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Foster, Herald’s legendary food critic, dies

Dereck Foster, a legend in the local gastronomic circles whose name became one of the most recognizable bylines in the Buenos Aires Herald, died yesterday after battling cardiac problems for months. He was 82.

Foster’s involvement with the Herald began almost by chance but lasted almost four decades, until last December. In 1973 he wrote a letter to then-editor Bob Cox, complaining about a restaurant review. Little did he know it was a column that Cox had written himself under a pen name. Cox then offered him to take over the paper’s restaurant section — the two became fast friends.

“He wrote on wine, food and the ways of the world, which he knew pretty well after visiting 36 countries,” Cox wrote in a letter to the Herald last month. “He put Argentina on the map for gourmets and gourmands by writing so knowledgeably about its wines, cheeses and cuisine.”

A well-known figure in the local gastronomic circles, Foster was a pioneer. He wrote about food and wine before everyone had a blog and Instagrammed their every meal. Foster wrote about wine before the world fell in love with Malbec. And he wrote a guidebook about Argentine food and wine before everyone became a critic through the likes of Tripadvisor.

Dereck was “one of the first to recognize the potential of Malbec,” wrote Andrés Rosberg, the head sommelier at Fierro Hotel and the president of the Pan American Sommelier Alliance, in one of the many tributes to the Herald veteran that filled Twitter after his death. Juan Carlos Fola wrote a tribute to him on the site Fondo de Olla, in which he pointed out that many first met Foster in a classroom, where he shared his knowledge about food and wine. He began talking about wine “at a time when wine-making in Argentina, as we know it today, was in diapers,” Fola wrote.

Harry Ingham was often featured in Foster’s columns, mentioned as “my friend Harry.”

“Dereck was, above all, a good guy,” Ingham recalled yesterday at Foster’s funeral in Pilar. “A humble man who treated people well and had unquestionable ethics in a profession in which ethics is difficult. One of the few things that angered him was when they misspelled his first name as Derek, without a c.”

It is little wonder then that when a lunch in his honour was organized at the classic Oviedo restaurant last month, some of the biggest names in the local culinary scene, including Martiniano Molina, Gonzalo Aramburu, Carola Chaparro, Alicia Delgado, Cristina Goto, Raquel Rosemberg, and Beatriz Chomnalez were present to honour Foster.

Foster was a great advocate for wine-drinking, calling it a healthy habit that only becomes bad when done in excess.

“An excess in drinking water is as bad as with alocholic beverages,” Foster told an interviewer. “The magic is in knowing how to savour it.” He added that everyone should drink “a glass or a glass-and-a-half per day, every 24 hours — I suggest that people buy large glasses.”

In a panel discussion with fellow-journalists, Foster described wine as “the added pleasure at the table,” noting that “wine has a very special world and I try to get into that world.”

Dereck wrote several specialized books, including El Gaucho Gourmet, a bilingual book that delves into the origins of Argentine cuisine, and El León Domado (The Tamed Lion) about the British invasions of.

Obsessed with finding out the origins of local food traditions, he caused a minor revolution on the Internet when he told the origin story of the “milanesa napolitana,” that much beloved dish of breaded veal, topped with tomato sauce, ham and cheese.

“It is wrong to call it Napolitana,” Foster said, “because it really should be called Milanesa a la Nápoli.” Why? Because it was first made on a whim by José Nápoli in his downtown Buenos Aires restaurant, when he wanted to pass off a burnt milanesa to one of his best clients.

Weeks before his death, Dereck had accepted a proposal to write a monthly column for the Herald, but his health problems worsened.

Born in Buenos Aires on October 31, 1931, Foster is survived by his wife, Florencia, and his children, Lucas, who is 34, and 33-year-old Julián.

- Herald staff

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