Restaurant Criticism

Rita Erlich - 3 Daggers; Half Chef's Head

Australian Restaurant Critics: Rita Erlich
Rita Erlich, co-editor of 'The Age Good Food Guide'
Photograph ©Tony Knox 1991

Joint editor of The Age Good Food Guide she came to The Age via The Nation Review, The Sun and The Jewish News. Today she is concentrating as much on general arts writing as on The Age's Tuesday food supplement Epicure. She still retains the important role of joint editor of the AGFG.

"And it's one of the nice things about being back on The Age is that I can do other things - the stuff for Arts, for Saturday Extra, and what's happening is that I'm finding is that I can write about food more in the ways that I'm interested in food - and I'm not particularly - I mean food is more than restaurant reviewing for me and the reason that food writing will keep my interest forever is that you can see food in any way you like in terms of economics, politics, agriculture, pleasure, business, commerce, art, craft, science of nutrition. It's the activity that gets into every part of life."

Don't Australian food writers do it as a part time job?

"That's probably true - it is for me that I need to write about other things."

Wouldn't the state of the art be improved if writers concentrated on it more?

"No I don't think that it necessarily improves the quality of their work if people are doing the same thing all the time. For me the moving backwards and forwards is much more valuable than focusing on food."

How do we get to the next stage if people are not totally obsessed and committed?: "I'm not interested in that; I'm not obsessive at large; I'm very committed ...

"I think that a lot of the discussion about what is happening in Sydney and what's the latest; where are we all going and where is it at, is like digging up a plant to see how it's growing. Things sort themselves out in time; not every new trend is significant and not every new dish is important - most of them aren't. What's happening and where are we all going - is that only time will tell."

A fatalistic approach that offers very little incentive to the restaurateur to strive to raise standards.


June 1991
Update November 1996

Rita was dropped from the editorship of the Epicure section of The Age after this investigation was published, but she still reviews restaurants for this section. After Claude Forell's departure from the AGFG in 1993 she retained the deputy editorship but under the direction of Russell Skelton, an Age senior writer, for the 1995 Guide. The association was apparently marked by acrimonious disputes between the two editors. In 1996 she is again editor of the AGFG once more with her old partner, Claude Forell.

Update June 1998

Rita Erlich is no longer editor of the AGFG. She no longer a member of staff for the Age. Recently she has been doing an occasional piece for the Melbourne page of the Australian, for which publication she is preparing a guide to 'Melbourne's Top 50 Restaurants'.

Mietta O'Donnell & Tony Knox
©Mietta's 1996