When I tell people what I do for a living, the question they most often ask is, do the restaurants know beforehand that you're coming? To which I answer, "No, but I always book in as Fay Maschler, just to keep them on their toes." The business of anonymity among reviewers is something of a red herring. After all, if the kitchen can't cook and the front of house is inept, just knowing there's a professional diner in the house won't make them significantly raise their game.
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There's a new face at the helm of the two-Michelin-starred French restaurant Le Gavroche in London's Mayfair – and she's a woman. Rachel Humphrey, 30, formerly senior sous chef at the restaurant, was recently named head chef; the first woman to gain such a position in the restaurant's 42-year history. But she's much too clever – and honest – to be lured into idle speculation on the subject of whether the small number of female chefs in the UK is due to a lack of talent or a shortage of opportunity. "I'm not really sure why Britain's restaurant industry is male-dominated," she says, "but there are certainly more and more opportunities for women chefs these days. As far as I'm concerned, what's most important is to prove yourself in the kitchen, whatever your sex. The kitchen environment can be aggressive, but I learnt that the best way to be respected in the kitchen was to make sure that I never gave the guys any ammunition against me."