Updated with comment from Leslie Brenner.
Dallas' most prominent food critic, Leslie Brenner, never seems to stay too far away from controversy. After the explosion that followed John Tesar’s "fuck you" tweet heard ‘round the world, Brenner left the shadows of anonymity and has since become one of the country’s minority of critics who don’t mind being caught in a restaurant. Now, though, Brenner may be the first critic in the country to take her interactions with chefs to a whole new level.
Announced today at the Dallas Morning News, Brenner will host a new video series called Off The Menu. In the videos, chefs will chat with Brenner and have the opportunity to "respond" to her take on their restaurants. The first installment of the series features Chef Tim Byres of The Theodore, which Brenner reviewed last week. Check it out below:
In the episode with Byres, Brenner says that Byres wasn’t interested in "critiquing the critique," so that may not always be the focus of these interviews. "Sometimes, the chef may want to respond directly to the critique," Brenner writes. "Other times he or she will want to talk about the creative process, give the dining public insight about a dish, or discuss a direction in which he or she plans to take the restaurant."
Considering that The Theodore just earned a mostly-positive three-star review from Brenner, it’s no surprise that Byres didn’t take issue with her thoughts. Back when Tesar and the restaurateurs behind Proof + Pantry and Madrina were leading the charge for Brenner’s figurative head, Byres chose to stay out of the fray altogether.
UPDATE: According to Brenner, "many" of the chefs whose restaurants are given starred reviews by the critic will be given the opportunity to respond via video.
"It's hard to say whether chefs will want to respond directly to criticism -- we shall see! Chef Byres didn't want to, as I explained in my introduction to the series," Brenner told Eater via email. "On the other hand, we produced a "test" video with Remedy chef Danyele McPherson about 10 days ago, and she responded directly to one aspect of my critique, though she mostly talked about her creative process. I'm guessing there will be certain chefs who will want to critique the critique, but we'll have to wait and see."
Perhaps more importantly, Brenner believes that the new video series may transform the traditional restaurant review. "We see it as a way to digitally bust open the form of the traditional restaurant review, a form that has remained static for so many decades," she writes. "I'm hoping it will also engage readers, as we're giving them an opportunity to put their questions out there for me to ask the chefs on their behalf. The idea is to open up the Dallas dining community to a wonderful, energetic dialogue."