I feel quite honoured to have been included in an article about the rise in popularity of food blogging in the current issue of the national Indian business and financial magazine, Business Today. Along with the lovely writer Nandita Iyer of the amazing blog Saffron Trail, I was interviewed all about the ins and outs of food blogging, my opinions, how I started, if I make money at it (no I don’t FYI), and more. In the process I realised that I have really strong opinions about so-called food critics and the reckless way that the majority of them behave on their blogs or in articles they write for review websites.
I’m not a food critic.
I’m not even really a ‘food blogger’ in my opinion. I mean, come on! How could I be? I’m not trained in the culinary arts, nor did I obtain a certificate from an accredited cooking school or even a speciality mini day class from le cordon bleu. I just like to go out and drink and eat – and I like to write. I know what MY HIGHLY UNTRAINED palette likes and doesn’t like but I’m certainly not qualified to critique any food as a chef could. So I blog about my experience, what I liked best and what I liked least, what a restaurant looks like, the ambiance, the friendliness of the service and what they offer in way of food, drinks and seating styles, etc.
And then there are Food Bloggers!
Most have just as little – if not less – qualifications than I do to be acting as food critics. I say ‘if not less’ because India is the 4th country I have lived in, the 3rd continent, and it is one of 24 countries I have been to on holiday so I do think that I have some knowledge and ability to give an opinion based on true real life experience when it comes to food from countries where I have either lived or visited for a decent amount of time.
Given that I have only been blogging since I moved to India, my only experience with food bloggers is in India. I’m sure that food bloggers are the same all around the world and the crazy behaviour of the food bloggers who I know and who I have met at various tasting events in Bangalore is replicated every day, everywhere.
With the exception of TWO ladies, the other food bloggers who I personally know do not have a lifestyle that you would call ‘jet set’ and they definitely don’t earn a salary that would allow them to dine at the restaurants and five star hotels where they are invited to tasting events – except on very special occasions. At Rs. 2,000 – 10,000 per person with wine and drinks, it is my humble opinion that it would be somewhat a stretch on their budget. I am trying to state all of this as delicately as I can and I ONLY mention it to make it clear that until they started blogging, chances are good that most food bloggers had never even tasted many of the foods they now critique nor had they had the pleasure of enjoying the venues where they are now so very welcome.
Here’s what annoys the hell out of me when I read a review from today’s standard food blogger
- Most give a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ in some way, shape or form of the entire restaurant based on their one single dining experience. If it was great, well super. But if they didn’t like something well then hold on to your hat! Many food bloggers take one dish, or one ‘off’ service moment and use it to rip a restaurant apart and give them a TERRIBLE review. No one moment in time – either for us as people or a business – can define us so writing “Don’t go there!!” advice is an awful thing to do. Just as if someone telling a group “she’s a bitch” about me after just one encounter with me having an off moment. There’s a lot more to a restaurant and to a person that one single moment in time.
- In some (or many) cases, they’ve never eaten the food before so who the hell says they are qualified to critique food and give an opinion? I think as food bloggers we can say things like “I didn’t care for this” or “I really liked that” or something along those lines but if I’m trying Ethiopian food for the first time at a new restaurant, how in the world can I critique it? Most importantly, what gives me the right to take away the livelihood of a business owner by giving a bad review when I am so very unqualified and uneducated about that cuisine?
A Terrific Example
One example I can give took place last summer when I was at Sunday Brunch at Shiro – a place I had already reviewed and visit from time to time. Amongst my friends, we all agree that it is hands-down the best ‘upscale party’ brunch in all of Bangalore. Well, I ran into a really sweet food blogger mate of mine who was there. She had not reserved a table in advance, which is required as it usually books out as early as Friday. She and her friends had to stand at the bar, they arrived really late at 3pm and the place was packed, brunch was almost over, guests were half drunk and sort of in cocktail mode which is very demanding on the staff’s time. She had a terrible experience and so I introduced her to the GM so she could come back to review it properly but she was so annoyed by everything that instead she retaliated by writing about just how awful Sunday Brunch at Shiro is … when in fact it is a great spot for brunch, as you’d imagine given that it books out days in advance. Now, however, anyone who goes to the popular restaurant review site where she writes would think the place is shit and avoid it like the plague. I ask you, was that a fair ‘review’ and use of blogger power given the circumstances of her dining experience? (none of which are mentioned in her review).
Although I wasn’t credited with saying it, the closing line of the Business Today article was mine. Like it was stated in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility” and I truly believe that too many food bloggers wield their power for evil. In my humble opinion, they don’t play fair, they don’t have the education or training to really critique some food … and I think that they should be a bit more gracious about having been invited into someone’s home so to speak and then later ripping them in two behind the safety of a computer monitor. Really, there has to be a better way to engage their followers and share the details of a restaurant with them.
Okay, my rant is done … sorry this turned out so loooooong but when a girl wants to rant, a girl should rant! As for me, I’m going to keep chugging on as always and share as much detail as possible in my ‘reviews’ to give people a visual and written overview of what they can expect to help them make up their own mind – instead of just giving my two cents which IMHO aren’t worth much.
© 2013 Angela Carson. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce any part of this article without the author’s permission.