OBLIGED vs Moral Responsibility – Food Bloggers Awake.

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Lately I’ve been watching my Twitter and Instagram feed with much interest. When I first started blogging/vlogging people didn’t ‘get’ what I was doing and for the most part people still don’t. I’m talking 1o years ago when YouTube was a baby in diapers, there wasn’t Instagram and Twitter was just conceived. We were capturing food pics when it was ‘uncool” and my girls hated the fact that most of the meals when we dined out, were cold by the time they got to it. I HAD to capture that perfect image for my website OntarioAlive.com (sold a few years ago).

Today we’re seeing everyone and their uncle take on the role of food critic (is anyone being critical?). Be it via a blog, YouTube channel, Twitter, Instagram or any of the many restaurant review type websites. No longer is it strange to see people climb (dangerously) like an Orangutan over their plate with cell phone in hand, to get that alluring picture.

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None of this I have a problem with, since as I mentioned before I was doing this years ago. What I do have a problem with though, are the people with an audience who tend to LIE or purposely leave out the “TRUTH” so as not to offend.

Let me explain…

For the past few years it’s been my goal to highlight the ‘positives’ of the restaurants we’ve visited, as I prefer ‘helping’ businesses than causing any sort of customer backlash. After-all we’re in the same food space and one day (very soon) I’ll be launching the first of my restaurants. Maybe there was always a part of me who never wanted to be controversial, so I desperately tried to find good things to say. Admittedly, I was never comfortable doing so, but when the restaurant covered the cost of you dining at their establishment. you feel obligated.

And THIS is why I’m upset with today’s food writers. Peep Twitter, Instagram or any of the 1000’s of food/lifestyle type blogs on the Internet and you’ll notice common traits:

  • want readers/followers to KNOW that they are friends with the chef/restaurant (which means they dare not bad-talk)
  • desperately want to be acknowledged as being an influencer
  • STATUS! I’ve dined here, there and everywhere
  • a million and one images of the ‘food’ and never any real focus on how the food tasted… what about the service?
  • further to influencer + friends with the chef – there’s always a ridiculous interview with the chef. Are there options for vegetarians? kids? tell us a bit more than just how many layers and heart scaring toppings that insane burger had
  • congregate with similar (we don’t want to piss-off the restaurant/chef) types
  • every post sounds like they are an evangelist, preaching the ‘gospel’ of said restaurant
  • they use terms like ‘farm to table”, “hand made”, “never frozen”, “local”.. as if we’re reading a media/press kit for the restaurant.

I get it! Yes I do.. that social status you crave means you can never really be honest tell all. You refuse to upset that free ticket to dine or risk being excluded. You won’t seem cool on Twitter, you won’t resemble a trendsetter on your blog and your Instagram feed may only consist of family prepared meals.

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For the longest while that was ME and it was not about ‘that free ticket to dine” or supposedly being considered cool (I mentioned I’ve been doing this for over 10 yrs), but simply put – I care about the restaurant business and everyone who make a living from it. But after the tough time I had in the review post/video I did Brunch At Papa Leo’s Restaurant it occurred to me that I had to change my approach. I was not being true to myself, nor was I really helping the restaurants.

“Respect Me Or Fear Me!”

You’d never read a kiss-ass review by Gael Greene @GaelGreene, Jonathan Gold @thejgold, Pete Wells @pete_wells nor Tom Sietsema @tomsietsema and I understand that it’s their JOB, but as writers (loosely used in my case) treat what you’re doing with some level of professionalism and you’ll be RESPECTED! If not feared!

In the post mentioned above, I briefly spoke about my hesitation to talk about the not-so-good and it turns out that post is the most popular post on my website for 2016. With over 106 comments and thousands of hits/reads every week. The common comment was “the restaurant would learn how to make necessary corrections to ensure a better dining experience moving forward”. It’s funny though.. the post is ranked very high in the search results on both Google and YouTube and the way social media fuels our consumption of ‘news’ I’m sure the mentioned restaurant knows about the post. Maybe I bruised their ego? Rather than use the opportunity to reach out to me and make amends for our experience, not even a smoke signal from them (I keep looking West). Forget the fact that I connect with over 1 million fans every month, what if I were to hit my 70,000+ strong mailing list with negativity about said restaurant! 70,000 people who trust me enough to be their culinary guide. I did say that when you search both Google and YouTube my stuff comes in at the top right? Yea, this is not going away unfortunately.

