There have been a lot of interesting articles over the past year about the clash between food bloggers, restaurateurs and critics. I think I linked to a New York Magazine back-and-forth between Batali and Bourdain a few months ago:
Batali: It’s amazing, these fucking Websites, these blogs. [Otto co-owner] Jason Denton hasn’t even thought about this pizza restaurant that isn’t even a pizza restaurant across the street from Otto, and he’s getting quoted. I call him and say, “Lips. What are you doing?” and he’s like “I want to tell you, I’m never planning on opening a pizza restaurant … I don’t know what happened on the blog this morning.” Whatever the blog heard is now fact.
Bourdain: I think it’s great. They’ve beaten down the wall, and everybody’s invited to write whatever shit they want about you. It’s democratic.
Batali: I’m not so much about these blogs by anonymous people saying nasty things about you. I think it’s getting pretty stupid. If there’s something interesting, and there’s somebody editing it and taking care of it, I’m down with it. But some of those people are just bit with vituperative anger and just want to rail on you.
Bourdain: It’s inevitable, it’s the tide, there’ s no fighting it. There’s a bunch of these guys that are like Comic Book Guy on The Simpsons, whipping out their fucking little cameras, and five minutes after one of them says it’s the greatest, the next will say that’s so last week. That’s inevitable. I go to all those sites and enjoy them, especially when they’re about people I don’t like.
Batali: Well, I don’t like them.
If you haven’t read the article, click here to see the whole interview. It’s a fun site to read.
Now Batali has done an article over on Eater called “Why I Hate Food Bloggers”. (4.11 – the link’s dead now)
…blogs live by different rules. Many of the anonymous authors who vent on blogs rant their snarky vituperatives from behind the smoky curtain of the web. This allows them a peculiar and nasty vocabulary that seems to be taken as truth by virtue of the fact that it has been printed somewhere. Unfortunately, this also allows untruths, lies and malicious and personally driven dreck to be quoted as fact. Even a savvy blog like the one you are reading now has strangely superseded truly responsible journalism. It is much more immediate and can skip a lot of the ponderous setup necessary in a news article. It cuts right to the heart of a matter, often disputing it as though real research has taken place.
He may not like it, but every time I turn around I’m getting contacted by another food website wanting my opinion, or announcing their presence. New ones are popping up like crazy. The internet is changing everything, and love them or not, Batali had better except that food blogs are here to stay.
That’s a shame. I like Mario (and especially the salumi his parents crank out in Seattle). But maybe he would prefer I not say that in Blog form.
Unfortunately, I think Mr. B. underestimates the readers of blogs such as this one, which is unfortunate. It seems to me that most of us “snarky” smoky Web types who bother to overcome our societal attention deficit and actually read a review from start to finish, can pretty quickly discern an honest, informed opinion (as opposed to a vague, misspelled rant). I would like to think that the weight I give to a blog review is based on the quality of the content and the consistency of that quality over time, rather than just the fact that I am hooked on “vituperatives” as part of some misanthropic Jerry Springer generation.
Although I read blog reviews of restaurants fairly often (and on which I sometimes base my patronage – heavens to Betsy), I am generally equally as interested in the comments posted that often balance the perspective a bit. Your review of Helsers is a perfect example – I loved the review (and agreed – your experience mirrored mine), but I also really found the comments enlightening (Go Portlanders. It’s your birthday.).
And I think this points to something that Mario B. is missing (and Anthony Bourdain seems to get) – Blogs in some ways are really just conversations that you have or otherwise overhear related to subjects that catch your attention.
They just happen to be typed.
I suppose there is a subset (or maybe a majority, who knows) of folks who take the typed word as gospel simply because of the medium, but I don’t know any in my circle.
Ultimately, it sounds like Mario would prefer that nothing be said about any establishment at all unless it is by a qualified, certified food analyst with a healthy awareness of their own Umami. So stop talking to your friends and acquaintances, please, about your food experiences, unless you work for the New York Post or Times (ahem). And for goodness sake, save your “vituperatives,” as both Mario and Anthony Bourdain do, for Rachel Ray.
Sorry for the long comment – it just got the blog side of my brain in a doughy knot. Although I openly confess, I am not qualified to evaluate a pretzel.
