Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Food Media & News >
Aug 27, 2007 09:52 AM

what's the scope on Phantom Gourmet

I'm new to Boston area and have caught the Phantom several times on Saturday mornings.
Maybe I'm a bite cynical but are these resturants paying to be featured on this show. I have tried several of his recommendation and some are good and some ok. But how do you know where the advertising hype stops and the real critical review starts. Im confused.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. The Phantom has been on for years now. He's there for entertainment and to sell ads. You want the real scoop, you come here. OK?

    1. Here's two (relatively) recent threads on Phantom Gourmet:

      About the radio show:
      About the TV show (I think):

      1. Try TV Diner, it's a little better (although the host can be just as annoying sometimes).

        6 Replies
        1. re: pamalamb

          I don't find TV Diner any better. In fact, for the actual reviews (which are becoming more and more rare on both shows), the Phantom seems somewhat more trustworthy.

          TV Diner gives about 9 out of every 10 places a Gold or Platinum Plate.

          1. re: Bostonbob3

            I guess for me, I prefer TV Diner because they don't review places like Dunkin' Donuts or Chili's.

            1. re: pamalamb

              True. But if they did, they'd both get Gold Plates.

              1. re: pamalamb

                i think that reviews for donut shops or chili's (chains) have their place in the worlds of chow hounds and foodies etc

                1. re: foodperv

                  I'm all for reviews of chains (hell, I eat in some quite often), but the Andelmans tend to gush over them like they're newcomers or revelations to the scene.

                  1. re: foodperv

                    While there's no enforced gospel, there is a history of understanding that chowhounds are different from foodies in that they look for the real food finds. They don't follow the crowd - they're the anti-zagat. That distinction is often frowned upon or taken very loosely - and that's ok. Ultimately, if you love food, you love food - chain, low-brow, gourmet, or whatever. There is even an entire Board dedicated to chains.

                    So it's really not worth rehashing - except in the context of this thread. What Phantom Gourmet represents is the ultimate development of a money-making entertainment product that is based on food. Obviously, to make the most money, you shoot for the biggest market - which is chains and other mediocre markets. Sure, you make a stab at showing that you're serious about good food - but in reality, you're after the buck almighty, and the more people who attend your silly festivals, buy your merchandise, go to your selected restaurants that are kicking back in the form of ads and filling air time - the more money you make. It's a business model that really excludes the very concept of finds. Majority rules, and as we all know, the majority eats at McDonald's.

                    "Food finds" is all about new - new foods, new styles. It's not necessarily hi-brow: It can mean a food stand as easily as a new authentic, ethnic restaurant, or indeed, a wonderful new inspiration by a hi-end chef. These places and dishes aren't going to be in the Great 8. Even the Phantom reviews aren't generally going to be about such places. If chowhounds are anti-zagat, then they're vehemently anti-phantom's restaurant guide.

            2. I think you're right to be confused. I believe much of the content of the Phantom Gourment is "pay-for-play", i.e., a restaurant pays the Phantom money to be featured in a segment, or agrees to buy advertising in return for being featured in some segment, or for an appearance in one of the "best of" lists, which they call the "Great Ate".

              To the casual viewer/listener, these placements look/sound just like the unbiased opinions of an impartial critic, when in fact the restaurant has paid for the good review or mention. Since they do this without any disclaimer warning viewers of this funny business, I think these guys are unethical.

              Here's how I read the show: the numbered rating reviews (scale of 0-100) appear less like ads, more like unbiased reviews. You might get some good tips here. But you might not, since the Phantom purportedly uses a rotating panel of secret reviewers, so you don't know if you're getting an amalgamation of several people's opinions, or whether the rating is coming from a single reviewer whose opinions you know enough about to have reason to trust or distrust them.

              The Great Ate (top 8 picks in a category) placements appear to me to be largely bought and paid for, heavily stocked with restaurants whose ads have recently appeared on the show, or will appear on subsequent shows a week or two later.

              Anytime Dave (the brother with heavily waxed hair who's on every week, but is not Dan, the main emcee) opens his mouth, he's shilling for someone who has paid him to do so. The places he loves inevitably turn out to be big buyers of commercial spots on the show. They're not particularly subtle, but they do appear to be raking in the cash.

              1 Reply
              1. re: MC Slim JB

                While I;'e always thought PG's actual reviews were at least given in good faith, I have to say that last Saturday's Mamma Maria rating shock that confidence.

