Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Julia the liar and Tony the misogynist

Clearly, the behaviour exhibited by our Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and their respective Ministers is unacceptable in any civilised, educated or social environment. As a collective they have lost any rational ability to debate, conciliate or create positive change. The mark of a child learning to argue or debate is for them to attack the person when losing the argument instead of focusing on the issue at hand. Our leaders have obviously reverted to child-like behaviours and, to be honest, it is quite sad.
Julia the liar or Tony the misogynist is irrelevant when it comes to running our country. In the first instance, the ground shifts in the real world and previously correct decisions become incorrect. In the second, it is painfully obvious that Tony is not a woman hater. Yet both sides continue to attack the other’s moral attributes in order, I presume, to gain brownie points from the unthinking. The media then fan the flames and the dropkick minority sense a spotlight moment and exacerbate the personal attacks. Q&A Monday week ago was a prime example of a vocal minority out of control.
If we respected everyone and everything without rancour we would not have this dysfunctional parliament and we would not have malcontents like Alan Jones feeding the frenzy to those incapable of sustained rational thought.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Response – ‘Heads on a platter’ by Colman Andrews and ‘It’s a tough job ...’ by Joanna Saville and ‘Food critic’s demise’ by Suzanne Carbonne.

Tuesday’s Epicure in the Age September 25 2012 and Wednesday’s Age in Entertainment 26th September 2012.

It is indeed a pity when self-devotion to the aggrandisement of the self proclaimed professional restaurant critic’s expertise [apologies to Dickens] is toppled by Joe the blogger blob. Food reviewers are crying foul as their level of self proclaimed importance and vitriol is replaced by the equally self proclaimed but now collective vitriol of the unsworn albeit anonymous masses. For years so called food writers have survived on sensation and the negative such as demonstrated by the dubious literary eulogies of ‘Close ‘em down Downs’ [Stephen Downs – since fired] or the recent court case against a Sydney newspaper when they had to pay out millions because of a ‘review’ [Mathew Evans – no longer reviewing] which closed a restaurant. Something about the pot calling the kettle black comes to mind.
If nothing else the Evans case solidified defamation and liable laws where food writers and I suspect bloggers can not just wax lyrical with impunity from their own egomanic distortions of the real world. Say or write something untrue and the doo doo bucket just got deeper. We, the beleaguered restaurateurs, have a precedent!
Coleman Andrews said in his article, “We have to write better and more intelligently...” when referring to bloggers as competition. May I ask, “Why hasn’t this been a guiding principle for any article written about anything, ever?”
We own two restaurants and suffer the same indignities by food writers and bloggers as everyone else yet we still enjoy blogger ratings of 92% and 73% which, in the first case, outranks nearly all the hatted restaurants for a dining experience. We have had extremely negative blogger reviews removed from Google and Urban Spoon from people who never dined at either restaurant - having to do this really sucks. A published review on one of our restaurants a couple of years ago castigated us when the reviewer made some ‘interesting’ claims about a piece of metal the size of a kitchen knife left in his meal but post publication refused to provide any evidence preferring to hide behind a legal wall [He has just been given the flick from The Herald Sun]. Fortunately, after nine years, our business is strong and it made no difference but I wonder what would have happened to a new venture?. If we had a legal precedent then, all would have been different. The key change is that food writers can no longer say what they feel like and feed the malcontents in print just to sell papers. It got harder. The same publisher as the ‘metal in the food’ review named us as one of Melbourne’s best restaurants just two weeks later. Doesn’t say much for ‘professional’ food writers me thinks.
The problem for a reviewer and indeed any ‘food guide’ publication is that bloggers are finding the cracks. If a reviewer gives a restaurant two hats but the blogger collective gives them a mediocre score then who is right? If democracy is alive and well then the bloggers must be heard and perhaps the hat system needs to be revised to remove inconsistencies.
As a restaurateur, my challenge is to provide a ‘product’ consisting of the design of a space where people want to be, service which surpasses expectations and food aimed squarely at our target markets. Add on to that, making a profit and getting time enough to play golf and go on one of those strange things called, holidays.
A ‘reviewer’ [as distinct from a blogger] needs a proven level of expertise, relevant qualifications and must be prepared to take responsibility as does a ‘trouble shooter’ or a ‘consultant’ for what they do. It is not good enough to just feed the face and pontificate in print when the reviewer can destroy a new business costing ‘someone else’ their invested capital whilst they retain their impunity and ignore contributing factors.
The blogger will be with us forever but hopefully will be seen as the uneducated and unprofessional opinion albeit, an extremely important opinion as our efforts as restaurateurs are laid bare by their comments and, others of like mind will listen and make decisions based on those bloggs. The challenge is to remove comments by bloggers of low intelligence or whom have not raised themselves above toilet humour or who think that writing something nasty will bring them closer to nirvana. The answer is that we can’t remove them in total but we must make sure the idiots are seen as idiots and we must also make sure everyone realises that bloggs are manipulated by people seeking advantage – like advertising the more money you spend the greater the impact.
The way to do this is to make sure future professional reviewers are and are seen to be expert, above complicit activity [see article on Downes by Suzanne Carbonne in The Age September 26th] and support restaurateurs, not destroy them [see Coco Roco Vs Mathew Evans].
The newspapers and glossies like Gourmet Traveller along with the rest of us are subject to pressure by media marketing companies and it really is a joke the amount of free publicity some people receive before opening, during opening and post opening their next big foodie venture [see Epicure and Gourmet Traveller current editions]. Or indeed, how the level of advertising in a particular publication translates into positive publicity or the level of kickbacks taken to give a positive review [see article by Suzanne Carbonne].
The reviewer must rise above this underworld of kick-backs, bribery and bulsch [euphemistic interpretation of doo doo] to become a guiding light - not a ‘critic’ but a professional ‘reviewer’. Not a reporter but a journalist with opinions based on expertise, qualifications and a recognisable face. Just saying you have eaten out for 20 years therefore you are a qualified reviewer is not good enough. This is blogger territory.
We don’t need the vitriol, we need reviewers who are seen as honest but supportive and delve into why a particular restaurant is doing what they are doing. The blogger doesn’t give a toss other than what’s put in front of them and neither they should as their experience is one dimensional. [But that singular view is of enormous importance because they are our clients and like it or not they will have very valid opinions albeit not necessarily right.]
The reviewer on the other hand must be ‘three’ dimensional and above the underworld of the holier than thou’s.
Sorry but I’m on a roll now – personally, as restaurateurs, we don’t pretend to offer multi-hat cuisine [with one cook/dishwasher it’s impossible] but we do offer reasonable food, great atmosphere and service. We rank at 93% on blog sites which means 93 people out of 100 liked our total product and had a great experience. Our ‘blogger’ reviews are for the most part,sensational and we are full most of the time. This is despite Mr Downes and despite the fact that neither of our restaurants has featured in any Good Food Guide [nine plus years in business] and we have no media company selling us and we do not give kickbacks and we do not advertise and we grudgingly welcome bloggers.
This is what the reviewer needs to focus on, a total product but from a professional point of view. It’s not all about the food! It’s about an individual restaurateur’s investment in a great experience and the review must be cognisant of the hopes and dreams and indeed strategies of all the people involved in the restaurant.
Let’s take the review up the food chain a few notches! [pun intended].

Jon Langevad MBA
Director Cafe Dansk Pty Limited
Trading as:
Mon Ami Restaurant & Gallery - 144 Nicholson Fitzroy 94173220
Deco Bistro - 49 Beach Street Port Melbourne 96461101
Langhill Consulting - langhill.net
Jon Langevad Photography – jonlangevad.com