Features of modern restaurant criticism
Any institution, whether it is a gourmet restaurant, tending to the level of the cherished Michelin stars, or a small multi-table eatery, open to family savings, depends on the critic’s criticism – how else would potential guests find out about them, and the desired target audience? It is the audience, its size, determines the power of the critic and his weight in the overall picture of the restaurant world, because the more readers, the more important it is that they learn about the restaurant, and then decide to go there or not. If we recall how it all began, then fifteen years ago, at the dawn of restaurant criticism as a genre, Svetlana Kesoyan and Daria Tsivina, authors of Poster and Kommersant restaurant speakers, were. It was the time of expensive restaurants, barolo and sassikaya, as well as anonymous restaurant criticism, when the restaurateur knew the critic by sight, but the critic, in turn, sought to save incognito. The restaurant was a secular place, and critics were read mostly by regulars who were not too versed in the intricacies and nuances – we all remember a quote from the film “What Men Talk About” about the difference between crouton and crouton. Everything changed with the advent of Ragout and Delicatessen, and restaurant criticism began to change in response to the gastronomic revolution. The Village was added to the large editions, aimed at a completely different audience and occupying the niche of the online publication for young, fashionable and modern. The restaurants have ceased to be exclusively secular, with the advent of the accessible segment the audience naturally expanded, and against the background of the success of the gastrobist, all new democratic establishments began to open with amazing speed: from burger to hummus, street food flourished, which we had perceived exclusively in the format Shawarma at the subway and which had no relation to the restaurant life. The comparative availability of restaurants of a new wave and the broader outlook of eaters has created a whole generation of new critics: with the advent of Instagram, it’s literally everyone can start a blog and speak out about where and what interesting things have been eaten. Hashtags #foodporn and #mirdolzhnznatnoy that we meet in the most unexpected places: from provocative t-shirts of young Russian designers to posts Ksenia Sobchak in social networks.
With all the abundance of critics, whether professional journalists or bloggers, it still seems that the rules and evaluation criteria have not been defined. Are the categories tasty / tasteless? How to turn off from the evaluation of their own preferences and taste habits? How to compare restaurants with each other? Go to tastings for the press or go incognito?
Recently, restaurant criticism for the most part has become so politically correct, and the reviews are so supportive that readers listen to the opinion of bloggers – if these bloggers could give an alternative, not always positive, but reasonable assessment. The same request – objectivity and graded relativity – is answered by the project Insider.Moscow, which publishes reviews by anonymous experts who go to restaurants at their own expense and often contradict all other critics in their assessments, blowing the restaurant to pieces. However, the inability of the reader to assess the depth of their expertise makes this criticism interesting, perhaps, mainly to market professionals. So what does a critic make a critic? One of the most famous restaurant journalists in the UK, Jay Reiner, who is responsible for restaurants in the Observer, as well as the judge of the MasterChef show, says that the key role is played by the ability to write well and interestingly, and only then how well do you understand food. He gives one universal advice to dozens of letters that come to him every day with the question of how to become a restaurant critic: learning to write, not only about restaurants, but about events in the world, thus developing the horizons, training the mind and accumulating the skill of the interesting. narration, which, by and large, does not depend on what you write. Classical restaurant criticism, as we know it today, is primarily journalism, which means that the success of an article depends on how interesting it is written for the audience that reads it. Of course, an article in The Village will be different from an article in Tatler, simply because the audience of these two publications will be different in how they perceive the information and what they want to learn from the review, even if it is the same restaurant. On the other hand, the more the taste of the readership develops, the more professional the criticism must become – in order to remain in demand. As in any emerging market, where the rules are just beginning to be established, the development of taste in the mass “spectator” is uneven, therefore, on the one hand, the criticism remains quite conservative and restrained (when was the last time in the playbill you read a devastating review?) on the other hand, every first guest of the restaurant, who tells the world about his experience, becomes a critic.