The Secrets of Food Tasting
You have heard about food tasting sessions in newspapers, magazines, food blogs and whatnot, but do you know what is it like behind the scenes of a typical food tasting session?
Today, I’d like to share my personal experience and insights on some “behind-the-scenes” of a food blogger – the often mistaken glamour that this “job” encompasses, the fun aspects and a little more…
A typical scene portrayed to the public is how the PR team would slog to churn out the perfect invite or that special exclusive tasting menu for every participating guest. And on the other side of the fence is a food blogger lugging his heavy DSLR (not forgetting miscellaneous add-ons like flash light attachments) and traveling to and fro via public transport. Yes, I do not have the luxury of going around in my own car. No easy feat, seriously.
This is how food tastings are usually conducted:
First and foremost, my stand on food tasting sessions and my form of professional conduct – As a food blogger, I am free to express however I feel as long as it is objective. Also, having attended a session does not come along with obligation on my part to blog about the respective restaurants.
I will only blog about those that are impressive and truly worth trying, and I blog with a conscience. In addition, I will always highlight at the end of the post that it is a media invitation. This principle is relayed to all PR personnels and in-charges prior to my accepting an invitation, and it has to be mutually agreed upon before the session.
On a calculated average, I receive 4-5 food tasting invitations per week, and they are all from PR agencies and restaurants themselves. Most of the time, I would turn down 90% of them because there are simply too many invitations and it is really quite impossible to accept and attend to every single one.
Unless I have a clone, which might come in handy. As for the ones that I accept, they are usually the restaurants (or menus for that matter) that appeal greatly to me or have been wanting to try.
Food tastings in session
Sometimes, the PR person will be there to host us for the dinner. If not, the restaurant manager will make sure that everything is running smoothly. They will usually recommend the signature dishes or new items on the menu to try.
I am always greeted by a warm PR personnel upon arriving at the restaurant. Sometimes, they would host me personally and sit with me throughout the meal. If not, the restaurant manager would be around to ensure that everything runs smoothly. I would usually be introduced and recommended to the signature dishes, and any new items if available. Of course, if there is anything else that I want to try, most restaurants would be kind enough to make that request possible for me.
During my span of time there, apart from simply indulging in good food, my camera gets to work too. It becomes habitual for me to snap pictures of the restaurant and the dishes – whether or not I’d eventually use them for a review.
Also, I always make it a point to inquire everything about the restaurant – from its chef, to its dishes, to the philosophy behind the cooking and its operating hours etc. All these information are vital for a comprehensive post-session review and would facilitate most FAQs.
Credibility of food tastings
I am aware of the common debate that “food tasting sessions are not credible because the restaurant would make everything perfect, and so, the blogger/ reviewer has this obligation to write only the good things since it is a free meal.”
In my humble opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with a food tasting session. If “special arrangements” were made just for the session and there was a gap between this standard and that of a usual dining experience for normal patrons, the chances are that restaurant would not survive long in the Singapore food scene.
Most of the time, I will pop by the restaurant during standard peak hours – so yes, I do have my fair share of waiting time before the dishes are placed on the table for my partake.
Also, to highlight, this procedure is completely the same for most newspapers/ magazines journalists and reviewers. Their experiences are also based on arranged food tasting sessions. These are really no different from a blog entry, sans the medium.
To end it off, these food tasting ethics are completely my own. Other food bloggers may work differently and have their own sets of regulations and principles.
I hope this post gives you a better insight of what a media invitation for food tasting encompasses and how it really works.