Tag Archives: Jay Rayner

The rise of the citizen critic

I wrote this in March 2009 and thought I might as well publish it here…

Jay Rayner used to let foodie friend Simon Majumdar tag along to the restaurants he reviewed. He even allowed Simon to write about the food in his blog. But since Simon’s blog took off, things have changed.

Majumdar, one half of celebrated blog doshermanos.co.uk, explains how bloggers’ influence has rattled newspaper critics’ nerves.

“When I started the blog, I could write about [restaurants] and they didn’t care. But slowly, when they posted their reviews, people emailed us that they were copying the Dos Hermanos review. They now ask me not to write about the restaurant until they’ve written about it.”

The restaurant industry has been knocked sideways by a tide of foodie bloggers, led by success stories like the Majumdar brothers, who publish to committed networks of readers and fellow bloggers. Rayner even voiced fears that bloggers may one day render the newspaper critic’s role redundant.

‘When opinions are freely available all over the web,’ he wrote in July 2008, ‘the newspaper critic is becoming regarded as rather more of a luxury than many publishers feel they can afford.’

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And the winner is…?

(I wrote this in July 2008. Unfortunately, funds didn’t stretch to my own analysis of which is the world’s best restaurant.)

Best Restaurant awards generate as much hyperbole as they do consternation. As awards and accolades become more commonplace, what’s the point in point scoring, who’s counting – and who are the real winners?

FOODIE LEGEND has it that when then Restaurant editor Thom Hetherington went for an after-work drink with his mates one evening, the conversation turned, inevitably, to eating out. Soon the friends were involved in a passionate debate about which restaurant was the best in the world.

Hetherington, renowned for his maverick style and originality, decided to run a light-hearted round up of the top fifty candidates in his magazine. Grabbing a discarded cigarette packet, he jotted down the list as the rankings were settled.

Spanish chef Ferran Adrià’s restaurant El Bullí came out on top. The list, published in 2002, was seized upon greedily by the press. It still provokes excitement, derision, incredulity and fierce debate seven years on.

“They sent out a press release and people stupidly believed this kind of nonsense,” explains Guy Dimond, editor of the restaurant section of London’s Time Out. “People don’t think of the criteria of how it’s judged. There’s no substance to it. It got Restaurant magazine tonnes of publicity. And the next year they thought ‘oh my God, we’d better do it properly’.”

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