After we umasked Pat Bruno for his quasi-anonymous showing on ‘Throwdown! With Bobby Flay,’ the emails started flying here at MPHQ. The most important of which, of course, came from Pat, a.k.a. Pasquale Bruno, himself:
Helen: thanks so much for the publicity re my appearance on the Flay Throwdown. And, of course, bringing it to the attention of one and all at the Sun-Times. Keep that blog mill churning.
Of course, practically everyone in the restaurant business knows what Phil Vettel and Penny Pollack and Dennis Wheaton look like. And, too, a few restaurant owners know what I look like–after all, at one time I had a cooking school here in Chicago, and also owned a chain of cookware stores and some of my best customers were chefs and restaurant owners.
Actually, the person you see on the video is me, but not really me. I was wearing a very clever disguise to, of course, protect my anonymity. Study the video carefully. Then should it happen that Pat and Helen are dining at same restaurant, try and pick me out of the crowd. If you can, dinner is on me.
But what difference does it make should I be recognized? Will the restaurant in question suddenly, like magic, put out better quality food? Will inept service suddenly become “ept?” Nah. On the other hand, I can count on one hand the number of times I have been “made” while reviewing a restaurant.
Methinks you have brought up a tempest in a crockpot. But then it takes a lot of gossip to fill up a blog. Keep up the good work. [all emphasis added]
So, Pat, the difference between you going on TV using your real name, and "practically everyone in the restaurant business [knowing] what Phil Vettel and Penny Pollack and Dennis Wheaton look like" is as follows: You went on TV. Using your real name.
Let’s set aside the up-for-grabs matter of anonymous criticism. (I’ll be diving into that, in depth, in an upcoming post — stay tuned!) The offense here isn’t against chefs whose restaurants Bruno reviews, or against the other reviewers at other publications who presumably take certain measures to reasonably protect their identities. As we mentioned in the original post, this is a matter of disrespect for the readers.
No one’s expecting Ruth Reichl-esque disguises (even though Bruno claims, above, that he’s wearing one. Seriously? If so, that is one hell of a bald-pate makeup job). But we readers — yeah, for all my quips and snips, it’s a job requirement that I be a loyal weekly Bruno reader — ingest these articles with a presupposition that he’s going to these restaurants anonymously, getting the same kind of service that we would get, paying the same bill. Going on TV while you’re still an active, theoretically anonymous critic, and thus blowing your cover for all those hundreds of restaurateurs who don’t know you from back in your day as a kitchen-supplies salesman? Not okay, no matter how clever your disguise.
If you’re new to this whole dramz, you can find the original story here.