Feb 12, 2015

SpicyScoops | Food Bloggers are not Food Critics

Food Bloggers are not Food Critics.

There, I said it. Starting this write up by stating my summary. If you're not a food blogger nor run a restaurant, this topic may not interest you as much. But things get better if you're sitting on the fence - you get to be the judge.

Food... In General

I think everyone can agree that food is a highly subjective matter. Thus, individual preference prevails. However at most instances, there will be a majority stance - a verdict that everyone can agree upon. And to help make that decision, the food bloggers step in.

Non-bloggers, you may want to take note of the next paragraph.

Food Bloggers vs The Public

Now, the core difference between the masses's point of view and one given by a food blogger, is that the latter will be influenced by all sorts of information. Be it listening to the humble beginnings of a restaurant first hand from the owners, or speaking directly to the chef on the crafting of a specific dish.

Things that a walk-in customer may not be able to apprehend.

And like any other person, while we eat - we share. By virtue of that, we collect more information, enhanced by a database of credibility and trust.

Credibility backed by hundreds not thousands of restaurants that we've visited throughout the years. Being part of waves of food trends that come and go, as well as successful ones that will always be here to stay. By the end of the day, some of us are trained to spot trends.

Trust, on the other hand, is built from none other than the obligation to be truthful to the readers. That's when the touche topic of a paid and a non-paid review comes about. Some people say - trust the paying customer's verdict. I would retaliate and ask - how much do that person know about food?

For me, it has to be a balance of both. No party should reigned supremacy - objectivity counts.

A Food Blogger's Job

If a food blogger's job is solely to criticize food - then everyone is a food critic, bluntly put. Everyone can be a critic - but not anyone can be a food critic, plese get that right. 

I wish it was as simple as that, but realistically speaking, the statement doesn't hold true.

Being a food blogger is not as vague as just having a distinct palate. A combination of good photography technique, good writing technique and having the right network (this is true!) counts. After all, a food blogger is still a blogger, and that is what bloggers do.

Therefore, my ultimate goal is really straightforward, or shall I say, a food blogger's goal is really straightforward.

My humble opinions are made based on what I perceived the general public wants. I'm not here to teach a chef how to cook, I'm merely here to tell my side of the story and convey my messages through my blog. And from how I see things, my palate are almost always closely correlated with the masses.

Notwithstanding, I've noticed the up-rise of many food portals of late.

Now, writers of food portals are categorically food bloggers as well. We both write about food. The essential divergence - personalization. Writers of food portals refrained from giving one too many personal opinions of their own, but rather stick to the fundamentals of good photography and facts. In this case, the writer would almost always be anonymous. Its never about the blogger; its all about the food.

My Note To... Food Bloggers

Sometimes, I think, bloggers go out of hand too.

As a matter of fact, I find the thought of food bloggers teaching a chef how to cook - ridiculous.

Who am I to tell you how to braise a lamb shank?
Who am I to tell you how long your meats need to be marinated for?
Who am I to criticize your cooking techniques and instead teach you how I do mine at home?
Who am I to downplay your restaurant that was built on your hard earned sweat and tears?

What I can say is this - it's too sweet, too sour, too salty, too mushy, too hard - taste wise, descriptively. We talk bout constructive feedback all the time, but this really depends on your target audience. Refer to Blogger Tip 2.

All based on our collective opinions of what we think the general public wants.

Blogger Tip 1: Be subtle but be objective. Do not bash without explaining yourself. So perhaps, tweaking the wordings of a sentence would help. An example: "This is too sour it sucks", to "Perhaps this could be a little lighter", would make the entire review a lot less painful to read. By the end of the day, its not nice to be rude.

Blogger Tip 2: Know who you're confronting - not everyone takes feedback easily. Of the many restaurants that I've visited in the past, those who take feedback the hardest are those who built their empire from scratch. In other words, the chef-come-owner would feel the bite the most. So food bloggers, constructive feedback aside, you may want to hold that wagging tongue while confronting the chef-come-owner. And bloggers please, lets try not to talk about cooking techniques.

