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Apr 6, 2007 06:58 AM

Dealing with food snobbery?

OK- my girlfriend and I adore doing the fine dining thing- we love things like foie gras, waygu beef, kobe beef, tartre, etc, but recently we are noticing a lot of people out at our favorite restaurants being what I'd call "food snobs". Really complaining about wet aged vs. dry aged (not just discussing, but complaining when they find out that something is wet aged rather than dry aged) and the such.

Two questions- with the rise in the awareness of food are you encountering more food snobbery?

Second, how do you deal with it when it presents itself at your table?

I'm also curious as to how you define food snobbery.

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  1. I have seen the same thing among friends concerning the preparation of certain beverages. Its like it can be so easy to become almost obsessive about the tiniest details rather than just enjoying things for what they are. I try to just let it roll around me and I certainly try not to deflect it onto a waiter or server unless something is truly amiss.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jimmy Buffet

      To me a food snob eats only "fancy" trendy food. They are not eating for enjoyment. They eat food that someone told them to or they have read about. Next month it will be some other food trend.

      When I run into food snobbery I handle it two ways. If I care about the people, I let them run on. I might put in my two cents about the worth of all types of food. If they are people I really don't give a hoot about, I become very Southern Belle and do some Bless your hearts. And then tell them about the incredible food we have had in some hole in the wall. I do love to shock them with food stories from the "bad" part of town.

    2. i've worked in fine dining a long time and most of my friends are in some facet of the industry. we're all well-schooled in food and wine.

      at work, i've had to deal with the people to whom you refer. usually they're trying to show off for the other people at the table. best thing i can do is humor them and best thing you can do is ignore them. needless whining and complaining ruins everybody else's meal. i'll bet you a nickel in a blind test 95% of those people couldn't tell a wet-aged steak from a dry-aged one.

      if they are acquaintances of yours, i'd skip dining out with them in the future. simple.

      1 Reply
      1. re: hotoynoodle

        I agree--a food snob is a show off for their own gratification. This is not to be confused with food enthusiam--when a person genuinely gets excited about food in spite of it's trendiness. A food snob will also proclaim that theirs is the definative opinion in the matters of taste and preference (which are subjective).

        Beware of jumping to the conclusion that someone is a food snob, though. A guy I knew once ended up with egg on his face when he started making fun of another guy who was explaining the Maillard reaction and why it makes steak taste so good. Later, the first guy started moaning about what a food snob the second guy was. Then I pointed out the second guy was Harold McGee. So who is the real snob?

      2. Agreed, I have seen this too. Here is my thinking: I love food. I love fresh food prepared simply with the best ingredients. I love creative dishes that infuse various flavors and textures. That being said, I believe all food has its place. Sometimes my dinner is a frozen Lean Cuisine pizza and I think that is fine. I get tired of food snobs insisting that a love for the finer tgings means you must shun all others. Nothing wrong with the occasional box of Kraft Mac and Cheese. I agree with hotoynoodle, these folks are just trying to impress people.

        1. I think there's a lot of food snobbery out there, and on these boards. When I dine out, I do so with a positive attitude. I rarely expect to be completely wowed, and am therefore pleasantly surprised when I am. If there's something wrong with my dish, I will say something to the server, and have never been rebuked. But I don't complain and make the other people around me feel uncomfortable.

          I think of it like going to the movies. I went with some friends not too long ago. All of us had read the book. I went to the movie expecting to be entertained. One of my friends apparently went expecting to be wowed. He was disappointed and complained all through our drinks afterwards. I found the movie to be fun and didn't stress.

          14 Replies
          1. re: mojoeater

            That's what I was going to say... how do you deal with food snobbery on Chowhound? To me, it's one in the same- whether you're at my table or on a thread with me! Ignore is the key word, in my opinion.

            1. re: Katie Nell

              Sometimes it's so hard to ignore it when people are snobby on CH! I have been stewing all week about this one super-snobby comment someone made about something I posted, but have managed to have enough self control not to write anything back. Argh!

