Wow, check out this article about online food reviews. While the two of us at DCfoodblog are intermittent food reviewers, we do take review much more seriously than we do the other posts that we do. After all this is someone's livelihood.
I really like how even handed the article is. The tenor of the article, which is the push-pull of having non-Food critics do food reviews is really fascinating. It's about the broader issue of those of us as consumers being a little savvy about the information we take it. J and I use both yelp and chowhound religiously. In our past trip to New York, every eating establishment we went to was recommended by a yelper or chowhounder. While we wouldn't depend on any one critic, the consensus is really valuable to see whether a food place is worth going to. I think of non-food critic opinions as snapshots while I think of a food critic's review as a painting. Food critic will take the time to capture the dining experience in its totality. They will research and eat multiple times and consult. BUT having the chorus of opinions is really valuable to see if a consensus occurs and to see SPECIFIC experiences.
I think that the restaurateur who actively engaged with his critics really has the right attitude. No one critic should have their reviews taken as gospel. But the feedback is really invaluable to making a better dining experience. In the end, I don't think there's a conflict. In fact, I think us in the blogosphere really build the audience for the pros. A lot of the people who J and I know, read tom Sietsema's reviews and chats religiously. They appreciate his thorough expertise even in the cases they don't agree with his actual opinion. Most of the food bloggers we know are voracious readers of food periodicals, watchers of the Food Network, and buyers of food books like Ruth Reichl's or Julia Child's memoirs. The fact that we can extend the conversation into our blogs is a good thing.