Are you really qualified to review my restaurant?

While I was deciding what to do with my stale website, I really had no interest in blogging or bloggers. I didn’t really know what it was. Then the more I got into photography, the more time I spent on the internet reading the blogs of photographers. They posted pictures, gave tips and let you into their world and asked, no, pleaded for your feedback. It was eye opening to say the least; the skill of a photographer takes years to hone, to learn about proper lighting, framing your image, accounting for movement and the marriage of aperture, ISO and shutter speed (I hope I’m not oversimplifying). And that’s just to take the picture, now to put it through digital post-processing? You almost need a degree to master the software used to finalize these images.

I began to draw comparisons between photography and professional cooking. Both are forms of art, not anyone can do it well, and both professional photographers and chefs can produce amazing results with the most minimal of tools. How? Just one word, experience.

Seeing that my foray into the photographic blogosphere went so well, I felt like there was much to gain and much I had to offer to the food bloggers of the world. And while there are many great bloggers and writers out there, there is an ever-growing segment that is out to ruin the restaurant industry, one vicious blog at a time.

The internet, being what it is, free and for everyone, has become the perfect place for these so-called ‘foodies’ to set up their soap boxes and be judge, jury and wannabe executioner for a litany of restaurants struggling to survive a rough economy. Every chef and owner will tell you, after time they don’t remember the good reviews, but the bad ones always stick with you. It’s the same with guests of these restaurants, ‘a good word travels a mile, a bad word travels 10’. To understand what I mean, stand in line at the grocery store and in a clearly audible voice say the word ‘butter’. Did anybody notice? Maybe the guy in front of you. Now, in that same voice, drop an f-bomb out of the blue and see how many eyes turn your way. That would take some cajones, wouldn’t it? Would it be easier if you were anonymous? $5 will get you $10 that the story will be repeated once or twice throughout the rest of the day.

These bloggers, shrouded in their anonymity, are tinkering with people’s livelihoods. People that earn paychecks, pay bills, support families and try to get on with everyone else. It’s bad enough we are subject to the scrutiny of trained reviewers, but to be reviewed by a recent college students who just graduated from grilled cheese and fritos to Torchon of Foie Gras is going somewhat overboard. Maybe that’s where my biggest beef lies. I’ve spent 23 years honing my craft of cooking, I’ve done it in the States and in Europe, and to have some 22 year old blogger tell the world via the internet my lobster bisque is a bit bland? Now that’s just ridiculous. Perhaps you just don’t like my bisque, perhaps the nuances of lobster and tarragon are a little too subtle for your palate, and maybe you just don’t like soup. I’m fine with all that, but to declare in your blog that my soup is now somehow unfit for the rest of the world? That makes my head spin. Here’s an idea, let me come down to where you work, hang out in your cubicle with you for a few hours and write down everything I think you do wrong, see I don’t really know because I don’t work in a cubicle, but I can probably figure it out what you’re doing wrong, right? (Disclaimer…no one has ever blogged about my lobster bisque that I know of, I am only trying to make a point.)

Let me be clear, if you don’t like the dish I made, I understand. That is your right and I know I can’t please every single person who walks through the front door, no matter how hard I try; it’s a fact I have to live with. But for any random blogger to take his personal opinion and try and make it the opinion of all my future guests, you might as well be saying, “I’m going to try and close your restaurant down.”

The question is, can anything be done about the inexperienced, untrained palates that walk to any restaurant thinking that because they are dropping their own hard earned money, they have the right to criticize on a global level? Possibly. Two woman, Brooke Burton (http://foodwoolf.com/) and Leah Greenstein (http://www.spicysaltysweet.com/) have created a Food Blog Code of Ethics based in part on The Association of Food Journalists Food Critics Guidelines. They outline several of the key points most bloggers miss while writing their reviews. Personally, I would include a section regarding the experience or lack of experience of the reviewer be described in their ‘About’ section on the blog. Please describe your culinary expertise, training, background or the fact that this is your first time in a restaurant with napkins that don’t get thrown away, so I know where the curve starts. Also, remove the ratings from these websites. In this fast serve society, many people won’t bother reading the actual review; they will go straight to the ratings, not fair to either the blogger, who took the time to write the article, or establishment, who is suffering because of it. And yes, the dreaded ‘badge’ displayed proudly on the site stating that each blogger is mindful of the responsibility they hold and their duty to be fair without being vindictive.

2 Responses

  1. Christopher, excellent article! Another thing that is a problem with some of these critics is that they often apply the same standards to every type of restaurant. They are not going to get a French Laundry meal at a TGIF. But, like the first commenter, I don’t write about restaurants I don’t like. And, so far, I’ve only ever written about afternoon tea venues, leaving the “lesser” meals of the day to others!

  2. Great article Chris.

    My rule of thumb is, if I don’t like the restaurant, I won’t bother writing about them. I do enough research ahead of time to know whether or not I’m going to be enjoying a good meal. Why be a hater, right?

    ~ Young (aka SnapshotFoodie)

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