              1. re: operagirl

                operagirl, I agree. Sometimes it is hard to ignore food snobbery on CH!
                Don't even get me started about the sushi snobs who believe you are an idiot if you even mention that you like sushi rolls.
                What is a food snob? Someone who looks down upon others because of their likes or dislikes. There's nothing wrong with having strong beliefs about food and what you like or don't like, but there's no need to push your beliefs onto others. Each person has a right to their own opinion, whether someone else thinks it is right or wrong. Life is way too short to get stressed out because someone is putting cheese on their seafood pasta, or likes packaged cake mixes, or things with HFCS, or sushi rolls, or (god forbid) a chain restaurant.
                I like what I like, and no one is going to push me around and force me to not eat something that I like. Yep, you're going to see me grate parmesan on my seafood linguine. Then I'm going to eat a California roll. And go to Red Lobster. Because it's what I like.
                Let 'em be snobby, I say. It's only stressing THEM out.

                1. re: QueenB

                  Just remember- what they eat doesn't fill your stomach :)

                  1. re: QueenB

                    My sentiments exactly. Eat and let eat!

                    1. re: QueenB

                      Loved your post. Sometimes it feels very lonely to take a stand against a strong wave of sentiment - in the case of CH, food-related sentiments. And I am so sick of hearing about the evils of HFCS I can't even begin to tell you. And when it seemed like the whole world was "low-carbing", I thought I was going to lose my mind the next time someone tried to talk to me earnestly about how bad carbohydrates are for you - but it was ok to eat pounds of bacon.

                      I guess this isn't really food "snobbery". It's more like food fascism.

                      1. re: QueenB

                        I'm with ya, QueenB. BBQ snobs, coffee snobs, they all make me nuts.

                        1. re: QueenB

                          Hi QueenB - LittleBee here :-)

                          just to say I like your name! ....and I agree.

                          1. re: QueenB

                            So True!!
                            I had a an annoying commenter on one of these forums because I made the mistake of admitting I like a chain restaurant. Honestly, I didn't even know it was a chain, I'd never seen one before. I mentioned I hadn't known but still enjoyed the place and then they kept re-posting that I was wrong and should never go there. But, I like it!

                            We are really into organic foods. We cannot always afford to buy organic so we just do our best. This is not something I say out-loud to food snobs anymore! Wow, people have no idea what it is to not be able to afford a green bell pepper at $9.99 per pound and have no idea why we would buy the conventional one instead. No, really, this happened tonight at our local co-op.

                            Yeah, we do what we like, we do what we can and we try not to judge others for doing things differently. ...I put grated parmesan on my seafood pasta too...

                            1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                              In the end, it is about what one enjoys!

                              Never loose sight of that.

                              Same for wines. If you like X, but the critics judge it down, do not worry. It is about what YOU like, and no one should try to tell you differently.

                              Over my vast lifespan, there have been a few "chains," that did it for me. One was a particular Pizza Hut, in Gulfport, MS, that made the ultimate pies. Now, the owner of that franchise was probably responsible, as I have tried many others, with poor results. Still, and even with Pizzaria Bianco just down the road, their's were the ultimate.

                              Another chain, that caught my palate was El Chico, out of Dallas. There was one location, in Metairie, LA, and their dishes were great Tex-Mex. I have dined at the original, and several others, and never had such good food.

                              One of my favorite steakhouses (not really a "steakhouse guy"), locally, is Capital Grille in Phoenix. I have dined at several of their restaurants, and each has been good, but the Phoenix store has always come through, against the top of the top here.

                              Going way, way back, another chain, Tiffin Inn, a pancake house, in Lafayette, LA was excellent. Their blintzes were wonderful, and they actually used Sherry on them. Other iterations of that chain - uh, not so good.

                              It depends, and in very general terms, I shy from "chains."

                              Do not let anyone "diss" what YOU like.


                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                Thanks, Bill.

