Tasting & Tweeting: The Use and Abuse of Social Media in Restaurants
Over the weekend, The Taste invaded Beverly Hills, Hollywood and Downtown L.A. I went to 2 of the 9 events. I paid particular attention to a panel presented at the Secrets of the Kitchen and Cellar event on Saturday, September 3rd. I wanted to attend the social media panel.
Here’s the description as copied from the website.
• 1:45-2:30 p.m. “Tasting & Tweeting: The Use and Abuse of Social Media in Restaurants” Moderated by LA Weekly Food Critic
J*nathan G*ld** featuring Michael Voltaggio, Walter Manzke and Craig Thornton.
As media, we were welcomed to interview the panel after it wrapped up but I wanted to get back to all the great food at the event. I did take three videos in the beginning.
As I usually do, I posted the pictures and videos after the event, intending to blog about the event at some point. Then the moderator, LA Weekly’s Pulitzer Prize Winning critic, contacted me via Twitter to take his name off. He mentioned he couldn’t stop me from posting but he had anonymity issues “however implausible.” Er…wasn’t this a public event? And wasn’t he advertised as being there? I was confused.
This sparked a debate among my friends. They said he was the “Godfather of Food [Writing] in LA” and I should do what he says, no questions. And that it was about respect.
Well, I did take off his name. I did that immediately before even telling anyone about it. And I have now hidden his face in the above photo. But really? I’m sorry, Mr. Jo……old. Er, Mr. Critic but you make no sense. Are you going to ask all the others to take your name off their photos and videos? What about the people who tweeted during the actual panel? Are you going to stop hosting events (G*ld Standard) and stop moderating panels? The first time I saw you, I went to a panel at the Central Library. You were moderating a discussion for Zocolo. It was so long ago I really don’t know what it was about. But I do remember thinking, “Oh, that’s what the Critic looks like.”
When I took those photos and videos, I did not think I was going to “out” him like SIV at Red Medicine. People know what the Critic looks like. And if they don’t, he is easily searchable. I am startled he is even trying to be anonymous when he really isn’t. There’s been a debate about restaurants treating anonymous critics like “regular folk.” These anonymous critics seem to feel it’s crucial to really gauge what the restaurant is like. Then there are people like the Critic who are fantastic writers and don’t seem to have problems being fair when reporting about a restaurant. I recall some critics saying even if restaurants recognize a critic they can only do so much. It’s not like they’re going to suddenly hand you foie gras when it’s not on the menu.
My friends and I sometimes experience really great service and food at new (to us) restaurants, to the point where they suspect the restaurant recognized me. I always tell them no. I would like to give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt. I figure the restaurant is actually really that good and really up on service. And they say, but no, maybe it’s because you have a camera.
Should anyone with a camera to be feared? Maybe. That’s what this panel was about. Michael Voltaggio says he’s really hurt when he reads bad reviews. Craig Thornton wishes bloggers wouldn’t spend so much time photographing the food (it’s getting cold!) but Walter Manzke countered seeing someone take a picture was like knowing that diner liked it and was sharing it with their friends and family via social media. Perhaps these others would be smiling over the chef’s food as well.
When I go out to eat, I generally do take pictures but not always. Sometimes I may tweet what I’m eating and drinking at the time but also generally not. I prefer to interact with my friends in real time. When I do blog or tweet later, I’m reliving those moments, sometimes with them but generally with the world– that’s how our society is these days. I have been baffled by teeny boppers recording concerts on cameras or cell phones. Why do they get enjoyment out of that? But they could ask the same of us. Why do we document our meals and cocktails?
I have always maintained I am not a food critic. I don’t want to be one. I have long admired the Critic for witty reviews of restaurants. I often want to try all the places he goes. Sometimes I do love these restaurants. I wish he would come out with a new book. But it seems restaurant guides are quickly disappearing with the advent of mobile apps.
The Minty is really a diary of a foodie and cocktailian. If people tell me they want to go to the places I’ve gone to, I am happy about it. I write this blog for fun. I make no money from the blog. I won’t have advertising because it’s not worth it to me. I do crawls and events because I like meeting people.
