With L.A. Times critic Jonathan Gold following the lead of Dallas' Leslie Brenner and NYC's Adam Platt in deciding to reveal his face, it might seem like the San Francisco Chronicle's restaurant critic, Michael Bauer, has a golden opportunity to follow suit. But in a post on Inside Scoop, the Chron's critic says he doesn't plan to remove that conspicuously placed menu from his visage anytime soon. "While some people think anonymity is a ruse in these times, I still believe that trying to maintain a low profile has an advantage," writes Bauer. "If nothing else, it sends the message that I'm trying to emulate the experience of an average diner and it lets the restaurant know that I'm not out for free food or special treatment."
Though Bauer makes the specious claim that he's been "successful at keeping photos off the Internet" (except for, you know, this one and this one and this one), the fact remains that his face is common knowledge, at least within the higher class of restaurants that he reviews. After 25 years in the critic job, a tenure far exceeding that of critics at pretty much every other major paper in the U.S., it seems pretty inevitable that everyone in SF who cares to know what Bauer looks like has found out. Chefs constantly mention that they "had Bauer in last night," and he certainly doesn't shy away from big events like Pebble Beach Food & Wine, SF Chefs, and even the occasional chef-heavy restaurant opening. The Chron's own social columnist even mentioned his attendance at a Downton Abbey-themed party last year where Tyler Florence, Anna Weinberg, and Nancy Oakes were all present. Throw in a few technology gaffes like tweeting out one of his aliases by accident, as he did with a reservation at Huxley, and it's surprising that Bauer's face hasn't made it to a billboard by now.
This isn't meant to insult Bauer's attempts at anonymity—he still uses fake names and fake cards, making "every effort to remain anonymous," as his tagline says. And he even gets away with it once in a while, with the occasional restaurant that doesn't recognize him (paging Crystal Jade Jiang Nan). But considering that even the Chron's publisher is apparently asking him "what it would take for [him] to be comfortable coming out," it's a legitimate question as to whether Bauer's "anonymity" is actually for the good of the dining public.