Chatting with LaBan


The Inquirer’s esteemed food critic Craig LaBan was en fuego in this week’s online chat! We always love to see how he’ll handle the innocent questions of the proletariat. Woe to the chatter who dares to ask him for a ‘special dinner recommendation’! We’ve highlighted the zingers after the jump.

In response to a query about a Marathon Grill, LaBan invokes the Mrs. and then delivers a quick one-two punch:

I haven’t eaten at that branch yet, though my wife did recently and gave me a promising report. Then again, she always likes Marathon far better than I do. Though I’ve always liked the concept, I’m rarely happy with the actual flavors or service.

Ouch! Wondering how to get into the whole restaurant critic thing? LaBan is too!

Jeremy D: Craig, Hello. I have a very strong interest in food and (what I think) is an advanced palette. Training to be a chef just isn’t for me…what does it take to become a restaurant critic?
: Jeremy – a background in food can’t hurt as you try to establish some credibility as a food critic. But this job is more about being a good journalist than anything else. Getting good experience in newspapers, magazines, or even online, is you’re best bet in getting traction. It’s getting harder and harder, though, to earn a living at the lower tiers of this field. I worked my way up from small publications and a cobbled-together freelance life for several years before I landed at the Inquirer. I can’t imagine how I’d do it again – and earn a living – given the state of journalism today.

Our advice to Jeremy might be to start by learning the difference between a palette and a palate. Confidential to Craig: Trust us, it’s actually impossible to earn a living on both the lower and the middle tiers of food writing.

Also, he is not your private concierge!:

Todd: Hey Craig, Heading down to Rittenhouse tonight and was hoping you could recommend a some place to get a good but inexpensive bite to eat.
: Todd – please read the introduction to this chat. I won’t give recommendations like that in this forum.

And, scene.

Dinner Conversations []