Being a professional restaurant critic is certainly an enviable privilege. So, by that reckoning, how must it have felt to be the longest-serving restaurant critic ever for The New York Times and someone whom Wine Spectator had dubbed “the most important restaurant critic in America”? You’d think that person would be on top of the world, but for the one who actually held that distinction, Dobbs Ferry resident Bryan Miller, it was too often a Herculean feat just to get out of bed each day.
During what should have been the time of his life, Miller was fighting a withering battle with clinical depression, which he recounts in vivid, naked detail in his new book, Dining in the Dark: A Famed Restaurant Critic’s Struggle With and Triumph Over Depression. Published by Skyhorse Press and distributed by Simon & Schuster, Dining in the Dark takes the reader through Miller’s dozen-plus years with the Times, when he was reviewing restaurants five or six nights a week, writing stories and a recipe column, and making regular public-speaking engagements, in addition to a daily radio spot and a weekly TV appearance. In the opinion of many friends, acquaintances, and colleagues, he had the best job in the country. Ironic, considering that during this same period, Miller’s most compelling goal was to steer as clear of his own species as possible, to the point where his canon of no-shows, blow-offs, and disappearing acts garnered him a reputation that threatened to ruin the high-profile position the James Beard award winner was so fortunate to have.
As a result, Miller paid a heavy price due to an affliction he never asked for. It ultimately cost him his illustrious career, as well as multiple personal relationships that might have otherwise been life-affirming.
But this is also a story of redemption and how the author was able to pull himself out of the abyss and walk once again in the light of humanity. Along the way, Dining in the Dark will treat you not only to some delicious dishes but also to some delicious dish — including the elite Manhattan celebrity food scene and the inner workings and eccentricities of the Gray Lady and her cast of colorful characters.
In the end, Dining in the Dark is a tale of tragedy and triumph, of second chances and second acts, of feast and famine. Yet, it will nourish you just fine.