The Gastro Gestapo
I am going to fall on the proverbial grenade for my friends, “family” and everyone I love and respect. Even some of you cocky and pretentious assholes. Even though I know your food and subsequently how you handle yourselves. That your perverse food trials are merely an extension of some severe parental issues. I will gladly gnaw on your delicious food, as your sorrow is a gorgeous and decadent spectacle. Even though we rarely speak, we are cut from the same cloth and for this I do not mind speaking up when you have little time or patience to. Even though a lyric comes to mind that best sums up the dynamic between restaurateur and reviewer/blogger.
“I don’t care what you think, unless it is about me”
So I am gonna take one for the team and just throw this out there. I have in the last few years left it alone. Although I have a large mouth and proudly say whatever bullshit pops into my head, I actually do often hold myself back. I have been called a gloomy, judgmental bully and a bitch. Once and a while the title fits but more often than not there is purpose behind my smartass remarks. I am constantly left with some righteous “hand of the food Gods” motivation to call people out for tobogganing down bullshit mountain as they laugh down at those trying to claw their way back up.
It comes from a place of love and respect, also I just hate watching it all continue, grow, and even thrive. There is a measurable amount of it floating around right now. We have a media conglomerate that is sending snarky and oblivious “critics” to all corners of Canada to pay a pseudo diligent and the valued watch to which new pub chain is serving up the newest fad, deep-fried and branded.
Than we have this wave of bloggers with worse grammar than yours truly, sub par camera skills and even worse food intuition. Going eatery to eatery, all on the annoying buzz of where they should be and who they should be trying out. Doing what they are told, saying what they should be and with a smile on their face, offering a cyber handjob to the Chef under the table in return for that level of ass kissing service and comps that make you cringe to watch go down. Yelp is dying but it birthed a slew of whiny twats whose Food Network cable package now enables the worst temperament imaginable.
Yet, the worst of the worst. The “Food critic” in Edmonton, Calgary and most Canadian cities has established themselves as the self appointed judges of what matters most. Single handedly killing or curing businesses. Some providing a sane and honest insight into new eateries in your local area. In turn, continuing an essential service to those of us who don’t have the time (or in some cases courage, yes I said it, it requires courage and character to seek out something new and fall flat on your face, hate the food and go home cursing the choice) to take an expensive stab in the dark. However at worst, this cycle of depravity continues unfettered each and every time the bitter army of humorless hacks attacks a new restaurant. Often comparing them not on the merits of their own food and service, but littering the review with every reference one could imagine to their buzz worthy favorite spots. Faces buried so far in the asses of certain Chefs that the review comes out smelling rather horrendous and coming across as muffled and pointless.
So, it all boils down to this, no one wants to say it. But it has to stop. These are our lives. Although, I cannot speak for every other Chef in the world. I can say that any sane, good folk among us absolutely love and need the feedback of our peers, public and fellow Chefs. We are lucky to have one of the few careers that is ever changing.
We sink if we don’t have a proper gauge of where the shore may lie. Constructive criticism is the source of life and success, nothing we do is truly original and everything we cook eventually ends up in a toilet within a day. So unless we are psychopaths, this career comes with a built in sense of humility whether or not the flavor of the month Chef wants to admit it. However, that’s the key. It has to be constructive. Otherwise none of us want to hear why you hated dinner because its obvious your husband isn’t fulfilling you, or why you Sir/Madam feel its better to shit on others instead of just admitting you have no idea how to navigate food or drinks unless you have them aid out in a fashion that makes you comfortable. Right now I am watching suspect critics of all kinds clamoring for attention via the internet and all of its ugly workings. If you blog well enough and follow the clown zeitgeist, you have the opportunity to wield power way outside what you should be able to. Get free meals from Chefs, shaking like Chihuahuas and probably with the same amount of stomach issues.
