Entries tagged with “food blogging”.


Ferran Adria Culinary Conclave Ryan KingLooking at the past 20 year’s of our country’s democracy yesterday, I chose an article written about a recent ‘Culinary Conclave’ (or Indaba or Kosberaad, as we would call it) held by one of the world’s greatest chefs, Ferran Adrià of the former El Bulli, for inspiration for today’s blogpost.

Adrià and fellow chef Andoni Luis Aduriz invited 15 ‘gastronomic journalists‘ from around the world (none from our country) for a two day discussion about the past 20 years of gastronomy.  Each attendee was requested to present the gastronomic trends over the past two decades in their country, the impact of gastronomyFerran Adria Culinary Conclave group Ryan King original_ferran-conclave-group on society and culture, how the media has changed and influenced gastronomy, and how the definitions of ‘great cuisine‘ and ‘dining experience‘ have changed.

These were some of the gastronomic trends identified: (more…)

WhaleTalesTourism, Food, and Wine news headlines

*   BA is seeing increased business on its Africa routes and has already announced that it is putting ts A380 onto the Johannesburg route from February 2014.  The airline also is increasing its flights to Ghana, Uganda, Liberia, and Serria Leone,  whilst cutting those to Lusaka.

*   Increasing power and staff costs are major threats to the local wine industry, a study by PricewatershouseCoopers has revealed.

*   The Captain DoRegos take-away franchise is to be expanded into the rest of South Africa, and even into Africa, the Spur Corporation has announced.

*  Hein Koegelenberg has written an informative blogpost about how to protect (more…)

Today an exciting new reality TV series starts airing on SABC2 at 8h30, which will do for food blogging locally what the release of the movie ‘Julie and Julia’ did internationally three years ago. ‘Dinner Divas’ is a 13-part series with 12 contestant Food Bloggers, vying for the title of the Ultimate Dinner Diva 2012, with prizes to the value of close to R100000.  It is the first food blogger TV series cook-off in the world.

2 Blonds and a Redhead Filming Producer Anne Myers is a Diva in her own right, having produced many programmes and Advertising Funded Programmes (AFPs) for SABC2 and SABC3 over the past 27 years, the latter being televised credible advertorials for sponsor brands.   Myers had watched MasterChef SA, and found that it had many deficiencies, given her production experience, and therefore devised the unique ‘Dinner Divas’ concept, signing up sponsors, contracted with SABC2, invited food personalities as judges, and used Social Media to find 12 suitable food bloggers, the majority being from Cape Town. The shoot took place at Kitchen Cowboys, which belongs to MasterChef SA Judge Pete Goffe-Wood.

The twelve Food Bloggers are Anel Potgieter (‘Life is a Zoo Biscuit‘ Blog), Barry Gerber (‘What’s Cooking’ Blog), Candice Le Noury (‘Gorgeous Gourmet’ Blog), Janice Tripepi (‘janicetripepi‘ Blog), Kate Liquorish ‘undomestiKATEd’ Blog), Kristy Snell (‘FoodMonger‘ Blog), Nina Timm (‘My Easy Cooking’ Blog), Sue Green (‘Sous Chef’ Blog), Tami Magnin (‘Rumtumtiggs’ Blog), Thuli Gogela (‘Mzansi Style Cuisine’ Blog), Usha Singh (‘Healthy Vegetarian Foods’ Blog), and Zirkie Schroeder (‘PinkPolkaDotFood’ Blog).  Both Anel and Candice entered MasterChef SA, and did not make the Nederburg kitchen. Anel shared that not making it on MasterChef SA had triggered off a depression, which she tried to get out of by eating Zoo biscuits, and led to her creating her Blog as a type of therapy. Initially she and Candice (photograph left) were hesitant about participating on ‘Dinner Divas’, given the stress they experienced at MasterChef SA, which had taken the fun out of food making, but they loved the fun of ‘Divine Divas’. Janice shared that participating in ‘Dinner Divas’ had led her to relook her Blog, and to ‘make it even more perfect’. She raised the question many Bloggers ask: ‘Who is reading my Blog?’. Candice said that ‘Divine Divas’ had re-inspired her to become a better cook and blogger. Anel blogs once a week on average, and said that it takes up to ten hours to write a Blogpost, having to research a story, buy the ingredients, prepare the dish, and photograph it (good light is best when she gets up early in the morning) before work, or over weekends.  Barry shared that his Afrikaans Blog ‘Wat Eet Ons?’ became more English, to attract more readers.  MasterChef SA Finalist Lungi Nhanhla was present at the launch, in her capacity of new deputy Food Editor of Drum, and she shared that things were much more controlled on MasterChef SA, given that it is a franchised programme series.

