If you’ve been following the news, then you would have heard about the Zomato user who has been visiting restaurants and offering them five star reviews on the food website in exchange for a free meal. People who use their Zomato (or Yelp) status to get what they want in terms of freebies are the reason why true food writers and food lovers are not taken seriously.
I wouldn’t call myself an expert on food or even a critic. I’m a writer for a food magazine so I live to eat and I take my love for food very seriously. If I don’t like something, I’ll be honest about it, but I won’t ever go around asking for freebies just so that I can write a review about something I don’t believe in. Thanks to people like this, serious food writers get a really bad name. But let’s not point fingers at just one person.
A while ago, I referenced a really nicely written article that worked as a note to wannabe foodies in the world and talked about why I don’t like the word ‘foodie’. It’s become a thing for everyone to be known as a foodie, for everyone to say a few good or bad words about a restaurant and suddenly become internet famous. For all the wrong reasons, obviously and it’s not fair to the restaurant either, because very often these ‘foodies’ don’t even know what they’re talking about and having eaten a specific kind of food for the first time find that they can criticize it without even doing their research.
But, I digress.
The whole purpose of this article is to break down the various kinds of food writers and/or people who love and love to hate food. And to explain why as a food writer, it’s becoming harder and harder to explain to people that I’m not visiting their restaurant just for the fun of it, but for the purpose of featuring them in our online publication. There are the food critics, the food journalists/writers (like myself), the foodies and the food lovers.
Most food critics don’t go around parading themselves as food critics. They keep a low profile, walk into a restaurant, sit down, eat the food and write about it later. They don’t ask for free food, and very rarely do they make their presence known. There are obviously different kinds of food critics, some of those that are invited to come try out a restaurant and write about it and those that will find their way there without your help. They are established and well informed, they’ve travelled the globe and eaten almost every kind of food you can think of. Food critics don’t hold back on their thoughts about a restaurant and will articulate everything properly and use words that the intended parties will understand. They are trained to not only taste and tell the difference in the food they’re eating, but also to write and communicate their feelings about the food and the experience.
Unlike critics, the job of a food writer isn’t to always write a review of the restaurant or the food. Very often, food writers are invited to the openings of new restaurants or hotels, but there are times when the writer will get in touch with the restaurant and brief them on the publication and make an appointment to visit, try the food, speak with the manager and the chef, get a proper understanding of the restaurant and then write the feature. Some journalists will write a feature review – which covers the restaurant completely and also a review of the food – other journalists will just do a feature which is a showcase of the restaurant and the food that they serve.
I’ve made it quite clear that I don’t like the term ‘foodie’, but unfortunately that’s what most of us ‘food lovers’ are known as. Most people on websites like Zomato or Yelp, where reviews ‘maketh the man’, foodies are held in high esteem. The more reviews, views and restaurants you’ve been to are listed on your profile, the more popular and famous you become. Lots of these foodies go to the newest restaurants and then come back home to write about their experience and sometimes they have nothing nice to say about the restaurant or the food they eat. People like the person we’re not going to name, who promise ratings and stellar reviews in exchange for a free meal are the kind of people I’m going to name a ‘foodie’. Who think that the term ‘foodie’ stands for food critic or food journalist or food writer. There are bad reviews and then there are bad reviews and sometimes the line between the two is very blurry, but it exists to differentiate a review that can be taken seriously and one that is written just for the sake of being nasty to someone.