Meditations

Would you write a good review for a free meal?


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Apparently the Wall Street Journal is onto us folks. They’ve discovered food bloggers! In a recent article title The Price of a Four-Star Rating, they question the validity of food bloggers restaurant reviews, suggesting that we’re a bunch of cheapos looking to swap good reviews for a free meal. While that may be true in a few instances, and certainly one has to be aware of the cunning chef who wants to ply you with some free appies or drinks for a good write up, but come on, that’s not fair.

There are a lot of hack bloggers out there, true, but food writers are different. Aren’t we? Fair enough, food bloggers are often little more than gastro-junkies with a digital soap box, but we’re still writers with integrity. Right? I hope so.

Professional food writers—the infamous critics all chefs fear—have strict standards about when they eat at a restaurant, how many meals to eat before writing a review, hiding their identities and all the extra work and investigation they invest into their craft before spewing out high praise or an inflammatory review. And so they should. They’re well paid for being experts in two fields: food and writing.

For example, one of our regular contributors, Alexa Clark, the Editor & Publisher of Cheap Eats Restaurant Guides, has very strict rules about freebies. She doesn’t allow it with any of her writers. Period. Even if you know the owners or they know you’re coming before you’ve spent time there—no write up. As a professional reviewer, this is a firm and never wavering guideline for Lex.

What do we do? Eat somewhere, love it or hate it, and post a write up on our little food blog.

But one thing we don’t do here is swap reviews for write ups. But would we? If Jer was out eating at a new hot spot, why shouldn’t he accept a complimentary meal if the chef discovered he was a food writer? Wouldn’t Ben gladly accept a comped meal from the chef? Why not! But will this make them change their opinion or account of the meal itself? I highly doubt it.

I think whether or not the meal is on our dime or gratis, all of us at In The Kitchen are passionate and opinionated enough about food to give accurate accounts of our experiences. This is our blog and they are only our opinions, but it’s also our names and reputations. We have integrity. Plus we’re not getting paid.

It’s thanks to the voluntary efforts of the few and faithful here that we can help others make food discoveries they otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to. So eat up gang! And write the truth as best you can, regardless of who paid the bill.

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