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Leslie Brenner on Restaurant Criticism (and John Tesar): ‘I Don’t Work for Chefs, I Work for Readers’

Au contraire, says Dallas Morning News restaurant critic Leslie Brenner to John Tesar those who say that “the era of the critic is over.”

In a new piece, Brenner finally gets down in the mud to defend her work and uh, that whole social media meltdown from Tesar. Especially by rehashing an email he sent to her two years ago:

“I just want to say thank you for being so honest and progressive. Your comments are spot on and the truth sometimes doesn’t sit well at first. However your constructive criticisms are a gift and motivation to be who I really want to be not just what Dallas will let me get away with.”

John Tesar wrote those words to me in March last year, a few days after I reviewed his seafood restaurant, Spoon Bar and Kitchen.

He went on (I’m reproducing his note unredacted): “I am also sorry for being a spoiled brat in the past but it’s been a rough few years for me and I am now just working through it. I remember our first talk back at DRG and have been trying to live up to it ever since. Sincerely thank you! No butt kissing it’s called experience and maturity. I must grow, produce or get out of the way.”

She then writes, “I chose not to get down in the mud with him to ‘defend’ myself. His conduct speaks louder than anything I could ever write.” (Until she wrote an op-ed about it.)

Still, she defends her role as the defender of the people (and their wallets) and their need to have honest assessments of restaurants:

I don’t dictate what readers should think about restaurants any more than a film critic dictates whether people enjoy the movie or an art critic decides whether people have a positive reaction to what’s hanging in the gallery.

Meanwhile, over at Esquire, Josh Ozersky gives a nuanced argument in defense of Tesar and the power of a chef — and then ends with a tirade from an “anonymous chef” to Brenner. So, you know, can anyone really win here?

[Dallas Morning News, Esquire]

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