Yesterday , ICE’s Culinary Management students gathered together for a special guest lecture from Steve Cuozzo, the restaurant critic for the New York Post. Cuozzo has been and editor and writer with the paper since 1972 and has covered the dining scene since 1998. Over the years, Cuozzo has learned the ins and outs of the restaurant world and he also writes a real estate column for the newspaper and was able to provide the students with a wide variety of insight into the industry.
Cuozzo recounted how he became the paper’s restaurant critic by accident. He was on vacation during a staff shuffle at the Post and returned to find he had lost some his old duties. At the same time, a new editor wanted to start doing more serious food coverage and Cuozzo became the restaurant critic because of an interest in food, but he had no serious culinary credentials.
In his years as critic, Cuozzo has seen many businesses succeed and fail for a plethora of different reasons. He was not shy about sharing some of the disappointments and difficulties he has seen. Cuozzo said, “Be prepared for the element of surprise” He joked that if you are worried something can go wrong, it probably will, and if you aren’t worried about it, chances are still good it will go wrong. But he also shared stories of success, noting that there are probably more restaurants in New York now and the scene is more eclectic and vibrant than ever before.
Cuozzo is a unique figure among New York restaurant reviewers. Unlike most critics, Cuozzo is not anonymous. He makes his reservations under his own name, rather than try to mask who he is. While he admitted that sometimes this resulted in the “groveling treatment” from restaurant staff, he was recognized so often that pretending to be someone else had become a joke. When asked about his review process, Cuozzo compared some to consumer reports and some to serious pieces about the state of cuisine, but his favorite to write are those that give readers a vicarious experience of eating there —“It’s especially fun to read if the restaurant was really lousy.”