited but didn’t go, of course.) I don’t think she is”anonymous” to any major restaurant’s staff, and in fact I know that her face is known even by owners & staffers of many small mom’n’pops. (They may not know what I look like, but I do interview some 50 restaurateurs and/or chefs by phone every year. I hear lots from them, too — including gossip about other reviewers!) So yes, anonymity is possible. But it isn’t common here, and it isn’t always easy or fun. (P.S. – Love your blog, Marcie! Give ’em hell!) — Naomi

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  2. I have two examples of this very issue. First, last week, while dining at a new restaurant, our server announced to us that everyone was a buzz (no pun intended) because Maria Hunt was there having dinner. So I am sure she received very, very, very good service and extra attention to her meal.

    My second example is a little more close to home. I own a restaurant. Several years ago, I sent Maria Hunt a press release in which I mentioned the charitable causes we are involved in. She called and asked me many questions about my restaurant with particular interest in my charitable contributions. I thought this was odd until a few weeks later when I received a request for a donation from the San Diego Association of Black Journalists, of which she is an active member. I was asked to provide food for about 200 for thier annual dinner. Given the short notice and quantity asked for, I was unable to accommodate. I have never been contacted by Maria again and have never been reviewed or even given a passing mention.

    Out of curiosity, I visited the organization’s website and was surprised to see how many restaurants donate to their annual dinner, more specifically, how many restaurants have received a significant amount of positive press from Maria. I may be naive, but it seems a tremedous conflict of interest to request donations from the very people you many be writing about. Journalists, especially food critics, should not be requesting donations for thier trade organizations. I’m not sure how the UT allows this.

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  3. In all fairness to Maria Hunt I believe that her physicality does not allow her to have a great amount of anonymity in this town. She is a good looking, petite, darker skinned black woman–you notice her. I suppose that she could try to pretend that she blends in to the wallpaper but she does not. Perhaps she is just the only one not pretending that there is not a pink elephant in the corner.

    Or…maybe she likes the free stuff.

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  4. Hunt may have taken a buyout, but the second post is most revealing. If they needed a reason to dump her, it’s quid pro quo. Shame on her.

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  5. A colleague’s husband is a restaurant reviewer in San Diego. They often brag about getting free meals at all of the 5-star restaurants he reviews. One restaurant owner even commissioned a piece of original art work as a gift to them when they showed up to do a review.

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