Remember: You're a food blogger and not a chef. Some chefs are food critics and some even food bloggers, but not all food bloggers are chefs or food critics. Everyone wants to be the next Gordon Ramsey of the world, but most are far from being qualified for that status. Ultimately, what food bloggers have that a chef or food critic don't - social media influence and outreach.

On that note, restaurant owners please take note.

My Note To... Restaurant Owners

"What do these people know about food? They can't cook and they don't own a restaurant. They are just here for the free meal. I don't care, as long as I continue doing what I like and what I think is the best, that's all that matters." thinks Restaurant owner.

First and foremost, what free meal?

Do you know how much money goes into investing on good photography equipment? Do you know there're fuel and parking charges attached from travelling to your faraway restaurant? Do you know how much time and effort it takes to edit photographs and write a comprehensive blogpost? I say, give it a good 3-4 hours minimum.

Now, lets dive into the second most disturbing part of the equation.

Opening a restaurant means starting a business. And everyone knows that its getting exceedingly expensive to start up a restaurant nowadays. For reference, read Lady Iron Chef's writeup. So what do you mean by you don't care? You don't care about the vested capital in your business? Or you simply don't care about the quality of food served?

Let's be real.

Everyone knows that there are various elements when it comes to managing a business, including the marketing aspect of it. A simple example:

You came up with an amazing invention named Dish A. You're confident that Dish A is the best in town but however many ways you try, you can't seem to sell Dish A. So, as a food blogger, I share ideas with you on how to market Dish A and assist in advertising Dish A by writing about it

So thing is, there's always a thing or two that restaurant owners can pick up from these sharing sessions. We've done countless rounds of restaurant reviews and spoken to numerous chefs and restaurant owners, there must be some useful tips and tricks we picked up along the way. And we're always willing and happy to share. Don't you want to know what we think?

We're not here to challenge you or to teach you how to cook, we are merely doing our job by conveying what we think your customers want. Furthermore, I honestly believe that there're a handful of talented Jamie Olivers around, which may carry some homegrown techniques that may be useful for you too. Who knows?

After all, these dedicated food bloggers are here to help advertise your restaurant on their blogs and to promote the growing F&B industry in Malaysia.

Be grateful that there exists an alternative media of choice, that online tools are readily available at the nip of your fingertips, which also comes far more affordable than traditional media. Bringing me to my next point.

My Note To... Well... Everyone

Speaking of which, kindly refer back to my last statement on My Note To... Food Bloggers. When I say that food bloggers have the kind of social media outreach that restaurant owners and food critics don't - I mean it.

Influential food bloggers get tens-to-thousands of people hitting on their blogs every single day. As such, what have been said and written on their blogs will feasibly be read by a million readers over time. And anything that goes online stays online infinitely, it doesn't go into the trash over time, like newspaper do.

We're like the new-newspaper-for-tomorrow.  If you don't know something, you're highly likely to google-it or facebook-it nowadaysThough I have to note that like all third party information - don't believe everything you hear, likewise - don't believe everything you read online.

Everyone owns a smart phone nowadays, thus everyone is connected to the internet, and most people will have facebook installed on their phones (that's why Mark Zuckerberg is so famous and rich). For people within the age group of under-45's, chances are, they will rely more on news and information streamed live through facebook, than pick up a newspaper every morning. So, if the target market of your business falls under that category, don't you think you'd get an instant and larger outreach, digitally? Disclaimer: These data are purely personal assumptions.

I may have just strayed from the original topic a little too far there. Going back to my initial point.

My Final Say...

As I go on writing this entire piece, I realized that there's so much I want to say, yet straying far from the original topic. Perhaps the headline are not straightforward as such. Maybe I should've headlined it as Food Blogging Tips or A Food Bloggers Guide - that could've rang more bells.

What I've written above, are all based on my personal opinions and by all means, an attempt to get my point across and to clear the air a bit more. To reiterate my initial statement again, Food Bloggers are not Food Critics - we are much more than that.

Food bloggers are food journalists, food reporters, food photographers, food writers, food consultants? You give it a name.


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