Chefs Versus Bloggers

In pretty much every conversation I’ve had with a chef in the past, oh, month, the topic of bloggers has come up. Usually it’s the bloggers who show up on the first day of a restaurant opening and trash the place in a review because things are not perfect. Chefs and restaurateurs seem not to know how to handle this kind of criticism, and when they ask me for advice (like I’d know!) I’m at a loss as to what to tell them.

I mean, it’s not as if I’m anti-blogger. I really believe that the future of food writing exists online; I run a number of blogs myself, run a blogging network and somehow convinced myself that creating the Canadian Food Blog Awards would be an easy thing to do to promote food bloggers in this country (umm… yes, I did pretty much just make a 2nd full time job for myself). But I still don’t have the answer.

What I really want to do is give the bloggers who do these (usually poorly written) too-early restaurant reviews a smack in the head. I mean, there’s one school of thought that says that some person on the internet with no qualifications or expertise isn’t going to be able to affect the business of a restaurant, that most people don’t even pay attention to blogger restaurant reviews, instead relying on long-time experts for the major dailies and weeklies who have the experience and writing skills to back up their opinions. But I’ve also seen (and talked to) a lot of restaurant owners and chefs who are mighty worked up about a shitty review or comment on some site like Yelp or Chowhound.

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Know Your Farmers, Trust Your Chefs

It’s easy to target locavores for their sometimes elitist and naive world view when it comes to what and how people should eat. (And for the record, I’m not saying they’re wrong, just that they should get their heads out of their asses when it comes to preaching at people who can’t afford to make food a priority…) But it appears that there’s a whole new way to take advantage of the gullible foodies who think they’re saving the world by “knowing where their food comes from”.

CHOW has an article this week about vendors who show up at farmers’ markets claiming to be farmers but who aren’t. Journalists from NBC Los Angeles bought produce from an LA-area farmers’ market and then made a point of visiting the farms the food came from. Except that some of those farms didn’t actually exist.

This is exactly the kind of thing that the Toronto area MyMarkets attempts to weed out, requiring that all vendors be certified and that vendors sell only the food that they themselves have grown. This unfortunately rules out co-operatives like the Kawartha Ecological Growers (KEG), but does a good job of culling the people who would head to the food terminal and load up on imports and sell them as their own. CHOW’s got a list of things to look for to ensure that you’re dealing directly with the farmer and not some scoundrel reseller.

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