Thursday, 11 March 2010

A day in the life of a food blogger

Following the brouhaha over the previously deleted post from Monday, I have made a few salient decisions regarding this blog.

For a start I have enabled Comment Moderation, which will allow me to review comments before they are published. This means that you are still more than welcome to comment on posts, but your comments won’t appear immediately.

I have also contacted the owner of the restaurant which was the focus of attention for the post in question. I have spoken with her about various issues contained in the body of Bill’s email. As has been made abundantly clear countless times on this blog, there are always two sides to every story, and in this case, naturally there is an alternative side to the one as presented by Bill.

I have offered the owner my apologies for distress caused to her. I was glad of the opportunity for us to do what I enjoy best – talk about food, and restaurants, and dining out.

I have also been contacted by the Sunday Tasmanian who will be doing a story on the issue of unqualified, anonymous food bloggers and commenters, citing this particular incident to illustrate their point.

It’s a sticky subject. On the one hand, you can hold the opinion that we, as consumers, have the right to discuss our experiences at restaurants and cafes online here. Generally our discussions are just that – discussions – with commenters generally being reasonably divided 50/50 in their opinions on whatever the subject.

On the other hand you could hold the opinion that no one has the right to publicly air their views and potentially affect trade to a particular restaurant or café, as in the case of Matt Evans and the action taken against him by the Sydney restaurant he reviewed which subsequently closed down blaming a negative review by Matt.

The thing is (for me) food, eating and dining out are passions. Those subjects, while taking second, third or maybe no place at all in other people’s lives, pretty well take up most of my waking hours. Others play golf, or drink, or knit. I blog – about food. I am passionate about perfection, or aspiring to same, in cooking and serving it. I never have had an eating experience (whether it’s been me cooking or anyone else) where I didn’t mentally analyse how it could have been done better, or improved upon in some way.

It’s not a critical analysis. It’s a drive. I love to see it when people put it all on the line to produce beautiful food products with passion. When waitstaff serve food with good will and humour, obvious pleasure with their job, enthusiasm, knowledge, courtesy and professionalism. No matter what the situation, it provides me with immense pride on behalf of the hospitality industry when I’m on the receiving end of fabulous service (and food) – hence my sidebar naming Excellent Customer Service practitioners. These people do all of us a great service, and lend us huge credibility.

Blogs do have their useful aspects too, and serve a purpose. They are instant. They reflect topical issues in a way no other medium can, because they are perceived by some as NOT being the result of what’s left after the Editor has crossed out bits he/she doesn’t like or approve, or what there was space for. They reflect one person’s ideas, personality, influence. They inform on topics that newspapers aren’t concerned with, or aren’t allowed to write about.

As a blogger, you develop a relationship of sorts with your audience. You most likely will never meet the people you ‘converse’ with, maybe daily, online about the most varied of subjects. It’s the strangest feeling, but rewarding. Whether or not people read it, or agree or disagree with it, the blog is here to stay for a while longer, and hopefully conversations held online won’t be stifled.

A Food Bloggers Conference will be held in Melbourne on 21st March. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that conference. We have the following Tasmanian food bloggers representing us and taking part in proceedings: Steve Cumper from ‘The view from my porch’ blog, Maggie from ‘Once a waitress, always a waitress’ blog, and Stephen Estcourt from ‘Reminiscence of a Food Tragic’ blog. I for one can't wait to see what information about food blogging they come back from Melbourne with.

Posted on by Rita


Anonymous said...

Serious cencorship from Rita!!

Suppose its not worth pointing out that the last article that caused this kerfuffle was written by a pissed off customer and not by yourself. A person whom we have all respected over the years.

You see you let the unbalanced reviewers with an axe to grind in for one day, and the rest of us are grounded with no privelages.

Ahh, such is life.


Rita said...

Thanks for that timely reminder Cartouche. Yes, unfortunately the repercussions of one unhappy camper/commenter have come back to bite us, thus penalising all of us.

