Welcome back to Restaurant Confessionals, where we talk to the unheard voices of the restaurant industry from both the front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) about what really goes on behind the scenes at your favorite establishments.
In a restaurant, the front of house remains busily vigilant in keeping an eye out for well-known food critics by constantly referencing printed food mugshots found hanging behind the bar or in the restaurant office. Most chefs running the pass can appreciate the feeling of catching one of these guys walking into an already packed restaurant and being ushered to their table. That stomach churning feeling of "God, this is the last thing I need right now" sweeps over. A good review can mean a full house with multiple seatings for months to come, but a bad review can all but ruin a restaurant altogether. That said, a lot of cooks seem to have a sort of mutual respect for what the untrained eye could perceive as their "arch enemies." They may often think reviewers are complete dicks but hey, at least they put effort into their craft.
That's only one sort of critic though. There's also a whole new generation on the rise: An information age breed of opinionated bloggers don't always have all that much respect for prestigious gastronomic traditions in the age of technology.
Intrigued by this scary social media phenomenon, we sat down with the head chef of a well-respected restaurant with some incredibly impressive reviews to ask him what he thought of food bloggers.
He didn't like them very much.
Male. 30. Head chef somewhere in Scandinavia.
MUNCHIES: How do you feel about food bloggers that come into your restaurant? For the most part, I think they're a terrible bunch of pricks.
Wow, that was frank. How come? Generally, they are extremely self-entitled and feel as though they deserve extra treatment simply because they write about food. But seriously, any asshole with a laptop can do that, can't they?
Is this a common opinion or are you just angry? No, no, that would be the general consensus of most chefs around the world. That said, a lot would be reluctant to say so out loud.
Really? How come? These bloggers wield a lot of power. Some have thousands of fans on social media, and they can just tear your restaurant apart in one single tweet. Which really fucking sucks when you and your team have worked a 16-hour day just to cook for them, you know?
Yikes. Yeah, I've seen bloggers go into some of the world's best restaurants and then just write "this sucked, wouldn't recommend it." That's it. They don't even explain why. It's very disrespectful.
Yeah I can see that. Wouldn't you be better off not looking at the blogs if they are so infuriating? You actually sort of have to because, like I said, they have so much power. I've had the restaurant owner come to me with a tweet on his phone and ask me why this or that idiot on the internet is saying something nasty about our food. I have to keep an eye to who is saying what about us. A lot of nights after service I'll just search the restaurants name or my name or whatever and just check who is ragging on us and to how many folks they are doing so. I've had blogger kids— who've ﬂown out in a private jet—talking shit because they thought our restaurant was overpriced. What can you say to something like that?
No idea. I'm guessing you don't think it's overpriced? I mean, how can someone say that it's overpriced if they have no idea of produce cost or the pure number of labor hours involved in making the meal? It's all relative. Also, I'm quite sure that they knew the cost of the meal before they walked through the doors. If you think it's overpriced then don't come.
Have you ever seen negative blogging affect anyone's business? Absolutely. I've seen restaurants hit really hard because one blogger didn't understand the food they made. Both ﬁne dining spots and family joints. And why? Because the blogger wasn't in a good mood that night and so they dreamt up some nasty hashtag. Fuck that, seriously.
Do you recognize any of these bloggers when they walk into the restaurant? They sometimes announce on their blogs that they are coming to eat. I guess they think that they might wrangle up a free meal, I don't know. Sometimes you recognize them, sometimes you don't. They'll be super nice to your face and then just completely tear you apart afterwards. If they think it sucks, why not just tell me?
What if you do recognize one? Given that they have so much power, do you give them any sort of extra attention? Absolutely not. We treat all of our customers with an equally high standard of service. We aren't going to give you any sort of treatment just because you dabble in Wordpress. Sometimes they introduce themselves as bloggers and try to get a free meal. Of course no one has ever gotten a free meal from us. Imagine.
Do you think they've gotten a free meal anywhere for their mad literary skills? Oh, they probably have, which is really shitty because it just of sort pats whatever ego they have. I don't think either restaurants or chefs should tolerate it.
If it really is such a problem, shouldn't the food industry break the silence and just call these people out on their whining? I think that it will reach some sort of boiling point soon and chefs will just start telling it like it is. Speaking openly about the fact that they don't give a crap about these people and their opinions. Of course everyone has and should have an opinion but please put a little knowledge behind it.
So are food bloggers just plain evil or what? No they aren't. They love food and that's very admirable, whether they truly know what they're on about or not, it may well be coming from a good place within them.
That's at least something. Do you feel the same way as about, lets say, newspaper food critics? Well no, not really. It deﬁnitely sucks to get a bad review but at least a lot of food critics [in newspapers] know what they are talking about. A lot of them probably feel much the same about bloggers as we do. Not only are they attacking us as chefs, but they are sort of mocking the actual journalistic art of review. You should try and ask some critics how they feel. You'd be very surprised.
What about things like Yelp? Have you read some of the reviews on there? People have no clue what they are talking about. And they can be hateful. It really is unbelievable. I think people just like to feel important and vent their nastiness via infuriatingly short reviews of peoples food. The problem really lies in the fact that people seem to take these things seriously.
So we shouldn't expect to see you blog anytime soon then? [Laughs] No, I hadn't planned on it.
This post previously appeared on MUNCHIES in May 2014.