October 22, 2013


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WARNING: this is a rant post.  Skip this if you are looking to read about some delicious food at a restaurant.  Also skip this if you are a someone who writes a food blog.  You may be offended, even though it wasn't my intention to offend you - unless you are a very particular someone who writes a food blog… in which case I don't give a flying fuck if you're offended.

During our recent dinner together, a couple of friends casually asked me whether I'd been to Caprice after the arrival of their new chef.  My love for Caprice is well-known, and I guess people just assumed that I would rush to meet and greet the new chef who replaced Vincent.

When I told them that I hadn't been there recently, my friends seemed surprised and asked: "How come?  Didn't they invite you (for a free meal)?"

This reaction bothered me.  A LOT.  Not that they meant anything by it, I don't think.  But the fact that two people who run a well-known restaurant group in Hong Kong, who have known me for more than a decade and watched this blog develop, would automatically assume that I regularly get invited by restaurants - and accept those invitations - for free meals... stopped me in my tracks.

What does their statement - and attitude - say about food bloggers (or at least what people think of food bloggers) in Hong Kong?

I know that my friends regularly invite media (and some bloggers) for tastings during the course of doing PR for their restaurants.  Many restaurants do the same.  Lots of bloggers - including people I consider as friends and acquaintances - accept those invitations.  There's nothing wrong with that.  Hey, if people wanna give you a free meal… go for it!  More power to ya!

But that's not really me.

I can't say that I've NEVER accepted a free meal from a restaurant.  Other than when I've been treated by restaurant owners who are friends of mine, it doesn't really happen much.  I've probably done it no more than a dozen times, starting from this meal a couple of years ago.  There were those 2 trips I made to the Hotel Lisboa in Macau with KC (that's 4 meals in two days per trip), and most recently this delicious lunch.  I've always been very snobbish and carefully picked who I accepted invitations from.  Yes, it might be free food, but why bother eating food that might suck and waste precious quota on calories?!

After a particular disastrous invitation "blogger dinner" last year, I turned even more cautious and turned down most of the few invitations that came my way, especially from people I didn't know.  Anyone who dared to ask was told to check around about what happened after that disastrous dinner, and I never heard from most of them again.  I applauded for the courage (or was it foolishness?) of the couple of PRs who chose not to withdraw their invitations, but perhaps it was because they had faith that the chef could deliver.

The truth is that I'm fortunate enough to be able to afford - and foolish enough to be willing to spend the kind of money required - to dine at nice restaurants.  Fine dining at great restaurants is a privilege I'm more than willing to pay for.  I'm privileged enough to be able to call some of the top chefs around town friends, and I never ever take our relationships for granted.  Yes, sometimes I do expect or hope for special arrangements when I dine at their restaurants, but I am always willing to pay for the privilege of that treatment.  I never expect to eat for free, and when I'm comped extra dishes or items, I usually try to compensate by leaving a more generous tip.  The PR from the Four Seasons Hotel - whom I've never met - doesn't bother inviting me for a freebie because she knows I'm more than happy to come and pay for a meal, or ten.  And also because she knows how little "influence" I really wield… that in all reality, nobody reads or gives a shit about this blog other than me.

I don't go around town telling people I write a food blog, or throw around the proverbial "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!" unlike some scumbag in town.  Yes, I do think that person is a scumbag, and I did use the term 人渣 in Chinese when I talked about that person with people who used to work in the same firm.  Because people like that are the reasons bloggers get no respect and have become pariahs of sorts.  These days I'm embarrassed when my friends introduce me as a "food blogger".  It carries such a negative connotation in my mind, as if people who write food blogs just go around like leeches (or locusts?) looking for freebies from restaurants.

So... my dear Pineapple and Lord Rayas, I generally don't take free meals from restaurants… other than the times when you invite me to your restaurants because I'm a friend - and not because I write some blog.  Besides, if I really took those free meals all the time, would I still be able to trash restaurants when they serve me crap?!  And I know y'all loooooove to read my posts when I completely trash a place…


BigGyy said...

Thumbs up! I am not a food bloger, too lazy, but I truly appreciate the time you put in to let us in on the food and wine experiences that you are fortunate enough to afford.

Having read you blog for a number of years, I don't think you need to worry about some idiots who probably don't really read. One of reasons, you are a go to resource for resource on fine dining is that you tell it like it is. Paying for a meal is a plus (minus to your wallet), a restaurant should not be prepared for a review. One of the things that really bug me is that "VIP's" get better food or service, things should be consistent across the board!

Thanks for sharing and hopefully this incident doesn't deter you!

Rock on

e_ting said...

I also hate being introduced as a "food blogger". Yes, I blog about food, but I'm not one of "those"! I think even PR people are put into this endless cycle of having to create more noise for their clients. I think that if the PR industry as a whole made it a policy to stop inviting random "bloggers", these idiots would disappear. It's just supply and demand.

Anonymous said...

No blogger should accept free meals. Period.

There's a reason *real* critics disguise themselves when going to a restaurant. If you're going to write about a restaurant, even if it's subjective to your own experience, it has to be a representative experience.

Bloggers accepting free meals to write reviews is like radio DJs accepting free money to play a certain song. It's payola, pure and simple.


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