Los Angeles Times Food Critic Unmasked: But Is Anonymity Realistic Anymore?

>By now, there's a good chance you've heard about Noah Ellis's papparazo-like snap and tell, which, with a little help from Gawker, Eater, and even CNN, has divulged the appearance of Los Angeles Times food critic S. Irene Virbila for all to see. The Los Angeles restaurateur, of modern Vietnamese restaurant Red Medicine, took a photo of Virbila and denied her service because of what he alleges are scathing reviews that have cost friends jobs, and the once-anonymous critic has now been cast into the spotlight.

All of which has let to some healthy debate. Is it still reasonable for restaurant critics to expect anonymity in the Internet age? Here's the LA Times itself describing the incident and the ensuing discussion:

Los Angeles Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila ducked into Red Medicine, a new Beverly Hills restaurant, for some modern Vietnamese food the other night, but got nothing to eat. Instead, she was outed and ousted, her party turned away, her picture snapped and critic's anonymity shredded by the restaurateur himself.

"I always knew at some point a blogger or somebody would take a secret photo. But I never expected that a restaurateur would stick a camera in my face," Virbila said Wednesday.

Virbila was rebuffed, Red Medicine managing partner Noah Ellis said, because "Irene is not the person any of us wanted reviewing our restaurant. ... This was not a rash decision."

By Wednesday afternoon, the photo of Virbila was posted on several blogs and websites, including the much-viewed Gawker.com and Eater.com. Virbila's anonymity, which she'd guarded through 16 years as this newspaper's restaurant critic, was a memory. And among foodies, the debate over anonymity -- is it still possible or even advisable for a restaurant critic? -- was on.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.

Presented by

Daniel Fromson, a former associate editor at The Atlantic, is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He writes regularly for The Washington Post. His work has also appeared in Harper's Magazine, New York, and Slate.

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we still save the night sky?

Video

The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City

Video

Desegregated, Yet Unequal

A short documentary about the legacy of Boston busing

Video

Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.

Video

Social Media: The Video Game

What if the validation of your peers could "level up" your life?

Video

The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Health

Just In