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Lesley Chesterman’s Fake Name For Restaurant Reviews Was ‘Jessica Simpson’

The ex-Gazette critic shares some fun industry nuggets in a major exit interview

2018 Friendsgiving For No Kid Hungry
Jessica Simpson appears on TV with Martha Stewart
Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

It’s well-known that restaurant critics make reservations under fake names, and outgoing Montreal Gazette critic Lesley Chesterman has disclosed hers — “Jessica Simpson”.

This is one of a few nuggets from a lengthy interview Chesterman gave to CTV over the weekend, in advance of her final Gazette column being published this week. (The critic’s final restaurant review was published in December.)

The full interview is over at CTV, but here are some other notable comments from the critic, who reviewed restaurants for the Gazette for 20 years.

  • Perhaps because it wasn’t the most, uh, subtle fake name, Chesterman switched from using “Jessica Simpson” for to other names, but realized that she may have inadvertently used real names of other people in the city.
  • Chesterman suggests that after two decades, reviewing can get a little old, saying it’s time for a change. “I’ve spent the last 20 years analyzing salmon tartare and molten chocolate cake.”
  • She likely will continue to write about food, but not restaurants — one possibility is a French-language cookbook “people should cook as almost [something] like therapy” — partly because restaurant food isn’t necessarily financially accessible to everyone.
  • Chesterman’s first burn was in her review of Montreal restaurant Profusion. She wrote that the only reason she finished the foie gras was because she felt sorry for the duck.
  • As one of relatively few critics with a background cooking in restaurants, Chesterman says she felt she was more willing to cut restaurants slack in certain areas, but one excuse she doesn’t believe is that restaurants can have “off nights”: “chefs are a little bit like robots, they’re so trained to do what they do”.
  • Chesterman came into her job with certain eating preferences (for example, not loving fish), but recognized that those had to go out the window to do the job: “when you don’t eat something, you’re saying no to somebody’s culture”.