Enzo and Paolo Vizzari: “what does it mean to be a food critic?”
Knowing how to speak about a dish without standing up as an absolute judge
Beloved and respected but often feared, gastronomic critics are at the center of the thoughts of restaurateurs from all over the world. To get to know this professional figure more closely and try to understand some of the secrets of this job, I decided to interview Enzo and Paolo Vizzari, two leading figures in the Italian gastronomic scene.
Since 2001 Enzo Vizzari has been Director of the “Guide” Section of the publishing group L’Espresso and editor-in-chief of the Guide “Ristoranti d’Italia” (working as Deputy Director since 1983), “Vini d’Italia” and “Hotels and “Ristoranti d’Italia”. Paolo started working closely with his father for the “Ristoranti d’Italia” guide and he also officially holds the position of editorial director at the gourmet “Passione Gourmet” website.
Enzo Vizzari explains to me that, in evaluating a restaurant, the first aspect on which they focus is the quality of food. However, the overall judgment consists of many other factors, from the environment to the service. The gastronomic critics are not in fact cold judges, but above all they seek emotion. The latter often comes from that quid, which helps to make a restaurant special and deserving to be recommended. It is a feeling that can not be described in words, “something that is almost imperceptible, but which leads us to understand that we feel good in one place” – concludes Enzo.
Then, of course, the task of a critic is also to verify that the chef’s intentions are reflected in the dish. Paolo Vizzari makes me understand that it is very important that a chef has the ability to convey the meaning of his cooking, no matter what it may be. “The correspondence between desires and reality is also essential behind the stove” he explains.
But what does it mean to eat well? For Paolo there is no objective level of goodness, and everything is based on a subjective judgment. And in fact, thinking about it, eating well means also having the good fortune to find something in the dish that fits not just our taste, but even our mood and how we feel at that time.
Enzo Vizzari, on the other hand, has placed the accent on a seemingly trivial concept, but often underestimated: eating well means getting in touch with a healthy and good cuisine based on quality products. Excellence is not in complexity, but can also derive from a single ingredient.
Yeah, but if everything is subjective, what is the sense of the job of a critic?
Simple: the task of the food critic is not to tell whether he likes a dish or not, but to explain why he liked it or not. It is not a matter of acting as an absolute judge, but of motivating one’s opinions.
However, beyond the subjective impressions, it is also necessary to examine the dishes from a technical point of view: there are some parameters – such as the quality of the cooking, the abundance of the condiments, and so on – that can be identified in an objective, almost mathematical way.
La video intervista a Enzo e Paolo Vizzari