In introducing the programme at the media launch on Thursday, Producer Michelle Coleman said that ‘Dinner Divas’ recognises the best Food Blogger and not necessarily the best cook amongst the twelve finalists.

The Food Bloggers were evaluated by five judges (chairman of the judging panel Aubrey Ngcungama is the ambassador of the One & Only Cape Town, was on ‘Come Dine with Me’, and is an absolute hoot from the first episode we were shown at the launch, more than a Diva himself!) over the series,  but only three per show.  The judges of the first episode are Aubrey, Leila Padayachi (pastry chef), and Caro de Waal, editor of Food24, and they evaluate the meals of the Divas without knowing who prepared the recipes and cooked the food.  The other judges used for the series are Chef Fernando Roman of the Five Rooms restaurant at The Alphen, and Andrew Lieber of ‘Gourmet Guys’ Blog.

The sponsors are Mr Price Home; Rhodes Foods (who make cheeses – such as the award-winning Portobello – under their own brand name and some for Woolworths, as well as canned jams, and tomato, fruit and vegetable products); Nulaid eggs, Sasko Flour; and Whirlpool kitchen appliances. Prizes for the winner of the Ultimate Dinner Diva 2012 title includes exposure for the winner’s Food Blog, as well as R50000 cash, a cookbook deal, vouchers of sponsors’ products, and R25000 worth of Whirlpool appliances.

In preparation of their appearance in the TV programme, each Food Blogger had to create a menu for a family weekend meal, with the recipes, and blog it in 100 words.  On set the Food Bloggers had to cook their meal within 90 minutes, set the table for the judges, and style and present their dishes. The judges evaluated the dishes ‘anonymously’, on authenticity, originality, balance and nutritional value of the menu, seasonality of the produce, the reasonable cost of the menu, the creativity in blog writing, the styling of their food and the table setting, and the food preparation skills.

The first episode we saw showed only two of the twelve Food Bloggers competing against each other. Nina Timm prepared a most colourful Mexican family dish, which included meat balls, refried beans, guacamole, and healthy tacos, a meal which she described as a ‘maaltyd om te eet’, and as ‘fingerfood’; while Kristy Snell made fillet steak and her mom’s Peach and Almond baked pudding.  Aubrey will be remembered as the most direct and honest judge, who does not put across his opinions diplomatically at all, making for fun TV. He was critical of Nina’s dish being too salty, while Kristy was not spared, Aubrey describing her salad as ‘a bit tired’, the sauces being confusing, and her dish being an ‘unexciting concoction‘. Yet both Nina and Kristy went through into the Semi-Finals.

Filmed in Cape Town, the first episode we saw had beautiful shots of Cape Town, which will benefit tourism to our city too, with the TV series’ national viewership.  Seeing the first episode, the comparison to MasterChef SA was immediate.  Only focusing on two contestants per episode, means that one can get to know each Food Blogger better, and the pace was much slower, allowing one to understand how the dish was made, and pick up some cooking tips, proving to be far more educational than MasterChef SA.

Dinner Divas’ plays an important role in enhancing the contribution of South African Food Blogs, which will have a stronger voice via the new TV series, and which are already characterised by their passion and inspiration. Food Bloggers’ success already is evident by the increasing number of cookbooks being launched by them. It was emphasised that the days of print media are numbered, and that Food Bloggers are taking over. Season 2 has already been committed too by the SABC, it was announced at the launch, being a winning recipe for the programme sponsors, SABC2 viewers, and Food Bloggers!

POSTSCRIPT 20/10: Episode 2 surprised this morning, in two respects: Judge Fernando Roman, Executive Chef from The Aphen hotel, offended bloggers when he said outright that he does ‘not fancy bloggers at all’, ironic as ‘Dinner Divas’ is a TV programme about bloggers cooking their recipes!  Not surprisingly, this caused a flurry of Tweets from critical bloggers, sure to avoid the hotel’s Five Rooms and La Belle restaurants!  In addition, contestant Sue Green cooked a pork dish, but judge Leila Padayachi does not eat pork!  However, Sue still made it into the semi-finals. Tami Magnin’s KFC-style chicken dish was dished by judge Aubrey, describing it as ‘boring to look at’ and as ‘inedible’!

