I suppose this might enrage a few readers of a certain age and occupation but it is not meant to do so, I’m merely putting the question out there.
Of late I’ve been interested in this growing chasm between what some of the food worlds food-style arbiters are waxing lyrical about and the very different reality that many diners are experiencing.
More often these days when someone reads a glowing endorsement of some new restaurant in a log cabin on the edge of the wilderness where they have eaten seasonal foraged or trapped indigenous flora and fauna, they are left with the feeling that the article was not written for them in the real world. No longer is the restaurant review about how to negotiate the best Thai place in the neighbourhood, no, now it appears to be about how hip and ahead of the curve the reviewer is.
Whilst this has actually been going on for quite some time now, more and more articles are appearing which trod out the old cliché of ‘the emperors new clothes’ and ‘are we being had?’
There’s a popular supposition that infers that the reviewers and the chefs that they laud are somehow complicit in a deceit to corral the dining public into gavaging every new fad, technique or service delivery that they can concoct, now matter how bizarre. I’m not a conspiracy theorist but I am a chef and the loyalty I have for my profession inhibits me from perpetuating the myth that somehow chefs are duplicitous in this alleged matter.
I do agree however that some of us have been indulged by the press so often that we may not be as able to be as objective as we once were, before the adulation. Many of us have painted ourselves into a corner as a result and when we look to the spin-meisters and Queen-makers for counsel, they have moved on to the next new thing.
This brings me to the crux of the question.
There aren’t a lot of paid gigs for a food-writer/journo in this country, heck, there aren’t a lot in the whole world especially now as global media is in a ‘sphincteral recoil’ of cost cutting, to borrow a fantastic phrase, wink wink.
I imagine that the pressure to distill the essence of expectation in one’s readers must bring a load of stress to the author, especially when all around there are legions of wannabes slavering at the lip of your meagre food bowl.
In order to sell ‘units’ one must pique the interest of the reader, that’s journalism 101 I suppose but the lengths in which they are prepared to go to achieve this have left an indelible mark on our dining landscape and one that will leave a scar if we don’t address it soon.
One preferred way I’m noticing is to engage the readers with a series of bloodletting columns, where one hacks into a few venerable old codgers who might be doddering off at the wheel. Another is to get behind a youthful push toward an earnestly cerebral approach to food, one that provides photo opportunities for whimsical foraging expeditions and face to face encounters with a rare flowering cacti farmer or maker of bespoke plating tweezers. This is probably about as far removed from their cadet days and notions of ‘what dinner really is’ as one could get, yet Quixote-like they stride on and with each step the distance between their audience, whom are often of a similar vintage and their own pride grows ever wider.
The problem is, in their heart of hearts, they must know that this is a desperate folly to stave off the inevitable passing of time and the reality of getting older? It’s the reviewer equivalent of your dad dressing up like one of the blokes from One Direction and hanging out with you at the skate park- it’s just plain sad.
Is there a way we could ‘tap them on the shoulder’ and have a quiet word? I wish it were so but I’ve concluded that its time for saying out loud what so many of us are thinking.
‘Are you guys nuts or something!?’