"You should have filled Jason's spot before letting him go to Seattle," one disgruntled reader wrote in the comments section after "Pot Luck," William Breathes's piece on 8 Rivers. "This review was not worth reading. What a disappointment."
First things first: Like Juliet Wittman's article on The Kitchen, the 8 Rivers feature was not intended as a review, but as a fresh take on an interesting development on the local dining scene. We'll continue to run such pieces until we introduce our new reviewer. That's because, while we consider the dining scene a crucial component to life in Denver and will continue to cover it with vigor (in this blog as well as in print),we don't think it's fair to restaurants or readers to use a temporary critic with a different set of standards.
Finding the right reviewer takes time; our former Café critics have not been easy acts to follow. We ask applicants to submit sample reviews, representative of the kind of work they'd like to do for Westword. Frankly, the sample review -- whether previously published or not -- is more important than a resume: A chef can talk about his food, but the only way to experience it is to eat it. A would-be writer can talk about his reviews, but you need to actually eat his words.
We've devoured hundreds of thousands of them over the past five weeks. Fifteen years ago, we found John Kessler, who'd never written a review before, through the sample he penned for us. A few years later, Kyle Wagner scored with another brilliant sample review. When she left for the Denver Post eight years ago, we received hundreds of applications for the job and had finally narrowed them down to a handful of finalists - when, suddenly, a wild e-mail arrived from a crazy man in Albuquerque who would not provide a resume but could write like an angel. A very long-winded angel with a devilish sense of humor. Many long-winded e-mails later, we tossed aside all of our careful deliberations and hired out new reviewer: Jason Sheehan.
Now, we've once again narrowed narrowed hundreds of applications for the Café critic's job down to a handful of finalists - but you never know when an angel will appear.
In the meantime, we'll continue to serve up tasty food features in the Cafe section, and should have Sheehan's replacement by the time his first review appears in Seattle.
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