I have resisted in the past adding the Comment Moderation function, as I felt it would inhibit people's ability and desire to participate in the conversations and discussions here - and I enjoy the cut and thrust of engaging with people of similar interests.

But, as with all things in life (even the 7 day wonder of the upcoming elections), this will pass, and things will settle down to some form of normality.

It helps to know there are those such as yourself out there keeping things 'real' - whatever 'real' is.

reb said...

'Moderation' is an alien concept to me on many fronts, but I can understand why some people feel that it's necessary, especially after the week you've had Rita!

It'll be interesting to read the Sunday Tasmanian. For one thing it will be a nice change to find that there might actually be something worth reading.

Hopefully. it'll be written by that same 'expert' that judged a 'good' restaurant on whether it provided baby high chairs.

sir grumpy said...

Yes Rita, it can be tough.
As a matter of fact I'm always hoping to hear the other side of the story but this rarely happens.

(Be it cafe slagging customers or suppliers or vice versa).
So what is the other side of this story?
We still haven't heard that yet! Apart from the daughter saying thanks for taking it down.
If that were to happen at the time then it would be fair and balanced (well maybe not!)

Susannah said...

Gosh, I'm too busy for a few days to check your blog, and miss all the excitement. i suppose I'll have to get the Sunday Tasmanian to find out what it was all about!

Blogging is a tricky business. We are all entitled to our opinions, but I am aware that many of us will, at times, start talking before putting brain into gear. Not your good self, of course - the name of Rita is a byword for even-handed commentary! But you may need to make sure that the less circumspect of your readers don't cause too much damage. Some readers will be naturally skeptical about a negative comment, but others might be swayed without considering the possibility that the negativity could be very unfair.

lemon curd said...

I have often wondered about this sort of...light c... I have often wondered about this sort of...light censorship...editorial license? Not being a blogger myself I've pondered the well meaning justification of "These are my personal views, and the personal views of others" argument - but there is a fine line between that, and as we've seen, a move that prompts a degree of journalistic integrity on behalf of the blogger (not that there is a huge amount of that about in the traditional media!). A fascinating shift in the role of the blogger is upon us?!
I will be very interested to see what the others bring back from the conference...

Anonymous said...

Hey readers of Ritas blog, 1st time comment for me on here, been following for some time.

I have administered a number of local community forums for the past 10 years, in the beginning they are run along without a problem, until you start to get the "growing pains".

You have to be mindful of what gets posted on sites like these in general. People "generalizing here" tend to become detached from their usual self, when posting anything on the Internet under the cloud of anonymity.

I don't wish to bring up the removed article, but if I where in your position Rita (as the blog /site administrator) I would never of published it. In hind site sure you would agree.

Just to remind people of a recent decision in Western Australia courts from last month.

Just asking that people engage their brains before they post, as the business that are topics of discussion here don't have any right to anonymity like the posters do!

steve said...

I'm not bringing anything back-Im just there to make up the numbers, eat the free food & guzzle the free booze..!

I was interviewed for the Sun Merc article & said that although our blogging community might be active & well read by many, it still has a minute readership when compared to a daily tabloid.

So a negative post & subsequent comments really only get read by a few people. These things usually blow over until the next posting is up anyway. To suggest that a few negative comments on a blog that is read by only a few (No offence Rita!)could negatively affect a business is being overly anxious I reckon.

I was aksed what I would do if I or the RVL got nasty & personal comments on blogs(I have & it has) & I said I just dont respond anymore or try to reason with anonymous critics.

Conversley if someone brings a matter to my attention or disagrees with my views & I can put a name to that criticism-I'm way more likely to respond with an open mind.

Christina said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this.
I'm trying to put heaps of thought into my comment so I get my point of view accross correctly.

On one hand I understand why you feel you must do this Rita, on the other I have feelings of misgivings and am not entirely happy.

