Longtime Montreal restaurant critic Marie-Claude Lortie wrote her latest piece for Press over the long weekend, before assuming her new position as editor-in-chief of the Ottawa newspaper The right May 25.
News of Lortie’s departure broke earlier this month with an article published by his new employer. On May 22, she published a farewell piece in Pressthe gastronomic section of, by rethinking his time in the French-speaking media and his role as restaurant critic in a city so often famous for its culinary chops.
Lortie had been Pressrestaurant critic for just under two decades, and was at the point of sale as a reporter for a total of 33 years. When she started the food beat in 2002, the city’s restaurant scene was very different from what it is now, she recalls in the play: Martin Picard had just made his first foray, Joe Beef had not yet open, and Dyan Solomon was the head of just one establishment, the iconic Olive + Gourmando restaurant, which Lortie said had yet to receive the praise it deserved. Over the years, all of that has changed, she writes.
âI went through all of this for the readers, trying my best to describe to them what to expect. From inspiring projects to pretentious projects. I said that some chefs, claiming to reinvent the wheel, don’t know how to cook, and others make heavenly dumplings or sandwiches. â¦ It is certain that if they were written today, some of my critiques would be different. I don’t regret anything I said, other than maybe not including some clarification. I think I have often made a mistake on the side of not being severe enough, âwrote Lortie on Saturday in La Presse, in French, but translated here. Of course, the restaurants that receive some of its harshest reviews might be different. In one notable example, the Candide restaurant in Little Burgundy refuted Lortie’s assessment, which echoed views shared by former Montreal Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman.
The withdrawal of Lortie from the scene is noteworthy for another reason: it alludes to the end of an era for the great veteran food critics of the city, an exodus that began in 2018 with the decision of Thierry Daraize. to no longer write reviews for The Journal of Montreal food section and start its own catering site. (His signature continues to appear alongside other food and restaurant related content posted in The Journal of Montreal.) In 2019, Chesterman was released, publishing a popular cookbook. And although The duty did not respond to Eater‘s request for confirmation of the status of critic Jean-Philippe Tastet, it appears he has not written for the newspaper since December 2020. Other online sites like, Cult MTL, continue to publish less formal reviews.
Towards the end of her play, aptly named “Au Revoir,” Lortie wonders how she would approach criticism if she was still around when restaurants, which are in desperate need of patronage, reopen after the pandemic – a possibility that she does not. A bit of a miss with the decks set to make a comeback later this week. Lortie sees the role of the critic having to evolve beyond the apolitical vision of “the quality of the cook on a steak or the originality of a dish of asparagus”, she writes.
âThere is so much to write about beyond what’s good and what’s not. The way we review needs to be redefined, keeping in mind that its purpose is to help readers make the best decisions. I bet readers would like to know if they are cheering on a company that doesn’t pay its employees fairly, for example, âshe tells Eater.
While she says she is proud to have tackled subjects like cultural appropriation and the environmental impact of fishing in her work, she regrets, in her farewell letter, not to have always explored the origin of the ingredients, the salaries of those who work in certain establishments and the issues of harassment. âFood criticism should be about all of these things,â she tells Eater.
He was asked if anyone would step in to fulfill his role at Press, Isabelle Audet, director of content for the section, tells Eater in an email: âAs we do every year, we planned to take a break from the reviews during the summer. This will give us time to think about what we will do next … “