Kitchen Con: Writing on the Restaurant Racket.


228 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-0-470-15561-5
DDC 647.95




Reviewed by John R. Abbott

John Abbott is a professor of history at Laurentian University’s Algoma University College. He is the co-author of The Border at Sault Ste Marie and The History of Fort St. Joseph.


Regarding critics, Trevor White plates his thesis on page 6. “[Restaurant reviewing is] a racket.… Crooked to the bone. There is no such thing as a truly impartial hack, and there’s no such thing as a gourmet critic. On some level, everyone is bluffing. … Can I predict what sort of experience you’re going to have in a restaurant that I’ve been to once, twice, even a dozen times?” Of cooking, he knows little and cares less. “Scant knowledge of food has propelled me twice around the world, writing on humdrum subjects such as Champagne, oysters, truffles, and Sauternes. For money. Real money.” The critic’s greatest occupational hazard is not food poisoning, but backstabbing. “Connoisseurs hate each other with a passion that is equaled only by theater critics.” Not that any of this matters. “In a hotel bed, alone, when all they can hear is the distant flushing of a loo, critics know that what they do is more of a scam than a proper occupation.”


Chefs and fine-dining restaurants are also complicit. His parents’ restaurant, Whites on the Green in Dublin, exploited the gourmet lie to the limit. The critics loved it and the suckers swarmed in. Celebrity chefs, such as Gordon Ramsay and Conrad Gallagher, get a whole chapter of vituperation. Foodies provide the fodder for the fine-dining racket. “Never have people been so interested in food and so disinclined to cook.” The masses feed the fast food business: “in the West, people are gluttonous.” “Dieting is big business. So is gorging.” Everyone is complicit in the racket. Guidebooks are fraudulent. White concludes that critic and chef need each other, if only to ensure that the former has a place to feed his face morning, noon, and night, as well as some poor slob to cook the food. All in all, for what Kitchen Con reveals about human nature and its potential for corruption, it is a disgusting read.


Recommended for nihilists, masochists, and all those seduced by the leather, studs, and whips of culinary bondage (dining out division).


White, Trevor., “Kitchen Con: Writing on the Restaurant Racket.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 16, 2024,