Stop, just stop. You are ruining the fun in food. You are also doing it in such a sophomoric fashion it’s become the anchor that drops off the side of the boat every opening. Which asshole is coming in to critique us. Not just “how happy are the customers who took the time and spent their money to take a chance on us”. Not, how do I feel about my success and the work we and I have put into this. It’s a minor miracle opening a bar or restaurant. I have rarely seen a Chef worth anything, whine or moan of the stress they are under. The constant theme is being judged by a group of people who wouldn’t last five minutes in our world. This matters. If you have cooked, your pedigree, your ability to address the skills, quality and benefits of another’s life work. Its rarely discussed but you have a social responsibility not just to the business, Chef , workers or otherwise. But the community. You are failing miserably. You are not seeking out incredible finds, you are not changing the conversation. You are a bitter welp in the echo chamber that holds the community down. Not back but down. Regardless of your masturbatory MO people will plod along and do well and go and even thrive.
You probably will not change either. Continue your joyless meals, finish your joyless drink as you pick apart the pricing on a scale that denotes your uninitiated understanding of how the world really spins in business. Take your Uber home and have indifferent sex until you achieve release, only to roll over and recheck your blog on your phone as you significant other pretends to fall asleep, just so they don’t have to hear you pick apart that awkward stab at glory.
Point of all of this, you people rarely listen. You just speak. So I am here to tell you one little secret/fact you all should know.
You are a tourist.
Yes, that’s right. You are a food tourist. There is nothing wrong with this. We all say it when you aren’t around. Some of us use more blue terminology but at the end of the day the sentiment remains. True, honest and endless in your absence. Traditional travel rules apply in this analogy.
For example, you might not be from Jamaica. I am not an asshole for assuming though that you have some notion of what that island is, the history, the culture and the music. It’s natural. However if that defines how you approach the people who call it home, or judge them based on your preconceived notions of what it should be, you are a goddamned, dirty stinking tourist.
You see the look of horror on these tourist’s faces when they leave the resort and really dive into the local culture. It’s a shocked look when they go through a check point with AK-47s, see a chicken killed in a market or almost light their hair on fire when they make a stab at a reggaeton block party . They are tourists because the “real Jamaica”, Jamrock isn’t for them. They do not go there in the hopes of seeking out more than what is offered them. Its an “all inclusive” easy way out. For this I will not abide any longer, as you shouldn’t. My Foodie friends, my Chef brethren, owner, blogger, pizza pervert, Burger junkie and Booze hound.
This comparison is nearly fool proof in its application to food culture. You can be in some great storefront chowing down on a solid burger from a solid person and pop on to check out if they do takeout, stumble down the rabbit hole of online reviews and ending up wondering to yourself who the hell’s daughter they ploughed last year to incite such visceral rage over a fucking Taco. It’s that general feeling that when away on vacation you should really enjoy the fun stuff. Drop the stuff you don’t like and move on. Perhaps leaving a note in the guestbook for the next person. That’s all that is needed to fulfill your self appointed duty to inform the masses about your hoagie or your sous vide experience or even which server really sticks in your craw.
And if you want my respect? Or to get the respect of all those you grade? You need to have done what I do, can do and will do. As a minimum. I sure as hell wouldn’t listen to drunk Uncle Todd’s manifesto on how the electrician that fixed the outlet at work didn’t pull off the complex installation to his liking. Why? Because I respect electricians and the path to what it took to even get out in the field. Just because you put the food in your mouth and out comes poop. Does not give you domain over the workings of a business, the life of a Chef, line cook or server.
Now, I know the initial reaction from the stick in the ass crowd on this whole train of thought will be the sound of that twig snapping first. Then mutterings of “he is just bitter, doesn’t like criticism and he is an asshole too” …Yeah, and? I do like criticism though. I endorse and embrace it in all aspects of my life. I am a chubby, silver haired dirtbag who cant handle “normal” and I have a myriad of personal issues. Yet this doesn’t excuse your lack of heart and soul. My shortcomings do not cross out the gravity of what your words and reviews can do to a person’s livelihood.
You are the Molten cake on the menu of life. All that talk and jazz and at the end of it, even though you may be the first choice of dessert for the large mass who take little time to do research on their own. All you do is just leave a bad taste in our mouth.