I’ll end by saying this.. be honest to you and your readers and know your worth. I was happy with a complimentary $25 dinner and never gave much thought to the WORTH of what I was offering. My time, my endorsement and FREE publicity to a large network of people who trust me. I will talk about your nasty bathroom, the waiter with no personality, the dirty fork on my table, the noisy guests on the next table, the inferior food on my plate.. just as much as I will highlight EVERYTHING I like about you, your staff, your establishment and outstanding food.

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13 Comments

  1. April 18, 2016 / 11:36 pm

    Hey Chris!

    You did the right thing man, no worries there! Your restaurant reviews are fair and done in an constructive manner. I appreciate the fact that you don’t embellish in order to continue to get the freebies! Good job Chris!

  2. joceyline jaundoo
    April 19, 2016 / 11:43 am

    Chris today people do not respect honesty just kiss ass fake people. you are a true hero of mine and not only do I respect you I admire you being honest and true and if people can’t handle that it’s their problem…keep being true to your self and God bless you my friend……Prince George’s County Md. is behind you all the way.

    • chris
      April 19, 2016 / 1:38 pm

      Much luv fuh that!

  3. Giulia
    April 19, 2016 / 12:00 pm

    Hi Chris,

    never thought about the freebies, I’m a little naive like that, but good to know that you’re now on the right track. It’s good to be honest, well any chef can have a bad night, but you know what I mean. I really like your recipes and just have to find time to make more of them, they are delicious! Oh and when you open that restaurant, you can bet I’ll be there! I’ll even give you hand getting it cleaned up if you like, send me an email!! Have a great day!

    • chris
      April 19, 2016 / 1:38 pm

      Much thanks for the support and offer to assist Giulia.

  4. Sharon
    April 19, 2016 / 1:44 pm

    Loving your recipes. My cooking has gone from strength to strength following many of your ideas. Thanks a million.

  5. April 19, 2016 / 2:24 pm

    Hey Chis,
    People respect a straight-shooter. Whose critique do you think they’ll come to when they want to know how the food actually tastes? Not the kiss-ass guys, for sure! Keep doing the right thing, and you won’t be sorry. Someone is bound to blow off steam at you though — just consider it a compliment to your honesty.

  6. Norma Solomon
    April 20, 2016 / 10:22 am

    Some people do not like honesty. Honesty is the best policy. You are helping a lot of people out here. Keep up the good work and keep on trucking. Be bless

  7. Cathy
    April 20, 2016 / 7:37 pm

    Well said. I don’t want to go to a restaurant that is recommended only to find out it is terrible. Be honest.

  8. Carmen
    April 26, 2016 / 3:15 pm

    You have done what you have been taught to do, whether good or bad comments – not to hurt feelings but to -Be Honest! God bless your Mom for bringing up such a righteous man. Stay true:)

  9. Winsome
    April 27, 2016 / 5:14 pm

    I am so glad you came to your true self to change your approach. I respect you for being honest. Keep up the good work.

  10. Audra
    April 28, 2016 / 2:06 pm

    Hey Chris

    Great job. Forget those kiss-ass people who only go for freebies. You’re truth to your soul, my mom always said be honest and you’ll reach far in life. I don’t want to go to a restaurant that’s rated up only because someone got a free meal, I’ll be pissed if I go there and the food isn’t good after all I’m spending my money and I expect to get quality and quantity food for my hard earn dollars man. THESE PEOPLE NEED TO LEARN TO BE HONEST.
    On another note I really enjoy your recipes they are exact any everything tastes so damn good. However I’d like to see some slow cooker recipes for these Caribbean dishes. Thank you.

  11. Christine
    May 7, 2016 / 5:12 pm

    Chris ,
    I really like your cooking and your recipes .
    When you got that box I recognized those goodies from Trinidad.

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