Tim Zagat Explains Restaurant Week



For a restaurant critic, Restaurant Week is a no-fly zone: it's unfair to the restaurant even to set foot inside, unless of course you're writing about this year's economy menus.

But, as everyone who's dined out during Restaurant Week knows, those menus usually offer a fair sampling of what the kitchen is capable of and at a bargain price. As it happens, I've dined at a fair number of restaurants during RW, and have generally been impressed by the quality, if put off by the crowds, and sometimes by the difficulty of getting a table.



An experiment I remember scratching my head about when it started has turned into a huge, and national, success—just over the weekend, as I was returning from the dairy-and-farming-and-alternative capitol of Brattleboro, Vermont, I passed a sign advertising this year's exciting Restaurant Week in Worcester, Massachusetts' second-largest city. Worcester! Check it out yourself. Lowell too. The billboard made me realize, This is an idea whose time has really come, in places you don't expect.

I knew that Tim and Nina Zagat had been instrumental in the very first RW, and asked them why, when it seems like a time-taking loss leader for restaurants, so many of them extend RW for weeks at a time and so many cities have embraced the idea. I'm delighted to have Tim's common-sense explanations, including reasons I knew (once through the door, people willingly pay for extras and for wine) and ones should have thought of but didn't (that people on fixed incomes shy from going to restaurants at all). Most of all, I'm delighted to have him back.

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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