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Restaurant critic for Gourmet magazine


It is a familiar scene to New York restaurateurs: an out-of-town visitor arrives clutching a magazine, turns to an article, and orders the items that have been underlined. Whether the magazine is current or several years old, the chances are that it is Gourmet and that the article is a review by Jay Jacobs, Gourmet's New York restaurant critic since 1972.

Its monthly circulation of 600,000 makes Gourmet the most widely read food publication in the English-speaking world. But Jacobs, who is responsible for writing three lengthy reviews per issue, is quick to point out that, in spite of his knowledge of the business and his love of cooking, he would never consider opening a restaurant himself.

"I think everybody born in this century has fantasized about a restaurant, but I think it would be insane," he says in a voice as rich and mellow as vintage port. "One of the great tragedies of the restaurant business is that people who cook well at home often think that's all it takes. … If you've got any interest in food and the least bit of talent, you can probably cook a better meal for four people than you'll ever get in any restaurant in the world — if you want to invest that kind of labor and time, and concentration. But there's a huge gap between doing that and serving anywhere from 70 to 130 people at night, all wanting different dishes. It becomes a tremendous problem of strategy and logistics."

Affable, low-keyed, and very small of stature, Jacob displays a wry wit while telling how he began his career as a painter, cartoonist and illustrator before turning to full-time writing in 1956. For years he worked mainly for art publications, and he still writes a bimonthly column for theArtgallery magazine. His first book, a quickie titled RFK: His Life and Death, came out in 1968. He is also the author of A History of Gastronomy, New York a la Carte, and Winning the Restaurant Game (McGraw-Hill, 1980).

Winning the Restaurant Game is an extremely humorous and entertaining volume that is notable for its exotic vocabulary. However, the book's message is not to be taken lightly — that restaurant dining is a complex game in which the best players can expect better service, better food, and the lasting affection of the o............
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