A food critic is a writer who specializes in writing criticisms of food. Like theater and movie critics, food critics are supposed to provide thoughtful, well-informed, and unbiased information to the public, so that members of the public can make decisions about where to spend their money. Food critics primarily write about restaurants, ranging from fast food establishments to fashionable and very exclusive restaurants, although some may also engage in more general food writing.
Becoming a food critic takes time. Many food critics pursue professional experiences in the world of food, attending culinary schools, working in restaurants, participating in farming, and so forth, so that they can learn about every aspect of the food industry. A good food critic is extremely knowledgeable about every aspect of food, from how certain foods are harvested to the history of various dishes. Food critics also have very well-developed palates, and they may specialize in a particular area, such as traditional French cuisine, fusion cuisine, or so forth.
Once a food critic has amassed experience, he or she can start writing articles, and using these samples to apply to magazines and newspapers. Food critics may move between publishers over the course of their careers, or start working for the food section of a paper and working up to a position as a food critic. A handful of critics become well known and well respected, with most primarily being known only in the area they serve.
Professional integrity is very important for food critics. Many make reservations and visit restaurants anonymously, so that they get an idea of how a restaurant serves ordinary customers. They also make repeat visits so that they can make fair and balanced assessments of a restaurant and its offerings. Avoidance of commercial considerations such as gifts from restaurateurs, offers of free food, and so forth is also very important for food critics, as implications of bribery or favoritism can discredit a food critic.
Food critics describe the meals they order, talking about how the food is presented, what it looks like, and what it tastes like. They also evaluate it, providing comparisons, opinions on the quality of the food, and discussions of similar dishes at other establishments. Food criticism is also concerned with restaurant service, the ambiance of the facility, and other factors which can impact the enjoyment of food. After considering all of the aspects of the dining experience, the food critic generates ratings which can be used as a quick rule of thumb by readers who are trying to decide whether or not they want to visit a particular restaurant.