I think, from a commenters point of view, I'm worried that you won't publish comments you may feel are even a little harsh. It makes me feel like comments will be restricted.
I love to read your blog because of all the different points of view, and the right of reply it gives us. I feel if you wade through some of the less savoury comments, you will get the general feel for a place and decide if it's for you or not. Diff'rent strokes etc.

I can understand after the last post, and knowing you as I do Rita, that you felt for the restaurant people in question, but I do feel that Bill made valid comments about his experience on the night, and that he should be entitled to them as we all are.

I strongly agree with Sir G's comment that we haven't heard the restaurant in questions point of view. Maybe if they had explained it from their perspective we would have understood more. I too felt sorry for them, but they do have a right of reply, but no explanation has been offered.
If I recall, this happened before with Darjoh's takeaway, and the post was there for all to see, but the restaurant came back with their side of the story.
Fair for all I think, and left us all to make our own decision.
I actually always think there are three sides to every story. Yours, theirs, and what really happened.
Everyone will always see things differently.

I know you will agonize over what comments to pass on Rita, and what to delete. I'm worried this will all turn out to be too much trouble and you'll decide enough is enough.
I like that I can make a comment and a few minutes later there are replies. What will happen when you are away and can't check our comments for a while.
I'm beginning to sound like small child fretting if Mum's not there to look after us all!

I hope you understand where I'm coming from Rita.
I totally understand, and of course respect your wishes, but I don't really like it. I'm a Taurus though and we hate change apparently.

I too feel like you about the whole food, wine, dining out, cooking experience. I live and breath it as you know.
Your blog has given me so much over the last few years, and I would hate to lose it. So I suppose you must do what you feel to be right.

I look forward to Sunday's paper, but I'm not sure how it will be handled. I'll wait and see I suppose.

lemon curd said...

Well a bottle of something would be nice now you mention it Steve...

And Rita - sorry I have just re-read my post, I didn't mean to imply you have only just started to employ journalistic integrity, more that I am fascinated that there is, whether we like it or not, a level of...responsibility you have to take when publishing opinions in a public place?

Or does this sound even worse - I think I'll have a glass of something and go cook some dinner!!

Oh one thing - did you consider just not allowing anonymous posts? I know (case in point right here) people will create an anonymous account anyway, but at least you know that there has been a bit of effort or thought when commenting? Just interested - think you've taken the right course of action either way.

Retiree said...

What an interesting argument this is going to create- to blog or not to blog...

Having put my chefs knife away and the waiters friend has retired from active duty, I must admit reading this blog gives some insight into the goings on in restaurants today.

However, I must admit that some of the comments that are posted are cruel and unjustified in my opinion. Restaurant owners, chefs and waiting staff rely on customers to continue coming to their restaurant so as they can provide for their families/ make a living/ pay the mortgage etc. Consequently many restaurant owners don't take a salary/ wage from their business, many chefs work 70+ hours a week for around $50,000 in hot boxes, and waiters get to bear the brunt of hot and bothered chefs, and customers, who some are great, others should have stayed at home for very little money at the end of the day.

Chefs seem to be the ones who are continuously victimized. Has anyone stopped to think just how this affects them? Everyone has a bad day, but I guess if it is lawyer/ shop assistant/ bus driver they are lucky to avoid being publicly destroyed and humiliated. Most people just go elsewhere without comment in a public arena. Was your waiter short and crabby? Was that because they have just had a relative die, but they have to come to work because they still have rent to pay? Was your ice-cream dessert slightly melted? Was that because the restaurant had 25 people booked and 60 have turned up for dinner and there aren't enough chefs and waiters to cope as no one booked, and the 25 who did get to suffer as well.

Not every restaurant can meet everyones needs/ wants and desires, so take the business on face value as to what they are trying to achieve. I'm not surprised that Bill couldn't find a Movida in Hobart, and I'm not sure that anyone is trying to be a Movida. A fine dining experience might not be to your liking, so your choices are don't go or accept it for what it is and what they are trying to achieve. Who knows, you may learn something and might, just might enjoy yourselves ...

