Monday, 14 December 2009

The blogger leading the blogger

Food bloggers are usually elusive creatures. They come into the café, sit quietly, intently observe their surroundings, take photos of everything that is put in front of them, then retreat to their computers where they blog about their experience, letting their opinions be known to the entire world under some clever nom de plume (like say, Scrambling Eggs). The first I learn of their visit is when I stumble across their blog (if googling “Lantana cafe review” constitutes stumbling) by which time they are long gone and I unsuccessfully try to put a face to the blogger based on what they have written. You can guarantee if you forget someone’s side of bacon, or sit them on a wobbly chair, they will be a god damn food blogger.

Herein lies the frustration for restaurateurs. Unlike many well established restaurant reviewers like Fay Maschler, Giles Coren, AA Gill and Jay Rayner, who can be spotted immediately thanks to the photographs published beside their reviews, food bloggers are able to preserve their anonymity with the best disguises in the world. They look like IT programmers, graphic designers, students and accountants because often this is what they are from 9 to 5. By night and on the weekend they are bloggers, finding a creative outlet through the keyboard and connecting with other people who share their passion for food.

While food bloggers may not have the culinary expertise or writing skills of professional food critics, their ability to dine anonymously and receive non-sycophantic treatment gives their experience as an average diner an authenticity that well known restaurant reviewers have lost. Ruth Reichel, when she was the restaurant reviewer for the New York Times, famously wrote 2 reviews of a well known French Restaurant in New York. One was how she was treated when they did recognise her and the other when they didn’t because she was in disguise. The difference was enormous and demonstrated that restaurant reviewers’ experience of a restaurant is not necessarily authentic or useful to the average punter who is not going to receive special treatment.

So I was quite surprised the other day when one food blogger, known only to me as Catty, asked to do a video interview with me for her blog.

What? In the open? Face to face? At last, I got to meet one of these bloggers who will never be able to dine anonymously at Lantana again.

Funnily enough, since Catty posted this video on her blog I can now spot food bloggers more easily because they’re the ones ordering and photographing baked eggs.

Photo courtesy of Tummyrumble.