After 29 years of trying to stay anonymous, the Chicago Tribune’s restaurant critic, Phil Vettel, has decided to reveal his face.
It’s a move he playfully calls “perhaps the most anticlimactic Chicago moment since Geraldo Rivera pried open Al Capone’s vault.”
Vettel says he wants restaurants to treat him “like just another guy off the street,” but that it’s getting harder to maintain anonymity.
Why did he make the decision now?
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time,” Vettel told Chicago Tonight. “And frankly, we have a series of events planned in August – more than 100 events – under the umbrella term, ‘Tribune Food Bowl.’ And I thought if I were going to be able to participate in any of the panel discussions that were going to be part of that, that this was as good a time as any.
“A couple of other things happened: Naha restaurant closed and I went there the last night just to have one last meal there. And there were a number of chef-people there which I expected. What I didn’t expect is how many of them knew me instantly. And it sort of really brought home the whole, you know, this is really gone too far. I mean, I’m too well known to even pretend that I’m being anonymous anymore. And that was a big part of it, too.”
Vettel is not the first restaurant critic to come out of the shadows. In the Tribune he writes of critics across the country who have already taken that step. Did peer pressure play any role in his decision?
“No. If anything I saw that some have done it for a couple years including Jonathan Gold and Alison Cook,” he said. “And the world didn’t end. They didn’t find themselves unable to do their jobs. If anything, they made me think this was not going to be that difficult a step to take.”