Food Bloggers – Where to Draw the Line?

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I’ve been following out of PR and Marketing interest how the Hong Kong PR stalemate of Giando Restaurant vs self-aggrandising Hong Kong food blogger is going and if there is eventually going to be a PR win. Not sure who’s right and have read both perspectives. In short, group of maleducazione ”food bloggers” celebrating a birthday and the Italian restaurant calls the cops on a bogus drama over an extra glass of prosecco (!!) and food bloggers refusal to pay the bill. Having the perspective on both ends as someone who has a blog mostly about food (although fortunately i have corporate job that affords me the luxury of fantastic meals) and as a hotelier and married to an amazing man slaving behind stoves to feed happy bellies, pondering a strategic solution for a PR win… However, Giando has my vote. Singapore’s top blogger Lady Iron Chef had got into a similar fiasco, and still continues to travel the world on other people’s dime.

Admittedly, lots of things get lost in translation or misinterpreted and it’s hard to take sides, but what can we learn from here?

While there is a harsh review on a food blog I really enjoy reading calling said blogger scumbag, I don’t read scumbag‘s blog nor have any interest to.

I’m still puzzled about the truth and where it all got lost in translation – and when is too little or too much for F&B establishments to extend their invitations? And how to qualify these ‘bloggers”? It’s an age old question.

I read the bloggers perspective too. The picture doesn’t make sense. I lived in Italy, the Italians are the most generous and friendly people ESPECIALLY with food and drink (and mind, I lived in Treviso in the North, very racist and old rich centric), I find it hard to see how they would refuse a glass of prosecco – a free flowing one at that (read: cost is negligible). We are not talking a glass of vintage Krug. It doesn’t make sense. On the other hand, as a waitress I’ve met really nasty rude guests and in PR equally nasty self serving delusional blogger types who don’t know what they are eating half the time or even care and liberally criticise the hard work of those in the industry. You eat you pay, even if the meal (and/or service) is bad – you can bitch on your blog and Tripadvisor after – it’s your prerogative. Its about manners and principle, unless people insist on inviting you… and there’s a clear agreement of expectations. It’s also bad form to write badly about a restaurant when invited, best to go back there pay for your meal and objectively write about it and perhaps make it clear that turning up for a media event or accepting invitation doesn’t guarantee a written review?

I have to admit that I have taken up plenty of media invitations  in my previous life reviewing restaurants in Beijing – in fact I had to awkwardly do many those while running the food section of an expat rag in Beijing because you are paid so little half your salary goes into dining at the fine dining restaurant after you’ve paid rent on the local wage. It was awkward but the only way it could work writing food reviews in China.

In terms of qualifying food bloggers – I think it’s based on your own judgement of their personality and character, but perhaps the primarily factor would be – if they claim to be “food bloggers”, how much do they really know about food? We can’t compare someone to a pro like Ruth Reichl who goes undercover to review restaurants, or other amazing food writers who’ve been so passionate they’ve done apprenticeships in Michelin starred restaurants and slaved through the ranks to really know what is like, and to really learn about food. Or perhaps even growing up cooking in the kitchen with a trained palette thanks to tried and tested grandma cooking techniques or maybe even busing tables at your parents’ restaurant to realise how hard it is to run a restaurant?

Or well, maybe at least they must have great food photography skills, like Lady Iron Chef who has over half a million followers on his Instagram and he takes wonderful drool worthy photos.


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