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LA Times Food Critic Decries Vietnam Restaurant Ambush

There are two main issues at play in the Tuesday, December 21st Tumblr outing of LA Times restaurant critic S. Irene Virbila. The first is the strange and ultimately indefensible behavior of Red Medicine co-owner Noah Ellis (pictured), whose decision to rudely photograph customer Virbila and post the picture on the website of his Beverly Hills Vietnamese eatery is juvenile, at best.

On the other hand, the matter of Virbila’s prized critic anonymity is something of a falsehood. As the story of her photo-flash encounter made its way yesterday from LA Weekly to the pages of the LA Times and New York Times, comments left by those who work in the restaurant industry suggest that Virbila could readily be identified by most local kitchen managers.

This explains the contradiction that immediately follows the fears expressed by Virbila, in her own newspaper, that her professional abilities have now been compromised:

When LA Weekly restaurant critic Jonathan Gold won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007, newspapers and websites around the world ran a photo of him drinking deeply from a champagne flute. Gold told The Times in a later interview that he had “noticed absolutely no difference in being recognized in restaurants. None. Zero.”

Bottom line: Virbila, who has been working the restaurant beat since 1994, was already semi-recognizable. And Ellis is a jerk.

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