Sunday, October 4, 2009

Say it aint so George!

Before April this year I was neither here nor there when it came to bloggers and their lot. Bloggers on food and wine for me were effectively curious people with creative nous who considered sharing their thoughts on a bottle of this or a plate of that as a kind random act, because let’s face it, bloggers do not write with an acerbic pen.

This week the wunderkind George Calombaris in the HUN on Tuesday said “Bloggers have no idea about restaurants. They’ve got no idea how they run.” I certainly hope he has been taken out of context here! If not, then this is a very naive and generalist statement, George.

George continues with, “These are trained professionals. These critics know what they’re talking about.” These people you speak of George are trained journalists, like your co-host Matt Preston who before writing about food, covered TV show’s such as ‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home and Away’ (‘Life Magazine’, The Sunday Age October 4, 2009); they are not trained chefs, sommeliers or front of house managers. In almost 15 years of working in the restaurant/wine industry I have been a part of critically acclaimed restaurants in New York, London and Melbourne, and can honestly say that I have far greater knowledge of the happenings of restaurant service. In these 15 years, George, I have also eaten at some of Australia’s most well known restaurants where I have found it almost impossible not to observe the operations of the service in terms of fluidity, waiter awareness and customer satisfaction; something I have done with experience, George.

When a critic eats out, more often than not they are recognised by the front of house who then alert the chef that the ‘make or break’ service is now upon them. With the order taken by either the front of house manager or the most competent waiter, the chef will then sweat over probably three or four plates of each dish that has been requested by said critic and their guests. This means that the rest of the paying guest’s meals are prepared by second or third year apprentices who are more used to plating salads and burning crème brulee’s.

Today, restaurants are likely to have a carefully constructed PR machine driving the restaurateurs’ ambitions of critically acclaimed success, hats and appearances on reality TV shows; it is not the best restaurant that gets the gongs, but the restaurant that knows how the greater machine works.

Being a local Brunswickistanian, I have visited George’s ‘Hellenic Republic’ on at least six occasions, and have even posted a glowing blog on their weekend mezze menu. This is where you think I am going to take the sour grapes road and have a go at the venue – not true. I will keep on going there and tell my friends to also go when they ask me if it is worth a visit, because George I am a paying customer who just happens to blog about food and wine because I can and have, dare I say, expertise in both fields; I also have a Bachelor of Viticulture/Wine Science which is also pretty good training I reckon George!


  1. I think george is going to regret this little outburst.
    Great post!!


  2. It's funny the great myth about the trained food reviewer. The only training can be eating out a lot at good places. I think something is getting to George and he's losing the plot.

  3. The Cult of Celebrity can be a dangerous pack too run in I'm thinking.

  4. Great post! It’s really disappointing that George feels this way about Bloggers! I think that Bloggers provide great and unbiased information. It’s pretty certain that reviewers like Preston, Lethlean and Dubecki will be recognised at most places they review and would not receive the same service as a regular customer. While I enjoy reading reviews which are featured in the Age etc, I refer to local Blogs when seriously considering whether or not to eat at an establishment. And how does one become suitably qualified to review food in the eyes of George? I’d like to know.

  5. I am pretty sure the qualifications are not that high-brow! - Lethlean used to own a pie shop.
    It will be interesting to see if this hoopla gets a mention in Epicure tomorrwow; they are not a publication that lambasts media darlings very often

  6. Absolutely agree with you Tim!
    I have worked in Catering and Events for the past 10 years, the last three of which were spent working for the Head Office of one of Europe's biggest restaurant groups. I blog because I like to share my good dining experiences with others. Sometimes I don't even know if my posts are read but it feels good to write down my opinion and document all of the fantastic meals I eat, even if it is just for myself and my friends.

  7. I think it may be time to form a Bloggers Union perhaps; Bloggers Unite Melbourne, or 'BUM' maybe!