Today, I’m going to rant a bit about media influencers and how anyone and everyone thinks they’re a chef or food critic, and how it has changed how we eat, drink and travel.
When I started cooking, it was pretty simple; we all anxiously awaited the Saturday paper to see how we got reviewed by so-called ‘food critics.’ I never really understood how one became a food critic … was it someone who had sweated in kitchens under the heat, studied culinary arts, grew up in kitchens, learned from the hands of other masters? Or was it simply a reporter, who some editor decided should be a food critic just to fill space in the newspaper?
I still don’t really know, but I do know having been reviewed by them that I, personally, never cared what they wrote as long as they got my name right.
Now, having spoken to colleagues about this topic, I’m reminded how mean-spirited those reviews could be and how a bad review can cost a chef a job, a restaurant to close and, in some cases, even worse … you fill in the blanks.
This industry is hard and having a team of cooks putting out your dishes and trusting them to achieve perfection is almost impossible, given the stresses that come with life and with the job. Sometimes you find yourself asking: Is my line cook high? Did he drink too much the night before? Is the pastry chef still crying about a cheating partner? It’s exhausting having to worry about what shape – mentally and physically – your cooks are in for every shift. And that’s on top of worrying about what shape you are in because if you aren’t on top of your kitchen, it’s reflected in every dish.
Any chef can tell how the night went by the look of the dishes, not by the number of chits, gross sales or how many people came in.
Today, we have Instant reviews, pictures taken and posted before a single bite has been eaten, Yelp, food bloggers. It’s instant hate or instant love, but also is the lighting good, is the place hip? There’s no longer a wait to see reviews. It’s as instant as finding an online match for love.
I don’t understand it, personally. The result when something negative is posted is that a place will panic, immediately, if it gets slammed on Yelp or Instagram. Owners panic, giving out gift cards, free desserts, begging for a second chance.
Let’s face it, sometimes these reviews are by people who know little about what it takes to get that dish out perfectly, every time. Are we at fault at times for bad dish? Abso-fucking-lutely. But do we deserve instant hate or a full fall from grace for having a bad night? NO, we deserve a chance to make it better. We deserve some civility. Consider the investment that we’ve put into what we’re doing, just as I take the fact that you are spending your hard-earned money on trusting us to give you wonderful dish very seriously.
Let’s just slow it down a bit and try to remember that it’s sometimes not perfect, but it’s also not the end of the world; it’s one bad meal or dish that can often be fixed and that a truly good place will always do their best to fix it. At the end of the day, it isn’t about a free meal, complementary dessert or gift card, it’s about you trusting us, us trusting you, and, above all else, a shared love of food.