Why can't people be nice these days? Yes blogs are great for voicing public opinion, but the ramifications of what is said/ insinuated hangs around for a long time, and can be detrimental to restaurant long after the post has closed or been removed.

Comments are playing with the livelihoods of so many people, and should be thought about before they are published. What would happen if a restaurant in Hobart sued for defamation?

If restaurants started to close because they had so many negative comments resulting in business dropping, then we would have nowhere to go, have a nice meal with wine and great company.

Rita, I love what you do and what your blog is about. Good food, good wine and someone special to share it with. I just hope that it continues with the innocence of a combined love, without being vicious towards those restaurant owners, chefs and waiters that have provided us all with so many fond memories.

Anonymous said...

I knew about that noxious little man in November when it occurred. So it was shocking to see his opinion was taken seriously anywhere at all. Anyone think that just maybe that restaurant owner truly wanted to reply but didn't have a way of doing so without making the whole thing even worse? I mean seriously, at the time I remember thinking he was just a con artist TRYING to get kicked out so he didn't have to foot the bill! Get real people, just because he can string a few words together eloquently does not automatically imply the content is true or worth consideration.
If I knew how the identity thing worked I would not be signing off as anonymous.
And FYI, last paella I ate - I was a little too quick and burnt my mouth - so much for being cold as he infers!
I hope more waiting people have the self confidence to say 'enough is enough' to rude, boorish behaviour so that we may all enjoy our time. Let Bill go back to McDonalds - mucking about in the food with your hands is ok there I understand - he would fit in well with the 3 year olds.

Tassiegal said...

Oh dear Rita - you have really opened the flood gates now! :-)
I think in matters where people reputations are at stake, comment moderation is a useful thing - however in a blog that is purely reviews, comment moderation may inhibit the debate which evolves from the review. I know when I was blogging about food on a semi regular basis I had some vehement defenders of the Japanese place at Mures - even though I didnt like it. I think its when it gets personal that things get ugly.
I had some other profound thought in my head, but it seems to have skipped off with the faires...Are you going to Estia tomorrow? if so I might see you there.

ut si said...

Steve's probably right babes. We are but a blip & our readers/commenters gifted with short attention spans.

Anonymous said...

Any opinion expressed, not necessarily the opinions of this forum, no resposibility taken, section 41 copyright act 1968, blah blah etc.

Another bastion of free speach created by the people for the people falls to the grey institutes of power.

We may all be nutters, but I would gladly be insane and free than be shackled by editorial censorship.

The truth is always the first casualty.


bri said...

It's a personal blog and Rita has every right to censor it if she needs. With all the nasty comments that appear on here more frequently lately, I don't blame her for reaching this point.

I've also got faith that only entirely inappropriate comments will be censored, the bulk will still be generally acceptable.

Unfortunately comment approval will slow down discussions in the comments, but we've only got the anonymous commenters to blame.

Comment approval/censorship on food blogs is not uncommon.

If you want to be free of censorship, start your own blog :)

Sean said...

Here in lies the problem Rita you are at present becomming the voice of fear and self Loathing, Reading the article today and Mr Prossers comment of "oh my lobster won some award in 2002" hello your salad is dead it has not moved, Mr Prossers food has not evolved it wasnt a crap salad but guess what it is now.This is the case in so many aspects of dinning in Tasmania, There may be 3 or 4 chefs in this state that are constantly learning and adapting, they want there diners to have an experience on an international level not just on a Tasmanian Level. Rita quite frankly you are heading down the Track of One Mr Phillips who has lost site of all but what he thinks is happening in food, as time goes on he is unable to Quantify Seriouse food concept delivery. Your blog is not your own it is in actual fact ours, as with food and reveiw in this state you can head down the path of playing it safe or you can actually allow people to tell it like it is. I challenge first Mr Prosser to go head to head with me in a 1 off lobster Cook off, 1 dish 1 chance, you may pick the ingrediants....... and i would like to invite you out to dinner, just so you understand that although we may eat the same thing my opinion may be different from shout of course

Rita said...

