Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise

By Ruth Reichl

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"Reichl knows that "to be a good restaurant critic, you have to be anonymous," but when she signs up to be the most important restaurant critic in the country, at The New York Times , her picture is posted in every four-star, low-star, and no-star kitchen in town. Managers offer cash bonuses for advance notice of her visits. They roll out the red carpet whether she likes it or not. What's a critic in search of the truth to do? Reichl dons a frumpy blond wig and an off-season beige Armani suit. Then on the advice of a friend, an acting coach with a Pygmalion complex, she begins assembling her new character's backstory.

"She takes to the assignment with astonishing ardor-and thus Molly Hollis, the retired high school teacher from Birmingham, Michigan, nouveau riche from her husband's real estate speculation, is born. And duly ignored, mishandled, and condescended to by the high-power staff at Le Cirque. The result: Reichl's famous double review, first as she ate there as Molly and then as she was coddled and pampered on her visit there as Ruth, The New York Times food critic."

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