Everyone’s a (food) critic


Part II On Food Movies and Food
In Part I ‘Chef’ and other food movies, The Two Girls reviewed the film ‘Chef’ and pondered memorable food movies.
But what about reviews of food?
In the movie Chef, the catalyst for the downfall of genius chef, Carl Capser (John Favreau) is a scathing review by food critic and blogger, Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt).
Ramsey hates it: he describes the restaurant as a culinary version of that old aunt who gives you $5 every time she sees you in the hopes that you will like her, a line that comes perilously close to describing Chef (see another review of the film here). 
Both film and food reviews can be harsh.

In the movie Ratatouille, a review by the equally feared and revered critic, Anton Ego, causes the restaurant to lose one of its star ratings.

In both movies, the food critic is pallid and unappetizing. They’re both loathed and mocked. They’re also impenetrable and elite. Far above the mere mortal diner, their reviews make or break. Case in point, the defamation suit between Fairfax and Sydney restaurant Coco Roco.

Everyone’s a food critic
But the role of food critic is no longer the realm of food journalist and mainstream media.

The digital explosion and media convergence means the capacity for restaurant criticism has expanded exponentially, from the inner sanctum of the professional critic to anyone with an opinion and a smart phone.

There’s a plethora of blogs, websites and Facebook pages you can go to for unsolicited food reviews.

Move aside food journo.

But blogger and commercial kitchen professional, Chef and Steward, suggests amateur foodies on line are a bigger problem for restaurants. He argues that we are hurtfulness, lack
credentials and are unaccountable.

It’s true that social media does tend to encourage a certain bravado. Check in at #auspol on Twitter and watch the trolls. The normal boundaries of decency don’t always apply with a nom de plume.

Of course all sorts of criticism can be hurtful.

Even sour Anton Ego, has an epiphany over real food and food criticism in Ratatouille and says:
In many ways the work of the critic is easy, we risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and themselves to our judgement.
When you put yourself into the public arena you have to take the good with the bad. Creative people in the public eye know this; chefs and bloggers alike.
The way in which criticism is given is worth some attention. Check in with us next week on how to give and receive foodie feedback.
Food: the new public sphere

Blogging and social media give the average person a public voice. Up until recently, this has been limited to letters to the Editor, radio talk back and more recently, online comments. In these examples, news gatekeepers manipulate our words, cut us off, or just don’t hit the ‘publish’ button. This all limits our ability to have our say. In this century, we don’t want entry-level democracy, we want it upsized.

Blogging and social media is the fifth estate. Food reviews won’t obviously bring about world peace but it is one example where the ordinary person can have their say. I admit it’s a little trite, but online food critique might just be the new public sphere and a vehicle for democracy.

A small vehicle I’m saying, a mini minor, or a 110 postie-bike even. Everyone’s got to start somewhere.

We don’t have to rely on the ‘expert’ anymore because our opinion matters and we can get it out there. There’s a reasonable distrust for the expert anyway. Real people want to get opinion from real people, someone like us. This is the new wave of credentials. Of course many food bloggers are professional communicators and/or chefs, or just seasoned cooks and regular restaurant goers, a detail missed in Chef and Steward’s rebuke.

But it’s more than just the number of people able to share their opinion publicly that is important. That does not democracy make.

The key difference between mainstream and social media is the capacity for debate. Online, more than one opinion counts, and opinions can easily be amended, updated and revisited. If you don’t like a review, you can say so. If you had a different experience, you can let people know. If you have a better meal in the future, you can write a new post and archive the old.
Public power should be used prudently, from politics to pushing ‘publish’, but it’s definitely better in the hands of many than a few.
Where do you go for your food reviews?
On Coco Roco’s lawsuit here.
From Chef and Steward – How chefs feel about food blogger and food critics here.
What is the fifth estate?

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