The Phantom Gourmet is a food-related television program with a major focus on restaurant reviews from a critic with the same name (see below for more). The show airs on WSBK-TV in Boston, Massachusetts and WLWC in Providence, Rhode Island each Saturday and Sunday mourning at 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM, with a half-hour episode comprised of older clips followed by an hour-long episode (either new or rerun). In late Spring of 2006, the company behind the show came out with its first Boston restaurant guide, entitled The Phantom Gourmet Guide to Boston's Best Restaurants. The guide features restaurant reviews written by the show's anonymous critic.
In addition to reviews, the show features interviews with owners or chefs of restaurants, a segment on determining the best grocery item of a chosen category, and a segment on recipes from Newbury College. In addition, the show also gives a Great 8 selection of restaurants that are the best in their category, and a Hidden Jewel that features a unique restaurant that some people might not know about if the Phantom didn't go there. At the end of each show, a Dish Worth Driving To award is awarded, which is a menu selection that Phantom considers to be the best of all of the food or drinks he reviewed in the episode.
The program broadcast its first episode on June 26, 1993, on New England Cable News. The show gained a cult following almost immediately and was given a Best of Boston award by Boston Magazine in 1994 for the Best Talk Show. NECN broadcast the show for a decade, but then decided to drop the Phantom in 2003 in favor of their own restaurant review program.
By that March, the Phantom Gourmet cut a deal with Viacom to move the show to WSBK-TV beginning on September 20, 2003, where it has been ever since. The deal also led to the Restaurant Report Card segment of the show to appear on WBZ-TV's newscasts, which as of 2005 currently appears during the 4:30 news. By 2004, the show was added to WLWC's programming schedule, returning the show to the air in the Providence, Rhode Island area.
Once original host Billy Costa left to do his own food show on NECN, CEO David Andelman tapped WBZ-TV news reporter David Robichaud to serve as host before turning the job over to his own younger brother, Feedback Forum segment host Daniel Andelman, who then became the show's full-time and current host. Dave Andelman continues to run the company while also appearing as an unseen narrator during the restaurant segments and frequent on-air contributor. During special theme shows (usually ones that discuss more popular fare like chain restaurants and fast food), the two Andelman brothers are sometimes joined in a panel by other brother Michael, who owns his own marketing company. Their father, Eddie, known for his annual "Hot Dog Safari" charity event, has also been featured on the show as an expert on hot dogs.
The Phantom Gourmet also appears on WBZ radio each morning at 10:56 and each weekend afternoon at 2:56 and 3:56. This version has been on the air since 1995, and usually consists of an audio version of a Restaurant Report Card, although at times a Great 8 segment has appeared on the station. (Ironically, as a result of corporate mergers, WBZ radio is now co-owned with WSBK and WLWC.)
In print & online
The Phantom's report cards also appear in print in the Boston Herald each Wednesday and Friday, and online at the Phantom Gourmet's website after each episode airs. The website also contains web versions of the Great 8, Top of the Food Chain, and Hidden Jewel segments of the television program.
The term Phantom Gourmet is also used to describe the critic who reviews for each of the above programs. According to the website, the Phantom "pays his own way" and dines under a disguise to give the most trustworthy restaurant reviews they can possibly give to their viewers. This is done because the producers believe that recognizable critics are given special service above what average customers receive, whereas concealing the Phantom's identity allows him a more accurate representation of what other customers experience. To this end, the Phantom Gourmet staff refuse to disclose the Phantom's name to the general public. The only clues that have been given are that he doesn't live in Boston or Providence. On the June 3, 2006 show, host Dan Andelman conducted an interview with the Phantom, whose voice and identity were altered.
They revealed that the Phantom's favorite food is pizza, and also that, despite the show's use of "he" to refer to the critic, the Phantom could still be a woman.