Joanne Kates, Toronto’s most feared and talked about restaurant critic, is on the phone somewhere between Toronto and Algonquin Park. Arrangements were made, and she called me from a blocked number. She’s in a hurry, getting ready for the summer season at the summer camp she runs with her family. We are discussing her new job in the city: restaurant critic for the Post City group of Toronto magazines and (of course) their website.
“I wanted a soft landing,” she explains. Kates made headlines recently when she announced her retirement as The Globe and Mail’s restaurant critic. But the tributes had just begun to be written when she also announced her new job at Post City. Or maybe newish, Kates pointed out to me that she has actually been writing for the Post City group for 12 years, and this role was an expansion of that relationship. “[Publisher] Lorne London came after me,” she says, adding that her new job means a little less work (once every two weeks) and much more flexibility.
When I put it to her that the Post City food coverage seems to have more online presence than many of the mainstream media, especially for features like her annual list of ‘100 Best T.O. Restaurants‘, she drops the bomb: Joanne Kates will also blog!
What? I immediately ask for the web address of this blog: this is something I would have never had predicted! Alas, the blog, which will be somewhere at the postcity.com site, hasn’t been launched yet. And Kates seems a little wary of crossing over to the blogosphere, explaining she’ll post only when she “finds time” and on things she “really likes, like soft shell crab”.
And what does Joanne Kates hope she’ll find in the Toronto restaurant scene going forward? “More variety, please!” she pleads, adding, “Being a good jewish girl, pork is my favourite meat, but it’s getting so tired.”
She also hopes the economy will pick up, explaining that big ambitious restaurants need investors with deep pockets. Does that mean she’s also tired of 20-seat Parkdale restaurants? Not quite, she diplomatically explains her biggest problem with (some) of the newer, smaller restaurants is the level of service: “It seems like all the wait staff are [the restaurateur’s] friends.”
Despite any misgivings, Kates sees an exciting year ahead, with the arrival of Daniel Boulud and David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants… and she looks forward to writing all about it.
Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the not-for-profit corporation which publishes it. Follow him at twitter.com/malcolmjolley