POSTSCRIPT 5/1: Anel Potgieter has won season 1 of Dinner Divas.

Dinner Divas, SABC2, Saturdays, 8h30, from 13 October, for 13 weeks. www.ilovecooking.co.za Twitter @DinnerDivas1

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:   www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage

A study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has found that company blogging is at its lowest level, with only 37 % of American companies maintaining their blogs last year, down from 50 % on 2010, reports USAToday.com.  This finding coincides with our finding of Blogging Burnout, seeing the decline in local food blogging frequency, which we wrote about last year.

The USA study says that due to the time required to blog, having to find new content, as well as the liability and legal risks involved in its content and comments received, Social Media Marketing via Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr are gaining ground.  Only 23% of the Fortune 500 companies still have an active blog.  The benefit of a blog is that the company owns the content. Twitter has a downside though, says the article, in having ‘a lot of noise’. The Bank of America closed its blog, wanting to ‘be where our customers are‘, a spokesperson said.

One reason for the failure of corporate blogging is that it is too hard-sell and company focused, instead of being informational. “Companies don’t understand that the content of a blog shouldn’t be ‘about me’. Such content tends to be dull”, said a PR company CEO. If handled correctly, blogs are an important means of asserting industry leadership through its content about industry issues, and are inexpensive compared to advertising costs.  Blogging also reflects the corporate personality via its content.

We have seen few corporate blogs in South Africa to date, with only a few players in the hospitality industry writing blogs for their restaurants and accommodation establishments.  We believe that a Social Media strategy should contain a mix of Blogging, Twitter, and Facebook, and it should not be a case of choosing one or the other.  They are not interchangeable, and attract very different audiences.  At Whale Cottage Portfolio we write a regular WhaleTales newsletter too, to reach our guests and industry colleagues who have not yet embraced Social Media, of which there are great numbers.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

The members of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club have been very fortunate to have been wined and dined in the past eighteen months of the Club’s existence.  This month is no different, and our visist to Steenberg Vineyards, and to their Bistro Sixteen82, is likely to be a very popular event.   The meeting will feature two speakers, being Anetha Homan, Sales and Marketing Manager of Steenberg Vineyards, and Chef Brad Ball of Bistro Sixteen82.

Anetha Homan has been the Sales and Marketing Manager of Steenberg Vineyards for the past four years, and worked at Constantia Uitsig for eight years prior to that. She graduated with a BA Communications at the University of Stellenbosch.  Steenberg’s winemaker is JD Pretorius.  Steenberg is committed to Social Media, having the Totally Stoned Steenberg Blog, which includes wine news and news about its restaurant Bistro Sixteen82.  Anetha says that Social Media allows Steenberg to communicate with its customers in an informal way, and it allows the wine estate to receive feedback from their customers too.

Chef Brad Ball is destined for great things, and deserves to be in the Eat Out Top 20 restaurant list, and is a strong contender for the newly created Bistro category.  Chef Brad comes from a foodie family, in that his mom managed a catering company.   It was a heavenly Tuna Nicoise that inspired him to apply for his first position as chef, and he was appointed at Simon’s Table in Simonstown 14 years ago.  Two years later he went to London, where he worked with Chef Patron Rowley Leigh, known as the father of modern British cuisine, at Kensington Place. It is here that his love for Bistro-style food was born.  On his return to Cape Town he worked as Head Chef at Olympia Café and Deli, followed by the Post House Hotel & Restaurant in Greyton, Pastis Brasserie in Constantia, and at The River Café.  He started his own catering consultancy before he joined Steenberg Vineyards to open the new restaurant Bistro Sixteen82.  Chef Brad believes in ‘simple is better’, and ‘local is lekker’.   He is inspired by Japanese cuisine and Provencal food. He puts his heart and soul into whatever he does, delivering passion and pizzaz in the food that he serves.  Bistro Sixteen82 is probably best known for its Friday Steenburger, and Beef Tataki.

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.

Anetha and Chef Brad will talk for about half an hour each about the Steenberg Blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun. Anetha Homan will lead bloggers through a tasting of the Steenberg wines, while snacks will be prepared by Chef Brad.

Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

*   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery, and Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk of Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street.

