"The evolving Francophile..."

My husband Jack has always wanted to live in Paris and learn French. I thought it would be good for him to achieve his life time dream. Hence, we moved to Paris in 2008. My first year was difficult. I started "missives" to relieve some stress and chronicle my life so friends back in the US could read what I am experiencing. I currently write about my food and travel experiences, which is my passion.

It is definitely a challenge to live here, but each year it gets easier, and quite enjoyable, in large part because I value friendships over locale. I have a love/hate relationship with Paris as do most Parisians, mais La vie est belle (but life is good)!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Taste this, a food bloggers exploration in Paris…

Recently there’s been a buzz about food bloggers and even a recent article that fueled the debate about the etiquette of taking photos in restaurants, and writing about the food. I do agree that there should be some decorum when taking restaurant photos, like not using flash, blinding all the diners.  In general, I think it’s great that people are taking an interest in food, and blogging, because I don’t necessarily want to see glossy photos or a PR spin of a restaurant; I’d like to see a “real” assessment, warts and all. Secondly, it keeps restaurants on their game, and it also keeps other bloggers honest. I find it offensive and even insulting that some bloggers feel that they have a monopoly on this topic, or only the “experienced” or “learned” should be able to critique a restaurant.  The terms “trusted”, “credentialed” or “professional” often used in restaurant reviews is arbitrary. 

There is a debate as to who is qualified to write or blog about food.  Should it be a restaurateur or a certified Chef? Let’s think about this a minute, Is it necessary that a baseball referee was a professional baseball player? Does making a blockbuster movie make a movie critic? Is it right to say that only published best selling authors be allowed to be a book critic.  My point is, opinions are subjective. Writing or blogging about food, like taste, is subjective. It allows people to read diverse opinions and make their own assessment.

Recently, I did a restaurant review with some friends, my friends said, let's tell the Chef that you're doing a review. I responded by saying, "absolutely NOT." The Paris food community of writers is a very small, tight knit community. Many Chefs and restaurateurs are also friends with the food writers or bloggers. So, food for thought, when you get comped with e.g., extra food items or drinks or get “special” treatment, how objective can you be?  Unfortunately, I believe it becomes more about the hype and being in the “elite” food crowd. It makes you wonder if the food is really worth it or is it a great PR strategy for both the restaurateur and blogger?

As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog, some restaurants have become so popular, in demand, and almost impossible to get in at all, because of the PR blitzes. Sure, in some cases the food is fabulous, but what happens is for some, you fuel their egos, and they become arrogant to the point of not caring about basic customer service. Recently, a very good friend a mine made reservations to a relatively new “in” restaurant for lunch.  As she and her companion neared the restaurant, she noticed it looked closed, except the Chef was still there. She told the Chef it was her birthday and they have reservations for lunch. Well he said it was closed for the week, and they had notified everyone, showed her the reservation book with their name scratched out, as if to prove, I’m right and you’re wrong. My friend assured him that she never got the notification, he did not care. He never once offered an apology or a suggestion that he could call another restaurant so they could enjoy a nice birthday lunch. This lack of empathy/customer service is deplorable. And, this Chef has been trained in the U.S. where the customer is always right. Dining should be about the WHOLE experience that starts the minute you make a reservation, to the very end when you walk out that restaurant door.  It should not just be about the hype.

I enjoy reading food blogs and reviews.  All I’m saying is you don’t have to follow the pack. If you have a different opinion, then say so.  Food blogging and reviews should be honest and sincere.  And, I say to the restaurateurs and Chefs, if at minimum you want to survive, “feedback” is good, without it, how do you know you’re providing customers what they want, deserve and expect?”  In my opinion, food alone does not make a restaurant.  And, for the food blogger wanna be, there’s room for you and your opinions.

Anyway, these are my thoughts about food and blogging .


  1. Good piece Randy.. and oh so relevant! I agree with you regarding the gushing reviews about the new sweetheart spots... The average diner will never have the same sort of experience as a known and recognized food writer/blogger.
    I also agree that a dining experience is a 1st contact to parting moment event... There are certain places in our fair city (Paris) where I will never return - even though the food was great - because of indifferent, borderline rude, service - or clear favoritism paid to surrounding tables. (what am I, chopped liver? Apparently) There are just too many wonderful places to eat where the staff is actually happy to see you walk through the door. I say: Ignore the hype and spend your Euros where people are thrilled to see you.

  2. Well said Marie, why pay to be treated like chopped liver when there's so many other fabulous places in Paris.

    Also, If you recall, when we went to the Laotian restaurant with a mutual friend, we got a little more attention and probably better food because he's known there; however, Jack and I went on our own, it wasn't as good nor was the service that great...

  3. I agree with all the comments here as I have witnessed many incidents mentioned here myself. I'd rather have two 4 star meals and fun and friendly restaurants than one stuck up 5 star. The difference in the quality of the food is minor but think back to your most memorable meal. Was it the food? Or was it the total package of food, service and ambiance and great company?

  4. This next trip I can't wait to have your recommendations. You have till Feb. to find some divine, CHEAPO places, darling.

  5. Try to visit good restaurant then you wont have such bad experience. I always go to restaurant which are recommended by my friends and relatives.There are many places in paris where you will get good service along with good food.And price is not so over rated.You will have good dinning experience when they ask you "May i help you, anything else ,any problem" every 10minute.Sometime it is irritating but this shows they respect and care for their valued customers.

    Eating cheap in paris