                                I replied to that poster but just realized her post was from four years ago!

                                Still, it is nice to be reminded that we shouldn't worry if others don't like what we like.

                                Plus, you reminded me of El Cholo, a chain that I adore...mainly for their flan but also their food. What can I say, I'm from Los Angeles and I love that place.

                                Anyway, thanks.

                                1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                                  Old threads ("zombies") can still prove useful.

                                  Now, if the subject is "Please help me book a restaurant for my bridal shower next week," later replies might not be useful to the OP, but just might be to someone, finding the thread, years later.

                                  Some folk get very hung up, when a zombie arises, but if the discussion still has value, then what is the big deal?


                          2. re: operagirl

                            oh i hear that! The comebacks always sound better in your mind though. I do love this thread. I was feeling kinda down about food/foodies/know-it-alls this week and this thread has shown me that not everyone is like that. Unfortunatly those people are just louder!

                        2. Food snobs are people who tear apart and dismiss food that I enjoy. A connosieur is someone who inspects and declares delicious food that I like :)

                          To me, snob is just another way to refer to a person who know what they like, want what they like, and don't want to settle for less. This appeals to food, music, clothing, whatever. As a result, food snobbery is a relative term, really depending on what circle you travel in at the time. I have friends who are perfectly happy visiting the same inexpensive (but still tasty) places for lunch every week, ordering from a few select items. I have other friends who claim they can't stand to have food from the same country more than twice a week, even if it's as different as sushi is to ramen.

                          I'm seen as relatively snobbish to my less-discerning friends, but not discriminating enough to the second group. I have found I enjoy dining with both groups and in fact couldn't stand the idea of only having one group to eat with. I know who to call when I want to make a taco stand run and who to call when I feel like having wine and cheese.

                          I'm still very new to the chowhound world, having only recently followed my love of food to the realm of foodblogging and the like. I definitely think the net and digital photography have resulted in an increase in food awareness, and to a lesser degree, food snobbery.

                          20 Replies
                          1. re: MeAndroo

                            I don't agree with your definition of snobbery. There's nothing wrong with knowing what you like.

                            IMO, you only become a snob when: a) you see a product or food as a status symbol rather than a pleasure; b) you refuse to try certain things because they're not "chowish" enough; c) you start to look down on people who don't share your tastes.

                            1. re: piccola

                              I think the big one is "Looking down on people who don't share your tastes." There's a reason chain restaurants and prepackages foods are successful - Americans want them and like them. I may not, but how can I say that 90% of the population is stupid? It's their choice.

                              1. re: mojoeater

                                I can say it. I am, however, polite enough not to say it to their faces.

                                I have no problem with discernment and taste, what I do have problems with are people who 1) equate price and "classiness" with goodness, 2) feel the need to loudly show off their taste to others, or 3), and worst of all, feel the need to gripe and complain about everything, be impolite about the choices of others, and not just enjoy the company of friends or family. It's only one meal out of the many you'll eat in your life.

                              2. re: piccola

                                Perhaps I should have made it snob is just another DERROGATORY way to refer to a person who know what they like, want what they like, and don't want to settle for less.

                                I don't think snobbery has to necessarilly be condescending or even convey a sense of superiority in terms of other people. You can say "this food isn't good enough for me" without saying you're better than people who don't agree.

                                1. re: MeAndroo

                                  But if you simply said "this food isn't good enough for me" you wouldn't be a snob. You'd be the rest of us, who can look at something and realize the value it holds for someone else and just not enjoy it. The thing is there has to be a derragatory word for it--there' two sides to every coin. The point here is that a food snob is the derrogatory, not simply a foodie who doesn't like his charcuterie but a sour puss who will look down on you because you did.

                                  1. re: rachaels

                                    Snobbery is a matter of tone, attitude, and language. The moment you say "this food isn't good enough for me" to a dining companion who's enjoying his meal, you ARE saying your taste is superior. Compare to simply saying "I don't like this dish". The first statement condescends and judges not just the food, but those who enjoy it (it's a more polite way of saying "how can you eat this crap??"); the second statement simply expresses an opinion of the food without the extra baggage.