I know I’m going to get a lot of heat from people who automatically will side with the Critic because he is esteemed but I would like you to consider the facts-
- He is not anonymous.
- He is recognizable.
- He was at a public event where it was actively promoted he would be there.
- He was hosting a public discussion.
Remember, I did take off his name and won’t use it in this post. But as he said, he can’t stop me from posting. In this age of social media and blogging, this is probably one of the best topics. Can critics be anonymous in this digital age?
A few weeks ago, I was walking out of a restaurant and I heard “Minty, Minty!” I turned around and a group of people I didn’t recognize had called out to me. They figured out who I was because I had checked in on foursquare. I don’t use a picture of myself on this blog, twitter, or foursquare. How did they know it was me? Apparently one of them works for the FBI and I got profiled. When questioned, they based the profile of the Minty on her shoes. Since I wasn’t wearing my trademark heels, I still found this a bit…creepy. There are pictures of me online. However, it would take some time to dig for such photos. And I did believe them when they said they just guessed based on my shoes.
If someone can figure out who I am in 5 seconds, how do critics (not The Critic) stay anonymous? Maybe my friends are right, maybe these new restaurants do know who I am based on foursquare, twitter, the blog, etc.
Perhaps that’s the true abuse of social media. I would like to remind everyone that whatever you put out there online is well and truly out there. And unfortunately for the Critic, there’s no way to really withdraw all those photos and videos.
** Oops, I wasn’t supposed to use his name but how can I not when he was advertised as the moderator? Should he demand as part of hosting panels people can’t record or take photographs of him?
This is bullshit. There are photos of Jonathan Gold all over the web.
This is completely different from the SIV outing.
Thank you! There zillions and zillions of pictures of him online. Asking one blogger to take off his name is still puzzling to me.
Make that two – he asked me not to take his picture
This was a good read. Thanks for posting. Not sure why that request was made. I’ve run into him at various places and he’s come up to chat – I’m sure he knows that most foodies recognize him immediately.
Thanks for reading. I suppose I could have asked him but since he doesn’t follow me on Twitter, I couldn’t privately replied back. But anyway, it’s a broader topic- can food critics be anonymous in the digital age?
Oh the irony!
yes, asking someone not to post his picture from a social media panel… #ironic
Well written. I’d like to hear Mr. Critic join in on this discussion. He’s clearly an intelligent man. I find faulty reasoning with his argument but if he could shed more light, then maybe we might understand his position better. I can’t think of any reason that would make sense at the moment.
I was thinking the same thing. I’d just like to know his point of view so I could understand his request better. Maybe it would make sense with more information? Doubting minds want to know… Minty, great article.
This was such a great post, love your audacity. So wow, that’s very strange. Maybe it’s as simple as “The Critic” deeming himself unphotogenic. Hey, that’s the only thing I can think of that would fit the picture. *stifling a laugh* That matter aside, I’m totally with you on not letting people call me a critic, not advertising or making money off my blog, not tweeting much, not really caring how many people look at it, to be honest. How did you respond to the FBI creepers? Couldn’t that totally be a breach of privacy? *shudder*
I got out of the bar and met some others who actually know that FBI agent. Supposedly it was just a coincidence. Yeah…
Anyway, yes, that is what some are suggesting — that he feels he’s unphotogenic because the anonymity thing is rather ludicrous.
Can I digress for a moment and ask …. why were you profiled by the FBI???
supposedly they saw I was checked in on foursquare and they pegged me. the FBI agent teaches profiling at Quantico.
Great piece. This is nothing like the SIV debacle, which was atrocious by most people’s standards, but at the same time clarification is required by JG. He is not anonymous and hasn’t been for a long time. I’m impressed that he asked you nicely(?) and apparently he knows who you are, but I would like him to respond to this.
He phrased it as “I can’t stop you from posting but I have anonymity issues (however implausible). Please take my name off this.”
