By Michelle J. Mills
Many of us remember the legendary So Cal food critic Elmer Dills. He died
in 2008, but not before his son, Peter Dills, was firmly on a food path of his own.
Peter Dills is continuing his father’s legacy by giving people recommendations
about where to dine, while also expanding our knowledge of food and drink in
general. He covers restaurants and happenings from Laguna to Ventura, on
radio, TV, the Internet and in print.
Dills not only gives advice and shares his opinions, he encourages radio listeners
to call his show with their own restaurant reviews. He also fields questions and
will do research when necessary to provide answers. Dills often brings experts
into the studio as well to share their knowledge.
Dills manages Robin’s Wood Fire Barbeque restaurant in East Pasadena.
Q. What makes someone a food critic?
A. I don’t know how many food critics are left. I’m more of a food adventurer.
On my show, we talk about food, hospitality and, of course, restaurants and
what makes them authentic. People are looking for ‘what does this guy know
that I don’t know?’ Am I foodie? Yes. Are there people that get to go eat out
more often than I do? Yes. But I do my research on what is authentic and not.
Q. What makes a meal good?
A. It’s got to have value, especially the way things are now. Value can be $45 for a steak;
I’d rather pay a little bit more and be happy with the meal than go somewhere where the
steak is $20 and not really good. Now if I’m spending $65 for a steak, it had better be really good.
Q. What is your favorite meal?
A. Shellfish — king crab, lobster, shrimp. My favorite dish would be king crab legs. Expensive.
Q. Tell us about your father and growing up.
A. My dad was a CIA operative; the whole restaurant reviewer was a front, a cover, at least at first.
He was in the CIA for 20 years. After the CIA, he kept doing restaurant reviews for real.
Dad lived in Germany in the late ‘50s. I was born in Greece and we moved to Maryland just
outside of Washington, D.C. for two years, and then we moved here in 1970 to Pasadena and
I’ve pretty much lived here my entire life.
I worked for Jurgensen’s grocery store and I learned about fine food, wine, cheeses, dry-aged beef.
In my early 20s, I got to be a food snob because I was eating really good food. By the same token,
I probably went out to dinner with my dad a thousand times.
Q. Were you ever in competition with your father?
A. When you’re younger, you agree with everything your parents say, but I know as I got older
I had some different opinions on things. It’s not competition, though. I’m just trying to follow
him and give people information.
Q. What are your plans for the future?
A. I want to do more traveling. Traveling is a little different than eating in restaurants. In a
dining review, I am reporting what I find out, giving the information back to the readers
or listeners. When you’re traveling, it’s a bigger dynamic. You don’t even have to get into
your opinion, you just come back and say here’s what the dollar is, here’s where to stay,
is it expensive, and is the food good as a whole. When you’re doing a travel story, it’s more
of a brushstroke, a generalization.
Q. What is your ultimate food adventurer goal?
A. The thing that I’m still striving for is getting to where my dad was. When my dad said you
gotta go, people went. I’m still not at that point. I want them to say, ‘Peter Dills said we’ve
got to go.’ But maybe I’m already there, I’m not sure.
You can find all things Peter Dills at www.peterdills.com and follow him on Twitter @kingofcuisine.
“Dining With Dills” airs at 6 p.m. Saturdays on 790 KABC radio and is livestreamed through his website.
The “Dining With Dills” television show airs 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on Charter Channel 101.
It is also on PBS SoCal — check TV listings for times.