*   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek

Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, Wednesday 21 September, 6 – 8 pm: Steenberg Vineyards, Steenberg, Cape Town. Bookings can be made by e-mailing Chris at whalecot@iafrica.com. The cost of attendance is R100.  Twitter: @FoodWineBlogClu  Facebook: click here.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com.  Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Food bloggers furiously re-Tweeted a link to a Mail & Guardian story on Friday, entitled rather meaninglessly “Going to the Blogs”, and posted angry comments on the newspaper’s site, yet no blogger has stood up to defend the reputation of bloggers attacked in the article!  Not everyone in Cape Town was happy with the article, written by print journalist Mandy de Waal, who has no experience of and interest in the food/restaurant industry, and who appears to have been a once-a-month blogger, who last blogged a year ago on her two blogs MandydeWaal and MandyLives!com.

De Waal is best known for her political and business stories that she writes for Mail & Guardian and the Daily Maverick blog.  What she did not disclose in her article is that she is a friend of Rosanne Buchanan, editor of Food & Home Entertaining magazine.  Clearly Buchanan was the inspiration for the article, in being quoted extensively, and she shared with De Waal her experience at a recent lunch to launch the new winter menu of Reuben’s at the One&Only Cape Town, which was attended by bloggers and print journalists. Surprisingly for a journalist, who should get a balanced view for the story she is writing, no print journalist other than Buchanan was interviewed by De Waal for the article!

De Waal shows her anti-blogging bias throughout the article, with the following loaded utterances:

*   “Bitter tension between established food writers and the new food media…” – This does not apply in South Africa, and obviously only is the point of view of Buchanan, who De Waal quotes (unnamed) as saying sneeringly (De Waal’s word) “I truly resent being lumped in with them. They are treated like the media but they have absolutely no ethics. Why are we giving voice to these freebie-mongers who cause such damage?”.  What a loaded and discriminatory statement, obviously indicating that Buchanan’s publication could be under threat, and may go the same way as WINE magazine, which is closing down in September!

*   “Instant publishing and social networks dealt the industry (unnamed, but probably the publishing industry) a cruel, culling blow”.  Any print publisher who did not see the growth and resultant threat of blogging and on-line publishing deserves the inevitable.

*  Gourmet (magazine in the USA) brought epicure to the people – but only some people.  Bloggers took it to everyone else, robbing food elitism of its elitism”- another loaded statement, and completely off the mark!  The trend is far away from food elitism, given the recession.  There is nothing to stop bloggers from writing at the same standard or better than their print colleagues.

*   “Perhaps it’s what bloggers write that’s so difficult to digest”, and she quotes an excerpt out of a Real Restaurant Revelations blog review of the Warwick’s tapas lunch Persian love cake – its inclusion in her article is not meant as a compliment to the blogger, one senses!

*    “To publish, bloggers only need a free meal, a computer and the will to write.  Journalists have to contend with crabby editors, deadlines, ethics, research, a declining market and … miserable pay. Small wonder they’re annoyed at having to rub shoulders with bloggers at elite restaurant openings”!  This statement reflects that Buchanan and De Waal have no idea what blogging is about.  Most bloggers do not get their meals for free.  Most have a day job, and blog for fun, sharing their passion for food and writing with their readers.  They burn the midnight oil to stay up to date in publishing their posts.  Most do not accept advertising on their blogs, so there is no financial benefit in it for them at all.

*   Buchanan magnanimously sees a role for bloggers only in posting ‘comments on food or publishing online recipes’.  When De Waal called me and spoke broadly about Food Blogging, I had to explain to her that in my opinion a food blogger is predominantly a recipe writer, and I gave here some examples, such as Cooksister and Scrumptious blogs.  What she was focussing on was Restaurant reviewing, and that is why her article included a reference to AA Gill. Clearly, Buchanan sees no role for bloggers as reviewers.

*   Buchanan continues: “But is their sudden and authoritative voice, which is too often vindictive or ingratiating, that has become an issue.  Although I think everyone is entitled to an opinion, it is integrity and professionalism that is at stake”.  She could not be further off the mark – it is print journalists that publish a photograph with a short write-up about a restaurant, supplied by the PR agency, and is never critical.  Bloggers who write reviews with honesty, as they have experienced the restaurant, have far greater integrity than magazines do.  Honesty in blog reviews shows up the bla bla freebie magazine write-ups.

