In my Honest Opinion: The Mistaken Identity of our Food ReviewsAugust 28, 2016
It began as I read an extremely sexist, misogynistic restaurant review I would not care to mention. It began when people wrote on their blogs that they would be unflinchingly honest, and fearless in their review. It began when people wrote ruthless, thoughtless reviews without an ounce of substance or empathy. It began when people misconstrued being a self-entitled prick for being honest.
It plagues the internet, bloggers who flaunt that they give “honest” reviews of their experiences, their write-ups no-holds-barred, their opinion sharp and informed, their review fearless. Most of the time, they produce articles spouting these ruthless reviews that either talk highly or blatantly lambast a restaurant without an ounce of remorse.
From experience, these are also the people who walk into a restaurant and blatantly inform the host, “I am a foodie.” Like it means something, like they’re more important than the other patrons. It says, “Impress me,” “I can ruin you,” “Please me.” It’s an outright declaration that they are more knowledgeable, more critical than others—it’s an unspoken challenge.
A challenge with no credence.
A critique of critics
This idea that the critic is born to attempt to find anything and everything wrong with restaurants should be dispelled. Talking about food is never just talking about food, it’s an intimate, powerful experience, one that requires a depth of understanding. One that requires a certain sense of humility. As food is an ever-evolving creature, with traditions and customs that have been created to be broken. It’s a fickle entity, one that requires an open mind and a tempered opinion. Being a critic is pinpointing this dauntless movement and seeing if we’re going in the right direction.
When you are being honest it comes from a yearning—for the restaurant, the chef, and the community—to grow. Being honest comes from a place of goodwill. It means that you will listen to the story, to the narrative, to listen to their intent. Because chefs, true chefs, hold themselves not masters of the food, but mere conduits for its potential.
And when you write, you expel your words with a burdened spirit. You write with the stories of the people, the story of the restaurant, the story of the food. You write because you understand the context, you write with their lives at the tip of your fingertips.
Honesty is saying I am here to help.
The slow awakening
Conversely, what plagues the cyberspace are reviews that are ruthless and severe, ones that talk with a bluntness—an unrestrained monologue. It lathers itself in this depreciating tirade, without structure, without balance. It talks with a single point of view, one that does not wish to see past the plate. One that is too lazy to look beyond the kitchen window. Because what some might call honesty, in truth is just being lazy.
The fact is, we’re in dire need of honesty. The Philippines has always been late to the party, especially in terms of food, mostly because we haven’t quite felt confident with our own. And we need honesty to push us forward, to enlighten us, to make us thrive. Because while others have created a solidified community that aspires to explore the different dimensions of their own food, we’re still having trouble identifying our own.
Our development is quite skewed, with the boom beginning not on our own soil, but abroad. It speaks much of us, speaks of our tendencies to belittle instead of encourage—a trait not limited to the realm of food. A sign that we have not been honest, that we have lacked empathy.
A joint venture
However, this does not mean that we talk with infinite praises—that we encourage with blind affection. In fact, this requires honesty that attempts to awaken, rather than encourage. It needs criticality, a justified anger, not because we are displeased, but because we are disappointed. Because we know that we’re better than this.
We do not need the snobbishness nor the pretense. We do not require the bloated ego or the stubborn spirit. We need an honest arena of opinions, one that implores each to do their best. One that is honest with itself and others. Because for our food community to grow, to develop further, we have to do it together.