She smiles at you from across the table as she delicately moves the hair from her face. The lights are dim and the murmured conversations reverberate off the warm decor as the waiter pours the carefully selected wine. We ask for a moment to discuss the menu and take a breath to center ourselves for the night out. Like a lighting flash on a dark night, and a crack of thunder that follows interrupting the silence, the unceremonious flash bulb of a picture followed by the noisy tapping of a Facebook review. The sound bores a hole right through the ambiance of a romantic evening.
Foodies. Why can’t they just enjoy an evening without cataloging it into a picture book never to be looked over again?
With the advent of portable computers, and the cameras attached to them, everyone with a heightened sense of importance now has a megaphone to let the world know every detail of their day, including their critique on every meal consumed. From my place behind the line, instead of a smile and a sigh, I see fingers tap away at a screen. My toes curl in my slip-proof shoes.
I am a chef living and working in Northampton. I have been a chef for 15 years, long enough to remember a time when people didn’t interrupt a meal to text a “lol” or a “lmfao” or a “rofl” to a re-post. People discussed their days and the meals in front of them, with the people next to them.
This new trend of people informing the world of their opinions about, say, a bowl of soup eaten at a tiny bistro does more harm than good. It turns food that is food, into something to be squabbled over and criticized. It turns food into a luxury item instead of a soul-nourishing right.
In their wake, this abundance of foodies has littered the Internet with home-brewed reviews from the four star restaurant to the hot dog cart in front of the little league game. It creates expectations and leaves the uninitiated intimidated and unwilling to try something new because “foodlover420” gave it a one and a half star review on Yelp.
Now would be a good time to take a break, pull out your megaphone, or smartphone, as one seems to call it nowadays, and type in “Top 10 restaurants near me.” What pops up is a virtual critical tour guide of the landscape around you. Everyone with a mouth and a willingness to share their opinion has critiqued and nitpicked the restaurants for you. It strips away the spontaneity and adventure in going out for dinner. It gives unwanted and unrealistic expectations of a restaurant that wants to give you something good to eat. Let’s be honest: who would open a restaurant wanting to sell food they weren’t passionate about, or didn’t believe in? When foodie culture takes over the decision making process concerning what you want to eat, something is wrong.
People have different tastes, and different ideas of what makes a memorable dining experience. Giving a personal critique of broccoli won’t make someone enjoy it more or less, it will only let them agree or disagree after they have formed their own opinion of it upon trying it themselves. Ignore the reviews, open your heart, and leave the megaphone in your pocket.•
Jason Horan is a chef living and working in Northampton. Contact Horan at email@example.com.