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In a piece that must send every chef’s heart aflutter, the New York Times tells the story today of François Simon, France’s most notorious food critic, who willingly took over the tiny Le Cochon à l’Oreille bistro and cooked for five straight nights. The reviews were harsh, though, to be fair, not as harsh as some of Simon’s own prose. (Sample: Simon once called the Michelin-darling Guy Savoy “a three-star crucifixion.”)

Here’s what a few diners told the Times about Simon’s culinary skills:

The meal was barely adequate, according to five diners one night. The pumpkin soup, seasoned heavily with ginger, vanilla and black sesame oil, was grainy, undercooked and so dense it stood up in stiff peaks.

“I’m disappointed,” said Julie Demarest, an administrator in a water purification company. “It’s thick — like oatmeal. I don’t like it.”

The spiced chicken with pine nuts and golden raisins filled the dinner plate, but was accompanied only by an underdressed green salad. The zabaglione with sake was frothy and thin rather than creamy; the centers of the macaroons were chewy rather than soft. When the maître d’hôtel offered seconds on the dessert, there were few takers.

“Those macaroons — they’re so hard they could choke a Christian,” said Marc Beekenkamp, a Web designer, using an expression that means the dish is hard to digest.

Image by Flickr user robertpaulyoung