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Exclusive – Backstage with Frank Bruni
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This is skit from the Colbert ReportI’m not even sure it actually aired, since I didn’t see the former New York Times dining critic’s appearance on the show — captures much of what it’s like to be a professional food reviewer. Let’s review Frank Bruni‘s technique:

  1. The lipless lack of emotion: Bruni has the piercing, dead-eye stare down pat. It’s designed to never betray his feelings and thoughts on any subject, whether the kitchen’s handiwork or Bruni’s regret for not plucking his nostril hairs that morning.
  2. The ability to play cool when spotted: Bruni never cracks, even when pegged by a nervous waiter. Showing kindness would be a professional weakness, a sign that the critic is willing to ease a kowtowing server’s discomfort with a simple act of human kindness. The critic must be ruthless!
  3. The breezy culinary challenge to “surprise me”: Bravo, Mr. Bruni! There is absolutely nothing like throwing down the gauntlet to a kitchen, particularly after saying, “Anything is fine.” Why order something from the menu — a dish, after all, that has been tested time and again (or bought from the local deli) — when you can challenge the chef to invent something completely new for you. A truly brilliant technique to measure a restaurant’s mettle.
  4. The ability to keep your cool even when utter crap is placed before you: This skill almost can’t be taught. Either you have inner calm, even while the world around you falls apart, or you don’t. Bruni has the quiet center of a maha-thera monk.
  5. The knack of expressing your displeasure before your review hits the streets: The two, half-eaten Chips Ahoy — obviously you had to sample more than one to make sure your first awful bite wasn’t a fluke! — and a handful of pocket change for a tip. We are in the presence of a master here.