                                  2. re: MeAndroo

                                    There is nothing wrong with having preferences and standards. We all do. However the word ‘snob’ has is in of it’s self a negative one. Snobbery is a form of self-aggrandizing. To try and put a positive spin on it simply doesn’t work. It’s like saying (extreme example) a racist is really not a bad person but merely someone who enjoys the company of others.

                                2. re: MeAndroo

                                  I've noticed that anyone who drives faster than me on the interstate is a maniac and anyone who drives slower is a cretin. Same with food snobbery.

                                  But what about the equally yet more insidious snobby attitude of eating at divy places to get the "true" flavor of various foods: chinese, barbecue and central american spring to mind? This is typically accompanied by derision of people who head to a perhaps more mainstream or accessible location.

                                  1. re: thinks too much

                                    I have a friend who swears by 'authentic' places that invariably are dives. We ate at one where he was raving about the subtle flavors, unusual spices, etc. Meanwhile, I peeked in the kitchen and saw prepackaged jars of sauces and such that were obviously not authentic in any way. The food was OK, but not worth raving about. And I'd prefer a place where I'm not scared of the bathroom (which was right next to the kitchen - even had an adjoining door!).

                                    1. re: mojoeater

                                      LOL! Don't get me wrong. I love the fun of getting great food in cheap, dodgy places, but because it's a dive does not make the food great. And clean bathrooms don't mean that the food is lousy.

                                      1. re: thinks too much

                                        And, conversely, great decor and clean bathrooms don't mean it's a good restaurant. I'm amazed at how many folks still seem to miss this. Some physically beautiful restaurants serve very mediocre and overpriced food, and some are indeed excellent. Some dives are absolutely great, and others serve food that's lousy to downright inedible.

                                        1. re: thinks too much

                                          But a clean bathroom usually means a clean kitchen...
                                          If the workers don't have time enough to keep the bathroom clean, they are not very likely to wash their hands at appropriate times:)

                                          1. re: drmimi

                                            That's not true at all. It's a silly misconception. Think of it this way- you have limited time and limited resources- do you want the dude scrubbing down the toilet or back there making sure his workstation is clean in the middle of a rush so you can get good food?

                                            1. re: jpschust

                                              And is he washing his hands after scrubbing that toilet?
                                              Oh, I just grossed myself out.

                                              I avoid this problem by using restaurant bathrooms (and most other public bathrooms) in only emergency situations.

                                            2. re: drmimi

                                              the restaurant crew should NOT be scrubbing the bathroom, then going back to work in the kitchen--- that's why most restaurants hire outside cleaners to come in to do sweep floors, vacuum, scrub the john, etc. when the restaurant is closed. to a point, the employees should straighten things up, empty overflowing trash, pick up the paper towel on the floor, but scrubbing the toilets should be another person's job.

                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                I think in most small restaurants, certainly here in NYC, the employees clean everything - bathrooms included. Hiring outside contractors is far too expensive for these sorts of businesses.

                                                1. re: Woodside Al

                                                  well for real small places, it isn't uncommon for the owner or mgr to clean the restroom, but the real "scrubbing" work is still done after hours. cooks generally don't clean restrooms--unless it's the last thing they do before going home.

                                                  1. re: soupkitten

                                                    Unless some schmuck manages to clog the toilet... then you have no choice but to stop what you're doing and fix it. Man, I HATE that, cause I'm usually the one that's gotta take care of it... even if I'm in the middle of prepping lunch or baking.

                                                    Not to threadjack, but I gotta think people don't use a 1/2 roll of TP at home, so why do it when you're out?

                                                    1. re: soupkitten

                                                      Usually it's the dishwasher or other worker low on the totem pole. Certainly not the chef.

                                                      1. re: mojoeater

                                                        i was going to say barback, but does not apply to all places. . .