Just Because You Eat it Doesn’t Make You a Restaurant Critic


                 vintage cartoon via Serious Eats

The internet speaks with many voices

Restaurant criticism has become a democratic activity. This has not always been the case. Restaurant reviewing, like all forms of cultural criticism, was an elite enterprise. It was undertaken by individuals who brought disciplined tastes and cultural and contextual perspective. They adhered to an established set of ethical and journalistic standards. It was precisely because they were not one of us that we valued their opinions.

The rise of social media has changed all that. We’ve seen the flowering of millions of cacophonous voices and a forum for each of them. But do we really want to swap the lone, authoritative voice for the collective wisdom of many?

One thing to remember is that dining itself has become more egalitarian. What was once the domain of birthday and anniversary celebrants is now an everyday occurrence. Options have expanded to include categories of casual dining that barely existed just a few decades ago. Depending on the type of experience a diner is looking for, the best, most expert opinion of a professional reviewer might not be as relevant as the opinion of a like-minded amateur.

The digital free-for-all

It’s an ever-expanding online universe of food discussion boards, reviewing sites, dining guides, and food blogs. Yelp alone has aggregated nearly 5 million individual reviews. The challenge is to cut through the chatter.

One strategy is to rely on the wisdom of the mob, hoping that the crowd gets it right. Another tactic is to locate credible voices. Find your fit among the posting venues, or seek out the more highly-rated among citizen journalists. Websites will often rate the raters. EGullet created an ethics code for posters and highlights its signatories.

User-submitted reviews strike a blow for democracy

Online food communities bring us fresh voices and expanded dining resources. They also bring quirks, bias, and a whole lot of bad spelling. Ethical standards, the authority of elite designations for contributors; this is what the public is demanding.

Of course this is what professional criticism has always offered.

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One Response to Just Because You Eat it Doesn’t Make You a Restaurant Critic

  1. Janice says:

    Hello Father Steve.
    I am happy to make changes, although I have no idea of what to do or why this happened. If there is a way to delete my submission I will do that. I apologize for this- I am new to AI so that is my first submission that’s messing things up. If you have advice on how to proceed I would appreciate it.


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Is it appropriate conversation for the dinner table? Then it should be fine.

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