@michaelnagrant we've always admitted that we know 98% of food critics. Every good restaurant does.— nick kokonas (@nickkokonas) May 30, 2013
Apparently there is some drama in Chicago over Tribune critic Phil Vettel's latest glowing review for Next. Chicagoist's Anthony Todd asks, "In a city that is losing critics faster than the rainforest is losing trees, does Next really need another review?" Eater Chicago notes that the question is especially relevant, considering that Vettel has been reviewing every menu at Next. Sun-Times critic Michael Nagrant also has similar concerns about Vettel's review and his lack of anonymity, tweeting, "The problem is not reviewing Next every three months. It's that Phil Vettel does it. The Trib should send a food writer who is unknown."
The online dialogue between Next co-owner Nick Kokonas and Nagrant is fascinating. About Vettel's anonymity, Kokonas writes, "we've always admitted that we know 98% of food critics. Every good restaurant does." Kokonas also suggests that knowing who the critic is doesn't necessarily create a biased experience review because "a good critic watches the whole restaurant not just their own table." He also adds that Next tracks every customer in a similar way, "we also keep track of every customer (90k unique entries) and google most customers 4 same." Intense.