Thursday, September 6, 2007

Rebekah Denn leaves critic job at Seattle P-I, Seattle yawns

Where's the outrage? OK, maybe outrage is too much to ask for in Seattle, but where's the sorta-loud-buzz within the foodie community? Yesterday Rebekah Denn, the first Seattle writer in who-knows-how-long to win a James Beard journalism award (for her restaurant criticism at the P-I) decides to quit writing restaurant reviews less than a year after she's awarded that prize. And it's like a big ol' tree falling in a big ol' forest.


Anyone out there?


Denn has decided to step into the food-writing chair left vacant by her former colleague, Hsiao-Ching Chou, who resigned earlier this summer. And in her "coming out" piece yesterday Denn talks about some of her inclinations and her points of view, but what struck a chord for me was what she says at the very end of the article about the collective inferiority complex that Seattle diners and chefs have about their city's food and restaurant scene.
On a visit to New York in May to attend the 2007 James Beard Awards, I found many of the nation's foodnoscenti talking about our fair city with enthusiasm and pleasure, expressing none of the apologetic we're-not-New-York-and-we're- not-even-Vancouver inferiority complex we affect. Yes, we do have a disturbingly large supply here of the phenomenon known as the Mediocre $22 Entrée -- but the same is true in other large cities, New York included. And, lucky us, we have a rich selection of high-quality restaurants if we want to avoid that mediocrity. The food served at the Beard Awards was fabulous and exciting and creatively enlightening, but it was not, with a few exceptions (read: the remarkable Marcus Samuelsson), from a different universe. Our top chefs could have held their own at the dinner tables.

Having lived there and having reviewed restaurants there for three years, I feel very qualified to say that this is absolutely true. But what I find more interesting is that the very indifference, the underdoggish attitude Denn so rightly points about our city is clearly illuminated by the reaction to Denn's resignation.

When the best critic in town quits and nobody seems to care, one might find they've revealed the answer to the question: Why wouldn't she quit?

[where: 98101]

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