*   Buchanan has a further blast at bloggers, saying her publication has been around for 20 years, and that bloggers cannot have her level of ‘understanding of the food industry’- Buchanan and De Waal clearly have no understanding that bloggers are not 18-year olds without a past, but are writers that have (or had) careers in and a passion for food.

*   Contentious is De Waal’s broad swipe at bloggers’ ethics (“Then there’s that trifle called the truth”), but more fairly does so too at ‘leisure journalism’.

*    “But some do rise above the sticky sweetness”, she writes, when restaurant reviewer JP Rossouw disparagingly refers to blogs that can be ‘playful and fun’, but ’what is essentially candyfloss’!  De Waal writes that Rossouw said that he started a blog nine years ago, but there was no blogging that long ago.  He is quoted as arrogantly looking down on bloggers, in saying that he has stopped blogging because “I felt the ethics that bloggers were following were dubious.  Bloggers love going to launches, restaurant openings and having free luxury experiences but, unlike experienced food journalists, who understand the industry, do significant research and are modulated by ethics and experience, blogging becomes much like ambulance-chasing” Rossouw was hauled over the coals by bloggers for a controversial review he wrote about La Mouette last year, and changed his blog to a website thereafter, with registered screening of commenters. This may explain his disparagement of bloggers.

*  “In an ocean of quantity, only the few, the differentiated and the excellent will eventually rise to the top” is the closing sentence of the article.  De Waal does not understand that this is not a race or a competition for bloggers.  The only measurement bloggers have of their success is unique readership, but if they do not accept advertising then it is just an academic measure.  Making the Top 10 in a category of the SA Blog awards would be another measure of success for some.

I told De Waal about the blogging bitchiness in Cape Town, and told her what price I pay for my honesty in reviewing, resulting in a disparaging Twitter campaign, which she read while we were chatting, and was horrified about.  She captures some of this bitchiness in quoting her conversations with Andy Fenner of the Jamie Who blog, and Clare “Mack” McKeon-McLoughlin of Spill blog:

    *   Fenner points a finger (or is it his knife?) at who only can be McKeon-McLoughlin when he says “There is definitely conflict with online media because certain bloggers see themselves as ‘Erin Brockovich’ types who want to be first with the scoop.  There is this constant battle about who breaks the story first, and it can get catty and malicious”! 

    *   McKeon-McLoughlin refused to have her name mentioned in the article ‘if the blogger’s name appeared in this piece, or if an interview with the blogger was included in this article’, clearly a reference to myself, given her calls to PR agencies to tell them to not invite me to their functions, and her threat to them to not attend functions if I attend.  De Waal describes her as a ‘former BBC journalist’, but this does not come up when one Googles her real name – she was a chat show hostess on Irish TV station RTÈ.  She and her husband Eamon McLoughlin are part of the team driving the malicious Twitter campaign.  A wine blogger put McKeon-McLoughlin in her place with a post he published in response to the article.   While she claims to only write the truth, she is often cited by fellow bloggers as one who never declares her numerous free meals and bottles of wine on her blog!  

So, from the lengthy (and libellous) Mail & Guardian article we read the threat that Food & Home Entertaining faces of potential closure, and that Buchanan is an arrogant journalist who thinks that she is better than bloggers, whose work she probably has not read extensively, yet who may be readers of her magazine.  There is less of an issue between print food journalists and bloggers, than there is amongst bloggers themselves, some of whom have become so arrogant that they think that they can stand in judgement of others, seeing themselves as being superior.  It also demonstrates that journalists are not to be trusted in a telephonic interview, especially when the discussion has a hidden agenda, and the questioning is dreadfully vague, turning out to be a waste of time, when none of it was published.  One wonders why De Waal allowed herself to be bullied by McKeon-McLoughlin, in not allowing my input to be quoted, given the reputation of independence of the newspaper that she writes for!  It also indicates that the blogging community needs to collectively improve its image, if a respected writer such as De Waal can write such drivel about bloggers in such a respected newspaper! 

What De Waal does not reflect is that both new and traditional media have benefits for the restaurants that are reviewed – bloggers can write almost immediately, with an added benefit of posting comments and photographs whilst at the launch on Twitter, giving a new restaurant instant visibility, and it is therefore no surprise that most entries for restaurants on Google are from blogs, alongside listings on Eat Out and Food 24, and often achieve a higher Google ranking than the restaurant’s own website.  Googling is the way the world finds its information.  Traditional media has far better reach in terms of its audience size in readership, the average newer blogger not achieving more than 5000 – 10000 unique readers a month, but the magazine story takes three to four months to appear, its major disadvantage.  Clearly PR agencies value the benefit of a balance of both new and traditional media to obtain coverage for their restaurant clients.

