Grilled by Girl Scouts
Finally, finally, finally: Somebody wanted to interview me. Receiving the request via email was a validation of sorts, a late-in-coming but appreciated recognition of my rightful place among Miami’s elite food critics. Admittedly there were colleagues who attempted to denigrate the honor -- it’s astonishing what envy can do to otherwise good people. Evidently being questioned by Girl Scout Troop 641 isn’t deemed prestigious enough by some. “Their weekly letter gets pretty solid circulation,” I said by way of response, and looked forward to the challenge.
The setting was a dining room in Ana Estevez’ home in Palmetto Bay. Suzanne Rodriguez was in charge of the get-together (are they still referred to as den mothers?). There were seven 12-year old girls seated around the table, this interview part of a Creative Cooking project whereby they speak with people involved in the restaurant industry, visit restaurants, cook stuff up, and so forth. They went around the table introducing themselves -- I’m pretty sure that at least three of them were named Emily -- and then went around again with their prepared queries.
The first question was the best of the night: Did you get into restaurant reviewing for the food or for the writing? It was for the writing, I answered without much thought, because as a chef I was already privy to good food. Other questions were more predictable: Did I pay for the meals myself, did I go anonymously, my favorite food, my favorite restaurant.....all of which I handled with ease. Then it struck me: None of the girls was writing a single word down.
The next question concerned what I thought was currently the worst restaurant in Miami, but I had trouble naming one. In fact, I was distracted, searching my brain for a really bad meal while at the same time scanning the table, looking for a small digital recorder. There was none.
It turned out that this was more of a career-day interview, serving as a prelude to the troop going out to review a restaurant. All the wit and wisdom I’d expended, and none of it for posterity! I tried not to allow the bitterness to show, and continued answering questions -- if with a little less attention paid to eloquence of phrasing.
Refreshments followed in the form of iced tea and a plate of home made Halloween cookies. “No girl scout cookies?” I asked. “Not the season,” they said. I had never thought of cookies being in or out of season, and my disappointment must have shown -- Ana went in back and dug out a box from last year’s sales drive for me to take home.
It wasn’t at all reminiscent of the old girl scout cookie packaging, this one colored purple and emblazoned with a photo of a smiling girl wearing a black fireman’s hat. It looked like a Benetton ad. The Samoas inside were Pepperidge-Farmish, coconut-crusted, butter cookie rings with chocolate underneath and striped across the top. I ate most of the box on the long drive home, as consolation for having had fame so cruelly elude me once again. They were pretty tasty. --Lee Klein