Nancy Leson Mentors A Young Restaurant Critic | KNKX

Nancy Leson Mentors A Young Restaurant Critic

Jun 13, 2018

When I told Stein that Teddy Kolios, a high school senior, asked me to be a mentor for his senior project, Stein laughed. “Is he sure that he’s thought that all the way through?

Of course he had. After all, as I reminded Stein, with 20 years of food writing and restaurant criticism (literally) under my belt: I’m a legend in my own mind!

Also, I figured I owed it to the kid — whose plan was to blog about Seattle restaurants — because back in (cough!) 1976, I too, went in search of a mentor to help guide me through my own high school senior project. My classmate Becky Acker’s mother stepped up to the plate.

Only there was no plate. No fork. Nor chopsticks. In fact, my senior project had nothing to do with food, restaurants, or cooking — a world that would define my career over the last 40 years. It had everything to do with spending two weeks in a kindergarten classroom in a Philadelphia public school. And it was there that I learned the truth at 17: I did not want to be a kindergarten teacher.

Instead I became a waitress, then a restaurant critic, food writer, cooking instructor and over the past dozen years, Stein's bett -- uh, other half here on "Food for Thought."

These days, it seems, everyone’s a restaurant critic, or at least they play one on social media, at the office, the gym, the coffee shop, or even, as Teddy has, on their own websites. I mean, when was the last time you went out to an absolutely outstanding (or surprisingly horrible) restaurant and failed to tweet, Instagram or tell six people about it face-to-face? Case closed. 

Teddy Kolios at KNKX.
Credit Nancy Leson / KNKX

And the truth is, one wo/man’s favorite restaurant is another’s big yawn. You may be all about a restaurant’s décor while I’m convinced it’s all about the food. Or you may be like Stein: “If I go to a restaurant and I don’t like it — which hardly ever happens — I just don’t go back.”

As a professional restaurant critic, it’s your job to go back, whether you like it or not. But if you’re just a regular Joe, you’ll probably pull a Stein and vote with your feet. My husband, Mac, famously told me he’d “rather throw money in the street” than go back to a place where he’s encountered bad service. Hundreds of readers agreed with him.

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." – Samuel Johnson