POSTSCRIPT 20/7:  Respected and long-established blogger Jeanne Horak-Druiff today posted her impressive response to the Mail & Guardian article. 

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter:@WhaleCottage

I have come across a blog called “Food Blog Code of Ethics”, compiled by two food bloggers in America, which has raised the important issue of ethics in food blogging, which principles can apply to wine and other blogging too.  The Code raises important issues for South African bloggers in dealing with the ethics of blogging.

Brooke Burton writes the blog ‘FoodWoolf’, subtitled “the restaurant insider’s perspective”, and Leah Greenstein’s blog is called ‘SpicySaltySweet’.  They got together with other food bloggers to create an ‘union of ethical food bloggers’, setting “Reviewers’ Guidelines” and compiling the Code of Ethics.   We do not necessarily agree with all their principles, but welcome it as a foundation for a Blogging Code of Conduct that we may jointly subscribe to as members of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club.

The blog post on reviewing restaurants states the following principles they subscribe too – our comments are in italics.

1.   One should visit the restaurant more than once, and state if the review is based on only one visit – we do not agree that a review should be based on more than visit, as the strengths and weaknesses of a restaurant are usually the same and apparent immediately.   Restaurants should strive for consistency, so that the reviewer should experience it in the same way on any visit.  Reviews help restaurants improve their food and service quality, if they are smart about facing them and learning from them, not always a strength of restaurantsMultiple visits are expensive, as most visits are paid for by the reviewer.  On our Blog we will update our impression with a Postscript, as we did recently for La Mouette, for example, in that the experience was vastly different compared to previous ones, highlighting a consistency problem.

2.  One should sample the full range of dishes on the menu – this is a hard one to implement, as many menus are excessively big.  Taking a partner to lunch/dinner and ordering different dishes helps, so that the reviewer can try a larger number.  Recently we were criticised by Richard Carstens’ sister-in-law, Leigh Robertson, for not having a starter at Chez d’Or, and that writing a review based on tasting three dishes only was not fair to the restaurant.  I doubt if a starter would have made my review any more positive.  Having a wide range of dishes, when paying for it, is a cost and a space consideration.

3.   One should be fair to a new restaurant and wait for a month after its opening, to give it a chance “to work out some kinks”, and should qualify reviews as ‘initial impressions’ if the review is done in less than a month after opening – bloggers have become very competitive, and some want to write a review about new restaurants before their colleagues do.  Our reviews state when the restaurant opened if it is new, so that the reader can read such “kinks” into it.  The first ‘Rossouw’s Restaurants’ review of La Mouette raised the issue of how quickly one can/should review a new restaurant, one of Rossouw’s inspectors having been at the restaurant on its first or second day of opening.  Two visits to Leaf Restaurant and Bar on two subsequent days showed their acceptance of customer feedback by moving the ghetto-blaster they have set up on the terrace from on top of a table, to below it, after my comments to them about it.   No other business, play or movie has a second chance in reviews being written about it, in that they are normally done after opening night - so why should restaurants be ‘protected’ in this way?   No business should open its doors when it is not ready to do so (Leaf held back its opening because it had problems in getting a credit card machine installed by the bank)!

4.  One should specify if one received a meal, or part of it, or any other product for free, and should also declare if one was recognised in the restaurant – absolutely agree on the declaration of the freebie, and we have regular Blog readers and Commenters who delight in checking blogs for the freebies.  Some bloggers are labelled by such readers as not having credibility, in that they usually only write about meals they received for free, and usually are very positive about them, so that they can be invited back in future!   The recognisablity of the reviewer is an interesting issue.  I always book in the name of “Chris”, with a cell number.   If I know the owner or a staff member of the restaurant, I will state that in the review.

