“Ambiance, flavor, presentation and service,” are the qualities food critic Leo Ruiz-Torres considers when he reviews his experience at a restaurant. “And if it’s kid-friendly or not,” Leo urgently adds. He’s a phenom as a foodie, a culinary connoisseur, a prodigy of gastronomy—and he’s only 12.
When seventh grader Leo isn’t attending his middle school classes in Williamsburg he’s an astute food critic by trade, honing his talents with his palate, with a prowess for discerning different tastes and textures of cuisine found at some of the most refined restaurants in Coastal Virginia within his reviews. Wearing thick, horn-rimmed glasses and a suave bowtie, it’s evident that presentation is a shared trait with the food critic as well.
He leaves his critiques with the maître d’ and compliments to the chef on his Facebook page, L.A. Food Critic, which is named for his first two initials, Leo Antonio, he explains as it rolls off the tongue, and the star-studded city where he was born, Los Angeles. Listed as a food consultant online, Leo has savored tastes from such distinguished Williamsburg establishments as Blue Talon Bistro, Le Yaca and The Trellis, as well as the more casual eateries of MOOYAH Burgers, Fries & Shakes, Toby’s Dog House and Skrimp Shack.
He’s given a rave review for Corner Café in Williamsburg, as he was particularly fond of their petite filet, and he’s taken great pleasure in several astounding brunch choices from First Watch. “It’s a farm-to-table, and the flavors and textures are really well combined together,” he indicates, while also noting his surroundings. “It has a rustic but kind of a modern look.”
Beyond the local Pho 79, L.A. Food Critic has indulged in some national and international eats too, giving his remarks for Italian dishes in St. Maarten, sushi in Oregon, bison burgers in Idaho, artisan cheeses in Charlotte, N.C. and samplings from Pike Place Market in Seattle. “I like to travel to different places and see the different types of dishes they have and the different cultures they have in their food,” he exclaims. “When I went to New York when I was 7, my mom gave me a choice of, if I wanted to go to a Broadway Show or a restaurant, and I chose a restaurant. I decided to go to Butter, which was Alex Guarnaschelli’s restaurant, and sadly, she wasn’t there but the food was really good.”
At home, Leo furthers his appreciation for food by taking after the likes of Food Network celebrity chefs such as Guy Fieri, Alton Brown, contestants on “Top Chef” and family members, including his granddad, a magnificent untrained cook, and his uncle who attended culinary school. He’ll even put on the chef’s apron himself, as he has a penchant for pastries and has made donuts during classes at Williams-Sonoma in Williamsburg. “I always cook in the kitchen at home, and I like to season and make sauces and all that stuff,” he describes. “I enjoy different spice shops and farmers markets to see all the flavors and food,” Leo reveals, giving him quite a bit of food for thought as a hungry young critic.
To see more reviews and keep up with the latest from L.A. Food Critic, follow him on Facebook.com/LAFoodCritic.