Is it wrong to tell a restaurant that youre one of those who lives to eat?
Yum Thai. Last night, I decided in favor of full disclosure (the Greek root of which is disklotos, I think, which means to come out of the closet) and I unabashedly and publicly proclaimed myself a Chowhound at Yum Thai (7748 Madison, Forest Park). I wore my Chowhound t-shirt, flashed my Chowhound Passport, and dropped a printout of a Chowhound.Com post on our waitron, Eddy. She, and her kitchen staff, were highly amused, though I wasnt always sure what made them laugh, as they passed the post among kitchen staff. More to the point (and I do have one), I was curious to know how identifying myself as a food enthusiast might affect the dining experience.
Heisenberg. If the restaurant knows youre watching, really paying attention to what theyre doing and to what youre eating, will they perform to a different standard maybe even a higher standard? Now, when real professional-type restaurant critics go out to eat, they go in cognito, in secret. Thats because they want to evaluate the place for the average person, so they report on the average experience at that place. Me, I just want groovy food no, I want the grooviest food there is. So, although by overtly observing I may alter the results of the average eating experience, maybe thats okay, even desirable. At Yum Thai last night, the food was outstanding. The green curry was subtle, rich in vegetable spiciness and complex tang; the mee krob was orange sweet and sticky, like Asian Rice Krispy Treats, and it was nicely complemented by the heat of the basil-laced pork and papaya salad. But was the food better BECAUSE the restaurant staff knew I was a Chowhound, armed (presumably) with pen and palate? Im uncertain, but thats what Im thinking.
Hawthorne. During the 24-Hour Chowathon, we were driving by the old Hawthorne Works on Cicero (going from Jimmys to Freddys), and Rob mentioned that they used to make phones there. Also at that plant, some early twentieth-century behaviorists did this kind of cool experiment. What they did was, they turned up the lights in the factory, and the employees worked harder; they turned up the lights again, and they worked harder still; then they turned the lights down, and the workers worked even harder. The message: when people understand that youre paying attention to them, they try harder.
SO my feeling is, if you identify yourself as a Chowhound come out and flash your credentials you may actually get better service and food, according to either Heisenberg or Hawthorne principles, or both.
But thats just my opinion. I could be wrong.