Food Dude says
Thanks Jeremy, very well said. Comments can be a hassle to deal with, and there are a few occasions when I’ve thought I should just turn them off. In the end though, you are right. I think everyone should have a chance to reply, as long as it is done in a constructive manner. I don’t want to be the king, just foster discussion.
Doctor Stu says
I think chefs should just keep their mouths shut and cook. Mario has become more concerned with marketing and promotion than cooking, just like many others including Rachel Ray and Tyler Florence. As to his father’s Italian products, I think they aren’t very good compared to the real stuff from Italy…and in many cases, they are more expensive. Anthony Bourdain still seems to be much more about the food itself than the PR.
Dr. Stu, thanks again for my laugh o’ the day. If you think Anthony Bourdain isn’t a PR whore, examine his career: Former junkie gets a job at an average French Bistro in NYC, writes a book that any one of 100,000 other burnt out chefs could have written, goes on Food TV and makes his name, has acrimonious divorce from same network, now spends every waking moment trashing same network (in between eating indignenous anus in Ghana on his new show). That guy is ALL about the PR, he has no substance other than his Hunter Thompson wannabe shtick and above-average writing talent.
Pork Cop says
Media Whore is Bourdain’s Raison D’etre. Has anyone ever seen him cook anything? Ever had the opportunity to taste anything he’s cooked?
Doctor Stu says
I didn’t say that Anthony Bourdain could cook; I have no idea. On his Food Network show he seemed genuinely interested in the food. I haven’t seen the new show.
At one time I’m sure the others I mentioned could actually cook. I don’t know if they still can, as all they seem interested in now is marketing product.
I much rather see Iron Chef or Anthony Bourdain as entertainment, rather than listen to another product pitch from one of these “chefs”. I guess I like whores more than pimps.
As to Tyler Florence, he actually did a show on Sushi for Food 911 at our home when we were living in Los Angeles about 5 years ago. One of the producers of the show was a client of my wife. Tyle Florence was a self-righteous obnoxious jerk back then, and even more so now. Someone pitching crap anyone could throw together for CRAPplebees is a joke.
–Media Whore is Bourdain’s Raison D’etre. Has anyone ever seen him cook anything? Ever had the opportunity to taste anything he’s cooked?–
There was a series of letters between two NYT food critics a few years ago talking about Bourdain, and one of the things that was mentioned repeatedly was how incredibly mediocre the food was at Les Halles while he was there. I’m sure he knows his way around a kitchen, but for a guy that makes a living dogging out his fellow culinarians he sure has shied away from putting his own skills up for critique.
Sir Loins says
“Former junkie gets a job at an average French Bistro in NYC, writes a book that any one of 100,000 other burnt out chefs could have written…”
Joisey, the former may be average, but the latter ain’t. Far as I know, “Kitchen Confidential” was the first widely read book of its type: a gritty and funny behind-the-scenes look at people who cook for a living. I find Bourdain a complete bore on television, but that book and his follow up, “A Cook’s Tour”, were hella entertaining reads.
As for saying that “any one of 100,000 other burnt out chefs could have written…”, well, they didn’t.
Pork Cop says
I enjoy Bourdain. I think the world is more interesting with him in it..I liked his books..I like his T.V. shows…I bet I would even like him… I just don’t understand why he seems to be above criticism. Hardly ever do I hear anything negative about the guy. Which is quite impressive considering he does put a lot of people down . I agree with Sir Loins about the fact that he DID IT! It was a pretty clever idea and it all happened at just the right time. I can’t blame him for that. In fact..I bet it’s gotten many other people in various other jobs thinking about writing a tell- all too. The author of ” Confessions of a Dry Cleaner: Tear Stained Hanky” or something.. will need know at just what moment ..Dry Cleaning is becoming hip and interesting to the masses.
Quo Vadis says
“Joisey, the former may be average, but the latter ain’t. Far as I know, “Kitchen Confidential” was the first widely read book of its type: a gritty and funny behind-the-scenes look at people who cook for a living.”
Actually you are mistaken Sir Loins. George Orwell wrote it first!
Sir Loins…I agree, I think the books ARE good reads, and I even liked his forays into fiction. He’s pretty entertaining when he’s taking on worthy causes like the Chicago Foie wars and the hypocrisy of the Beard Foundation. His whole weekly “let’s analyze Food TV” shtick, though, is mind numbing, and the equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel. Then you have guys like Michael Ruhlmann who should know better giving him a stage to flog his dead horse and the sycophants eat it up.