PHOODIE IS PHAMOUS!!!!!!……(blinkandyoullmissit) 0

December 2, 2010

PHOODIE’S PHEET (before they were Phamous)

I should probably give the background on this OUTRAGEOUS heading!! ….although Mum, we’ve already discussed this?! Ok, so IN CASE THERE IS SOMEONE APART FROM MUM READING here goes…..

To cut a long story short, Claire Winton-Burn, a near-finalist in Masterchef Series 2 (2010), did a Twitter shout out to food bloggers asking their opinions on “real food critics” v. “food bloggers” as critics…..

I shouted right back at her, and apparently I had something of sense to say…..

How sad am I that I still can’t work out how to make a link ‘clickable’???? (y’know, able to be clicked upon and then content opened up in another window)…..anyway, we WILL get there, but for now…….cut and paste (how 2009) the link below and then email me if you want an autograph! (Or Mum, I can just sign your diary tomorrow)…..

What is it about food blogs that gets under people’s skin? There’s no shortage of industry professionals lining up to pan these wannabe critics. Love them or loathe them, in the era of Urbanspoon and Eatability, food bloggers are the new wave of critics and they’re here to stay. And when you take a closer look at the blogging debate, it’s not quite as black and white as you might think.

One of the main criticisms levelled at bloggers is that they lack the requisite knowledge to properly evaluate a restaurant’s performance. The theory is that these enthusiastic amateurs are inferior observers by comparison to the old-school critics who are trained writers with well-developed palates and industry experience.

As an avid consumer of restaurant reviews, there’s no doubt that there’s an art to writing a good one. As Gourmet Traveller‘s chief restaurant critic, Pat Nourse, will tell you, not all critics are created equal. “People who can write about restaurants with the right combination of authority, vigour and verve are thinner on the ground than you’d think.” He says this applies equally to professionals as bloggers, though he is yet to find an Australian food blogger whose writing can compete with the leading professionals.

True though it is that a blogger won’t always have the same knowledge as a critic, I think most food bloggers are savvier and more passionate than they get credit for. And what they lack in food knowledge, they make up for with experience in other disciplines, as blogger “Phoodie” of points out. Without wanting to get too postmodern about it, the knowledge gap doesn’t necessarily make a blog worse than a professional review, it just makes it different. Plus there’s something to be said for the idea that a blogger might be a more useful litmus test than a professional so far as a layperson is concerned.


Another issue detractors have with bloggers is the level of rigour they apply to the reviewing process. Not only will a review be thoroughly scrutinised by the publication’s editors, a professional critic will generally visit a restaurant at least twice before penning a review. This is not necessarily the case with bloggers. As a result, they have been accused of making hasty and ill-informed judgments. On this point, I’m equivocal. I know that as a punter, if I go somewhere and have an ordinary experience, I’m unlikely to return. How often this would happen to a critic, who will always be treated as a VIP, I don’t know. Granted, even the best restaurants have “off” nights. But in my experience, the ones with real class will endeavour to remedy any problems rather than seeing their customers depart disgruntled, whether they’re a VIP or not. So I think there’s something to be said for calling it as you see it no matter how many times you visit a restaurant. Reporting without fear or favour is an essential part of a critic’s remit.

Of course this too has its vexations. Unlike traditional critiques, blog-based reviews are often published under a pseudonym to preserve the author’s anonymity and encourage a full and frank assessment of an eating experience. Some argue that this engenders a fundamental lack of accountability in the reviewing process and grants bloggers a licence to hate without facing the consequences. While anonymity undoubtedly encourages frankness, many bloggers have been too cavalier with their comments. In fact, you could argue that anonymity has precipitated a culture of hate in the internet sphere. As American screenwriter Aaron Sorkin famously put it, “Nothing has done more to make us dumber or meaner than the anonymity of the internet”.

Not all bloggers operate anonymously, but those who do argue that keeping their identity under wraps is essential to their ability to act as an impartial observer. I suspect more is made of this than necessary. I’m not convinced that the presence of a food blogger in their midst would have the same impact on staff as the presence of a well-known critic from a newspaper. And if anonymity is important, why do so many bloggers brandish their cameras with the subtlety of paparazzi? I’m inclined to agree with blogger Victoria Haschka of who argues that if you’re intent on slamming a restaurant, you should have the courage to put your name to your review. “Throwing rocks in the dark isn’t going to do anything except get people cranky.”

For all the criticisms directed at bloggers, however well or ill founded, one distinct advantage blogs have on their side is immediacy, as Simon from points out. The Age Good Food Guide is released but once a year, and as we all know, a year is a long time in show business. The streamlined nature of blogs allows them to provide up-to-date information on what’s hot and not right now.

Even those who don’t blog use Facebook or Twitter. Several restaurant critics write for the blogs that appear on their newspapers’ websites, and many chefs now have their own blogs. Equally, some food bloggers are empoyed by established restaurant guides, such as Grab Your Fork’s Helen Yee, who writes for Time Out Sydney. As Nourse argues, the line between amateur bloggers and professional critics is blurred. “In my view, we’re all just writers who are interested in writing about restaurants. Some of us get paid, some of us don’t, some of us like to try and preserve our anonymity, some of us don’t. Some of the professionals write better than others just as some non-professionals know more about food than others.”

That more people are thinking and writing critically about the way we eat is undoubtedly a positive thing. I’ll keep reading the professionals, and I’ll keep an eye on the amateurs and the Urbanspoon ratings too. But being the contrarian I am, I’ll keep doing it the old-fashioned way, because there’s no substitute for going to a restaurant and making up your own mind.

Print Friendly


1 S Lloyd { 12.02.10 at 2:07 pm }

Yeah, I saw the article. I am surprised though by this statement of theirs ”a blogger won’t always have the same knowledge as a critic””. Critic or blogger is just a role that the person is wearing. Knowldge has nothing to do with this. I have been cooking for more than 3 decades at all imaginary levels, have a very humble blog and yet have with no doubt more familiarity with food, ingredients, cooking techniques, palate than a bunch of food critics. Sure, they have the contacts I do not have since they are from the media industry, but certainly not the knowledge that some food bloggers may have

2 phoodie { 12.02.10 at 2:22 pm }

I agree with you! Someone who is labelled a ‘critic’ does not at all necessarily have more ‘food knowledge’ that someone who is labelled a ‘blogger’. The point that I made to CWB, and the point I think that SHE is making, is that many ‘food bloggers’ come from non-food related backgrounds (i.e. for me, it is Architecture) and I definitely have more ‘Architectural knowledge’, at this stage, than I do ‘food knowledge’. (That’s DEF not to say all food bloggers do!!)….The point being, that I, as a food blogger, approach my reviews, my posts, my recipes, etc with a “different” slant than a food critic, who may ONLY have been exposed to a ‘food education’ may do….I am sure there are many food bloggers out there who have a WEALTH of experience and education that would put many a critic to shame!

3 Liz Harris { 12.02.10 at 5:32 pm }

You are totally FAMOUS!!

4 phoodie { 12.02.10 at 7:59 pm }

ahahahahaha! :)

leave a comment