I feel the need to address an issue that has been plaguing our bourgeoning restaurant industry here in St. John’s for a number of years. That issue is Karl Wells, the once weatherman, turned food critic. Somehow over the course of the past decade, he has managed to turn his status from a local TV personality, into sitting on the judging panel of the local and national Gold Medal Plates competition, which celebrates the best in Canadian food, and a restaurant panelist with En Route magazine. The only designation that Karl holds to validate his role is the vague title of an ‘accredited personal chef’.
While I do not wish to discredit anything that Karl has done in his career as a media personality, or for maybe telling someone in Toronto that Newfoundland is doing good food, Karl has been continually doing our restaurant industry a disservice with his weekly Saturday column, ‘Dining Out’. His nonsensical commentary, lack of culinary knowledge and audacious comments, going as far as suggesting that he taking credit for the national success of such local restaurants as Atlantica, are embarrassing.
Week in and week out Karl takes to the restaurants in and around the Avalon Peninsula, reviewing and re-reviewing anyone that will take him – from the fish and chip joints to the fine dining restaurants in downtown St. John’s. While he undoubtedly filled a niche of a St. John’s ‘restaurant critic’ (using the term VERY loosely) and initially raised the profile of local restaurants, he has now resorted to writing articles that include little to no insight into the great food that is coming out of our province and the chefs at the forefront of this movement. Instead he has been dedicating the majority of his column to quirky commentary and self-validating dribble that one would expect from a gossip column.
It is a downright shame that we have to turn to the Globe and Mail, a publication notorious for writing negatively about Newfoundland, to get insight into what is actually happening in Newfoundland cuisine. The article “When it comes to cuisine, Newfoundland is a ‘have’ province” was featured in the October 4th edition of the Globe & Mail, and beautifully described the culinary movement, inspired by our chefs and how their cuisine is fast becoming a byproduct of our environment in Newfoundland, and reflects the close cooperation those chefs have with local farmers, producers and their products.
This article ran the same week as Karl’s article on Atlantica. A full-page spread that devoted about 10% to the food, and the rest to airing out dirty laundry.
Instead of using his profile to help foster a community amongst local restaurateurs and chefs, he is acting as a dividing force – focusing his attention on backroom drama, backhanded smears and politics – three things that have no place in an unbiased critique of a restaurant and their cuisine. One does not need to look far to recognize what Karl is doing is not the work of a restaurant critic, but of someone who has eaten in restaurants and likes the attention. Do not get me started on his poor grammar, inadequate and often wrong description of dishes and his lack of editing.
I have worked extensively in the restaurant industry, and I know a lot of restaurateurs in St. John’s. Above all else I am a food enthusiast who loves to dine and is interested in what is happening in Newfoundland cuisine and how it relates to what is happening Nationally. That does not give me grounds to be a restaurant critic, so I am at a loss as to how Karl is where he is. While I do often read his article, it is not for increasing my food knowledge, but to see what nonsense he has taken on this week. If it is him reviewing a club sandwich, using a whole column describing a take out dinner with two young children, or letting us know that some anonymous girl is wearing designer sunglasses. Karl column, and attitude, has become a both a joke and a thorn in the sides of most downtown restaurants.
This is an open call to anyone who has any journalistic skill, knowledge of food on a local and national level, and a honest interest in growing the restaurant community in Newfoundland – not just their personality – to come to the forefront and write something creditable; something we can send with confidence to the national media so they can see what Newfoundland is doing, as opposed to waiting for the national media to send that information along to us.
Rant by Anonymous