Yes, he does know who I am- or at least my twitter handle. See the second to the last paragraph.
It will be interesting if he does respond.
Well put Minty, it’s definitely a conflict of interests for some. However once you made an impact in any type of industry, it’s really difficult, to.. not be noticed.
Ha, doesn’t make any sense…or where a mask on stage. : D
Great post. More than anything, I think it’s awfully cool that you are on the Critic’s radar. Everything else aside, that’s quite a compliment!
All I can guess is that he’s making an attempt at controlling the uncontrollable. He isn’t anonymous with LA food circles, but maybe he figures that by staunching any trickle-down through blogs, etc, he can somewhat manage his visibility.
Anyway, congrats on your own recognition, even if the FBI profiling was kinda creepy. They probably meant well…
He’s not even anonymous in the Nation’s food circles. Maybe even internationally. But yes, definitely not in LA.
After speaking to someone who works for a “celeb” chef, the best answer I got was “they’re quirky.”
(and yeah…a bit creepy about the FBI…)
Is it possible for a social media fan to hate Twitter? If so, count me in. Anyway, I find his request absurd despite my tremendous respect for the man as a writer/critic. You know me Minty, I also respect anonymity, but if you want to be anonymous, BE ANONYMOUS. Don’t moderate panels and have Evan K pub your appearances on Good Food every week. When using Social Media, the taste of fame is tempting for many and most can’t handle what comes with the territory. I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot as it relates to Street Art; I’m fascinated by the conflict between the cult of personality and anonymity…
p.s. Really liked what Voltaggio said in your 3rd vid. He gets it.
p.p.s. REALLY creeped out by the FBI comment. I dislike Foursquare almost as much as Twitter…
Sure, you can hate anything! 🙂 I am not a big Facebook person. I like Twitter but I tend to like something for a while then move on. I don’t really like Google+ though. It’s too similar to FB. I like being able to send out short missives and to see what comes of it.
As for the Critic, yes…if you don’t want your name out there, maybe consider not doing things like radio bits? And yes, I would have been more than happy to take down his pic/name if I had randomly encountered him (and I have)…but (I’m going to sound like a broken record)…this was a public event where he was advertised as being at.
Sometimes I wonder how social social media really is. We are “interacting” all the time but we seem to spend less time actually being with each other in real time. I try to put away the electronics at the table only to encounter friends tweeting their way through a meal.
I’m with you on liking Twitter more than FB. I would have liked Google+ if people were actually on there. Everyone Tweeting at the dinner table is a huge pet peeve of mine. It should stop at 1. Don’t like the course by course tweeting.
This is such a bizarre situation…
I saw him speak earlier this year and during the Q&A someone asked him if he wore disguises when he goes to review a restaurant, he chuckled and replied that a disguise really wouldn’t obscure his identity because he is a pretty recognizable man.
I’ve seen tons of other LA bloggers post pictures of him at events, even tweeting pics out while wandering around Taste and such… why now? Who knows!
Yes, it’s been a conundrum…and now I’m going to yet another social media panel with him. Perhaps I’ll ask him then.
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I did not know what SIV looked like at all until the “Red Medicine incident” even though I’ve always sort of followed her reviews. And I used to work at LA Times! Even after the Red Medicine incident, I still only have a vague notion of what she looks like. The picture the Red Medicine people took was not very clear and I only saw it once or twice way back then when I was reading about it.
As for Jonathan Gold – I recognized him right away already when I went to the Gold Standard at Smashbox Studio in WeHo back in March 2009. I wasn’t really an avid reader of food blogs then, but it was obvious to me when I saw him that it was him – the way he acted, the way he looked and the bits and pieces that I put together. I guess you can say in the midst of me running back and forth getting food and cocktails, I did my own amateur version of profiling. He is way less anonymous than SIV, way, way less. Which is fine, if that’s what he wants. I just think that in this case, he cannot have his cake and eat it too. Lashing out at other bloggers covering a media event that he hosts is not the way to go about it if he misses being anonymous.
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