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Food bloggers and the fickle restaurant scene

Posted on: June 4, 2013

Influece of restaurant reviews and blogs

Josh Ozersky has a thing or two to say about the New York food scene. He’s been writing about restaurants for more than 20 years and was the founding editor of New York Magazine’s successful food blog Grub Street.

Ozersky penned a controversial article for the New York Observer, talking about the high-pressure food blog scene and their pervasive influence on restaurateurs.

Enter the cronut (our picture). A half-croissant, half-donut creation of Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho, NY. Delicious, certainly, but Ozersky writes:

“Now do a Google News search for cronuts. You’ll find dozens of stories: posts about “cronut mania” on Eater, a headline on Grub Street claiming that it “might very well change your life,” follow-up posts from the ABC and Today show sites (“meet the new dessert sensation!”) and, now having crossed the Atlantic, the Daily Mail. There is a site devoted to cronuts, cronut.org.”

He observes the same trend for restaurants, which get hyped as the salvation of the New York restaurant scene (Locanda Verde, Mission Chinese, the list goes on…) and then forgotten.

In Ozersky’s experience, the impact of this increasingly frantic cycle on a city’s restaurant scene is negative:

“The pressure to opine about new eras is so great, even for entrenched critics, that a restaurant’s every virtue becomes wildly amplified: the city’s gastronomes go into heat, and the restaurant, blinded by the light of fame and a very temporary financial windfall, invariably relaxes its efforts, or at least ceases to apply the hysterical strength required to regularly produce stellar results in an undermanned kitchen. Then the inevitable and permanent night of obscurity descends”

He gives a sobering update on some of the formerly-hot restaurants some of us might remember from trips to New York a few years ago:

“…go visit some of the hot restaurants of 2009, like Matsugen and Mia Dona and Adour and Allen & Delancey and RUB and The Tasting Room and Centro Vinoteca and Irving Mill. Or rather don’t, because they’re all out of business, and got that way fast as a result of a brutal food-media climate dominated by online outlets.”

Scroll down the Observer website to see an interesting comment by Nick Kokonas, the co-owner of Chicago’s Alinea. He argues that social media makes it easier to reach diners without the help of bloggers and critics: “restaurants do not need these websites if they get into users social streams”. But is this only true once restaurants have gained name recognition – mostly through traditional channels?

How does London compare? We certainly have a fast-moving food scene with rapidly changing trends, cravings and obsessions. But on the other hand, many critics and bloggers make a conscious effort to shine a light on old favourites, subtle changes and interesting restaurants off the beaten track (just last week, Grace Dent went to La Famiglia, Jay Rayner reminisced about Joe Allen and the Grumbling Gourmet blog reviewed Kimchee). And Guardian critic Marina O’Loughlin shared her old-school favourites with us a while back.

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[New York Observer]






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