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Introducing the Million Dollar Critic

10/07/2014 12:08 EDT | Updated 12/07/2014 05:59 EST
Giles Coren

The furious, half-drunk restaurateur pinned me against the wall by my neck with his hairy hand as a dining room full of London's finest and fattest looked on in disbelief.

"I'm going to kill you!" he roared. "I'm going to tear your guts out and serve them to my dog! That review of yours cost me hundreds of thousands of pounds! Probably millions! I had to close a whole damn restaurant. I could lose my entire business. Dozens of people could lose their jobs. I could end up on the STREET!"

"Well," I said, sliding sideways out of his grip and straightening my tie. "I suggest you open a better restaurant next time." And I slipped out by the back door, after first leaving an enormous tip, which I always do in these situations because I hate to cause a rumpus.

But it happens quite frequently. In the 12 years I have been reviewing restaurants for The (London) Times, the oldest and most famous newspaper in the world, I have been accused of costing many men (and it does always seem to be men) more than a million dollars, simply by doing my job: telling people what a poisonous doghole of a restaurant they have opened, and warning people not go to it.

Thankfully (or else my life would scarcely be worth living) far more men (and also women this time) have thanked me in tears for saving their businesses with my positive reviews, making them rich, putting their kids through school, buying their house, fuelling their crack habit -- whatever! -- with the hundreds of thousands of dollars (occasionally millions) that they seem to think my good opinion was worth in terms of boosted business.

It's silly, really. I visit a restaurant once, I say what I think, and I move on. What happens afterwards doesn't bother me. But if people think my review can (sometimes) make a million-dollar difference to their business then I suppose that is an endorsement of sorts.

That is in Europe, though. Can my mysterious restaurant superpowers work in North America? Well, we will see. Because for the last few weeks I have been travelling around Canada and the United States, dipping into cities I like the look of and eating in as many restaurants as I can and then deciding upon one, and only one, that will get my review -- my supposed 'Million Dollar Review' -- here on the Huffington Post and on television in my new show on W Network, "Million Dollar Critic."

I am not bothered about "fancy." I couldn't give a crap for airs and graces. A beautiful cheeseburger served by a pleasant human being in a fun part of town will, for me, always beat a foie gras terrine served by an obsequious old French rapist in a bow tie in a room full of bilious plutocrats. I'm looking for the same thing you're looking for: a good time in a great place full of fun people with a couple of interesting dishes on the menu, where I don't have to sell a child to pay the bill (although if you want to buy a kid I have two lovely ones at home).

This week I've been in Toronto, a hell of a city for food. Over the coming weeks I will be in Philadelphia, PA, Quebec City, Providence, RI, St John's, Newfoundland and Charleston, South Carolina looking for ever more exciting and original restaurants to bless (or curse) with a review that will appear exclusively right here and might, just might, be worth a million dollars.

For more Giles, go to Million Dollar Critic.

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