Sean - you're on! I would be delighted to chat with you, one on one, about issues you have raised in your comments above. Email me via the Contact Me page at the top of this site if you want to follow it up, please.

Sean said...

I love Steve Cumpers comment in the Paper " if youve had a bad meal in a Restaurant most people dont say anything, they go home stew about it, tell some friends and get on the blogs and slag things off" hello steve what would you like them to do embarress themselves by having to ask you the chef what went wrong, would you honour them and say well we infact got it wrong......Steve what would you do?

Christina said...

If this were me in this scenario, I would definetly say something to our waitperson, and if the chef felt the need to come out and explain, well done to him.
This is a pretty generalised question. Sometimes the chef need not appear.
Why do we find it embarassing if we feel we are not at fault. I have felt this way if I'm dining in a group, but still will usually speak up. Just because our comments may be negative Sean, doesn't mean you have to present them as such. More flies with vinegar than honey etc....
I've decided it's basic human nature for most people to want to keep the peace.
If you lend some one money, they don't pay it back, how bad do you feel having to ask for it?
It's the truth. We don't like to stick up for ourselves so to speak, but it must be done!
Any chef worth their salt will come out and at least discuss your issue with you, and appreciate your feedback.
I admit I don't know Steve on a personal level, but from reading his comments and blogs, feel that I do know at least some small things about him, especially his passion for food.
I'm positive he would come out of his protective kitchen and discuss any issues you may have Sean.
Even if in the end, you agree to disagree, I'm sure your point would be heard.

Sean said...

Hi Christina, it looks as a blog should we are comminicating unsensored and with sensibility, this is my point a chef opens a restaurant to the Public and perhaps expects that when things dont go so well that nothing should be said by the public in a public domain, those chefs have the opportunity and rite to reply thru blogging, they are not given than opportunity via T.V or Print media, reading steves comment in todays paper, limits his ability to communicate, if he had have made that comment on a blog he would be able to clarify his comments and explain just how he feels, todays paper is now tossed in the bin, todays blog will remain...............and please Christine more flys...... please more flys.

Anonymous said...

Are you all honestly saying that if you didn't like the meal you wouldn't tell the waiting staff? What RUBBISH! I have always made sure they knew if something was not right, and the waiting staff are normally quite happy to help with the issue. Its when they are not that one should look at other methods. Don't promote a bunch of whinging cowards who think its better to stab the very people who feed them in the back!
The very fact that nasty little Bill was thought to be a con artist rather than a true blue customer was that for all his rude behaviour NOT ONCE did he complain, even when Maria asked them directly.
Take some responsibility and GROW UP!
For the Record:

Christina said...

Just re read all the comments and am trying find where we ALL said we wouldn't comment if our meal wasn't right.
Can't see it myself Louise.

Confused? said...

Does anybody know what sean is trying to say?

peeps said...

Im simply saying, if somebody bags your restaurant, get over it, people should be free to say what they the business group i work in i deal with on average 500,000 customers a year, people eating, 500,000 plates of food a year, at 6 different levels. The group recieves a complaint about food......the front of house get there details, i call the customer, i get there feedback we do everything in our power to get feedback on where the team has failed......the tasmanian hospitality old guard needs to remove there heads from there bottoms and get on it, customer first everything else a distant are we clear. Could you imagine if i ran around reacting to blogs every time someone isnt happy, not gonna happen, im not going to call a lawyer, im going to make an effort to improve on the next customers experience, sue a blogger make a quick buck...not very hospitable

Anonymous said...

er, righto peeps, I think I know what you & sean are saying.

Hello-is there anyone out there can help me? I have no fecking idea what peeps aka sean is saying . Is it just me/
Am I reading a probabal personality disorder cause if I am I'll have to hedge my comments!