A maestro who left a mark with colleagues, restaurant owners
For The Herald
By Sorrel Moseley-Williams
When I started to review restaurants a few years ago, it was a pretty innocuous affair sporadically published online. But when it became a weekly commitment for the Herald, a more serious business, and I started to visit new establishments or check out revived menus, there was always one question from chefs or owners: “Do you know Dereck Foster?”
At that time, I did not — at least not personally. We’d spoken on the phone a few times, but I’d never had a chance to put a face to the name. After four decades of contributing to the Herald, his reputation preceded him with a sufficient amount of legend thrown in — his age and nationality were always circumspect — while his copy, two weekly columns reviewing restaurants and wine, always appeared on time.
Then came the day when he called me up, suggesting we meet for coffee. Of course I agreed, surprised he even knew who I was but quietly pleased I’d get the chance to meet a man who few at the newspaper could identify although everyone knew exactly who he was.
We arranged to meet at a hotel downtown, the NH Florida, at a time when we’d both be in need of caffeine injections — he after a hearty lunch, me before entering the newsroom mid-afternoon. I burst in, looked around the hotel’s dining room but couldn’t spot an elderly gentleman and dashed out again, certain I had the wrong place.
Pacing the street a few more times, I hurried back in and asked one of the waiters for Dereck by name. “Why, that’s him over there,” came the reply and sure enough it was the spritely-looking gentleman who I had originally discarded for looking too young to be the food and wine critic in my mind’s eye. As I recall, we exchanged some banter and chatted about our current favourite restaurants in the city. And ever the gentleman, he naturally invited this youngish lady to her coffee.
As mentioned, over these past few years and after checking out what by now amounts to a few hundred bars and restaurants in the name of the Herald — a drop in the ocean compared with Dereck’s vast repertoire that surely ranks in the thousands— the question has always been: “So how is Dereck?” That, always followed up with the chef or winemaker recalling Dereck’s steadfast support in the early days of their business. And with more than 40 years on the clock writing about food and wine, naturally he knew all the bodegueros and restaurateurs — it is no small feat that every single person who ever mentioned his name to me only had high praise and compliments for him.
From young guns such as Gonzalo Aramburu of Aramburu and Tomo I’s Federico Fialayre to the more established names on the local gastro scene such as pastry chef Beatriz Chomnalez, so many in Argentina’s food and wine industry have voiced how grateful they have been for his support and recalled him with genuine fondness. And, simply, that speaks volumes about Dereck Foster.