In the wake of a now-notorious critic dinner at Proof + Pantry, a group of local restaurateurs has banded together to try and effect change in the Dallas Morning News' restaurant review policies. More than 30 restaurant staffers, including owners and chefs, gathered on November 3 to discuss strategies and form a plan.
Proof + Pantry co-owner Sal Jafar described it as "a very productive discussion outlining our clear objectives to raise awareness to the inadequacies and inconsistencies in the Dallas Morning News' review process, and our proposed solutions to them."
For starters, those solutions included a proposal to disallow Dallas Morning News reviewers from paying for their meals, in an attempt to prevent their reviews from continuing to happen. The group — which included personnel from Trinity Groves, Knife, Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek and others — plans to offer an indication on their menus or establishment.
"We are hoping to develop a better rating system that benefits readers, diners, and chefs/owners alike," Jafar said.
The group included some of Dallas' more outspoken restaurateurs, such as Shannon Wynne, owner of numerous restaurants, including Meddlesome Moth, Lark on the Park and Bird Cafe in Fort Worth, as well as Knife chef John Tesar, who was among the first to vocalize a growing disenchantment in Dallas' restaurant industry with critic Leslie Brenner's reviews.
Proof + Pantry was the scene of a highly publicized review dinner by Brenner; her husband, Thierry Peremarti; her highly ranked superior, Keven Ann Willey; and Willey's husband, Georges Badoux. When the restaurant refused to process Brenner's credit card payment, a contretemps was said to have ensued, followed by an encounter with Willey and Lifestyles editor Lisa Thatcher Kresl at the newspaper office the next day.
Three weeks later, Brenner and the newspaper engineered a big reveal with photos showing what she looks like, in a face-saving attempt to refocus the conversation on the topic of anonymity.
Some attendees at the planning session maintained that Brenner was the problem and not the star system. But, for now, a revamp of the star system is their goal.
"Until they provide a balanced system, we hope to make the review process difficult," Jafar said.