5.   One should not use pseudonyms in writing reviews, and reviewers should stand up and be counted by revealing their names – absolutely agree.  In Cape Town we have a strange situation of Food bloggers who hide behind pseudonyms.  Andy Fenner (JamieWho) wanted to remain unidentified when he started blogging, yet appointed a PR agency to raise his profile, and was “outed” by Food & Home, when they wrote about him, using his real name.  He is now open about his real name (probably being irritated by being called Jamie more often than Andy, I assume).  One wonders what bloggers using pseudonyms have to hide?  Wine bloggers seem to be more open and upfront about who they are.   I would like to add here how difficult it is to make contact with Food Bloggers in particular .  Most do not have a telephone number nor an e-mail address to contact them on their blogs, and one has to use a Comment box to contact them, which most do not respond to.   Yet many of these bloggers are looking to make money from advertising on their blogs. 

The Code of Ethics which the two bloggers prepared with their colleagues is as follows:

“1. We will be accountable

  • We will write about the culinary world with the care of a professional. We will not use the power of our blog as a weapon. We will stand behind our claims. If what we say or show could potentially affect someone’s reputation or livelihood, we will post with the utmost thought and due diligence.
  • We understand why some bloggers choose to stay anonymous. We respect that need but will not use it as an excuse to avoid accountability. When we choose to write anonymously for our own personal or professional safety, we will not post things we wouldn’t be comfortable putting our names to.
  • If we review a restaurant, product or culinary resource we will consider integrating the standard set of guidelines as offered by the Association of Food Journalists.

2. We will be civil

  • We wholeheartedly believe in freedom of speech, but we also acknowledge that our experiences with food are subjective. We promise to be mindful—regardless of how passionate we are—that we will be forthright, and will refrain from personal attacks.

3. We will reveal bias

  • If we are writing about something or someone we are emotionally or financially connected to, we will be up front about it.

4. We will disclose gifts, comps and samples

  • When something is given to us or offered at a deep discount because of our blog, we will disclose that information.  As bloggers, most of us do not have the budgets of large publications, and we recognize the value of samples, review copies of books, donated giveaway items and culinary events. It’s important to disclose freebies to avoid be accused of conflicts of interest.

5. We will follow the rules of good journalism

  • We will not plagiarize. We will respect copyright on photos. We will attribute recipes and note if they are adaptations from a published original. We will research. We will attribute quotes and offer link backs to original sources whenever possible. We will do our best to make sure that the information we are posting is accurate. We will factcheck. In other words, we will strive to practice good journalism even if we don’t consider ourselves journalists”.

The above aspects are clear and need no elaboration.  The last sentence of the Code is odd though, in that we are “new age” journalists, and must play by the same rules as the print, radio and TV media do.  That means we must research our stories, to ensure their accuracy.   One can correct a blog post if one makes an error, including spelling and grammar ones.  An American food blog recently added a note about getting the name of a restaurant reviewer wrong – she did not change it in the blog post, but wrote an apology at the bottom of her post, highlighting the error, which most readers probably would not have picked up.  A controversial issue is the announcement of Reuben Riffel taking over the maze space at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town, which Riffel has denied.   No correction or apology to Riffel or the hotel has been posted,

We encourage Bloggers and Blog readers to give us their views on the Code of Ethics as well as the Restaurant Review guidelines, which we will be happy to post.  I would like to get the ball rolling by stating that the Code should include the publishing of Comments, even if they are controversial, as long as they do not attack the writer or the subject of the blog post with malice, and the Commenter is identified, as is the family or other relationship of the Commenter (e.g. JP Rossouw’s and Richard Carstens’ sisters-in-law).   I would also like to hear views about revealing to the restaurant that one is writing a review, in that I was recently criticised by the co-owner of Oskar Delikatessen for not asking permission to write a review and to take photographs, which contradicts the Code on writing unidentified.  A third issue is the acceptance of advertising on one’s blog, or accepting sponsorships for brands, and how this should be revealed.

POSTSCRIPT 22/8 : Reuben Riffel’s appointment as the new operator of the restaurant at the One&Only Hotel Cape Town has been announced in the Sunday Times today.   We congratulate Spill blog on having had its ear to the ground in announcing this news ahead of all other media.  The One&Only Hotel had denied speaking to Spill about Reuben’s appointment at the time that they wrote the story, and Riffel had denied it too. 

POSTSCRIPT 29/8:  Since writing this post, the identity of The Foodie as being David Cope has been revealed by Crush!2.  Furthermore, Clare “Mack” of Spill Blog (with her husband Eamon McLoughlin) has been identified as being Clare McKeon, an ex-Irish TV chat show hostess, columnist, author of “The Emotional Cook”, magazine beauty journalist, and owner of the Bliss Beauty Salon.  

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com