                A 77.

                Crazy, if you ask me.

              2. Long ago I came to think of Phanton Gourment as an infomercial, and it's only gotten worse over time. The sad part is that there's no disclaimer just before the show airs, as there is with cut and dried paid programming.

                14 Replies
                1. re: SeaSide Tomato

                  I don't think the Phantom Gourmet, is unusual in not disclosing that restaurants are paying to be featured(if that's the case). I can think of 3 local radio or television programs in Montreal(where I live) that cover/profile restaurants, & these three do the same thing(restaurants HAVE TO PAY to be featured), & it's not disclosed to the public.

                  1. re: BLM

                    Agreed, there are hacks and sellouts and whores in every corner of the criticism business, but not every food reviewer is accepting payola. Folks shouldn't just shrug and say, "Everybody does it." Not everyone reviewing restaurants can be bought the way the Phantom apparently can.

                    (In fairness, I have to admit a grudging admiration for the Andelmans' entreprenurial spirit and success, if not their ethics.)

                    I think there are a lot of honest, maybe slightly naive people out there who expect honesty in other folks and take the Phantom at his word. To these people, I want say: "You see that smiling, slightly oily, fast-talking guy who seems like he's trying to set you up with a nice girl? In fact, he's a pimp, and that girl will not only take your money but give you an STD."

                    1. re: MC Slim JB

                      Name me a television restaurant review program(local or national), that doesn't except payola? I'm not disagreeing with you, just that it's the norm for the television industry, & the Andelman seems to be easy targets.

                      1. re: BLM

                        Let me see: national restaurant review programs? I'm not aware of any. Local to Boston? There's the Phantom Gourmet and TV Diner that I know of: the impartiality and/or critical acuity of both are suspect in my mind.

                        It sounds to me like you're saying, "Well, everybody does it, so it's okay."

                        I'm saying, "I don't care how many people do it, it's unethical. And in fact I know that not everybody in the restaurant reviewing business does it."

                        1. re: MC Slim JB

                          I'm saying don't only pick on the Andelman's. They're all frauds I'm saying!!!!!!

                          1. re: BLM

                            Fair enough. TV Diner is also a fraud. There, I think I've covered all the bases. As I said, I'm not aware of any national restaurant review shows. (Actually, I've only seen TV Diner a few times, but Billy Costa seems like the anti-Mikey: he loves everything.)

                            The reason the Phantom Gourmet gets discussed here is that there are people who like the show, attend their events, buy their books. Some of their fans say so on Chowhound. Others like the OP are new to Boston and ask about them. When the Phantom gets discussed here, Hounds who think it's a weak, unfunny joke, and an insult to anyone who's trying to give honest advice about restaurants, tend to pipe up.

                            I personally object to them because they bring down the whole business of food criticism, tar everyone who gets paid to do restaurant reviews with that reputation for corruption. I like to remind people that not everyone offering restaurant advice is for sale. As the Andelmans happen to be particularly clumsy and unsubtle about their whoring, they get kicked around more here.

                        2. re: BLM

                          True enough. For me though, the problem with the show is that Dan adn Dave are terrible hosts. They have grating voices, laugh too much at their own not-funny jokes, and write terrible reviews. How many times do we have to hear something described as "impossibly sweet" or "impossibly large" If these things are impossible they wouldn't exist. And "worth the drive"? What does that even mean when dealing with an audience spread over thousands of square miles? Are they really suggesting driving from Caribou Maine all the way to southern Connecticut for a hamburger?
                          This show is way too dumbed-down. A shame, since the potential is there for greatness.

                        3. re: MC Slim JB

                          "The Phantom told me to go to Stephanie's, she emptied my bank account and now I have the clap." Thanks Phantom!

                          Still laughing! Great analogy

                      2. re: SeaSide Tomato

                        hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! "Infomercial" is an excellent, and I believe very accurate, summary.

                        It's crap. I am always wary of their advice - in fact, more often than not, if they rave about a place, I stay far, far away.

                        1. re: lisa13

                          I think you guys are too harsh. I enjoy the PG. I watch the show, I go to the events, I buy the book. Sure it can be cheesy but I'm not one to turn my attention to boring and stuffy. I live in the burbs. I'm that person that goes to Dunkin everyday and Chili's once a week with co-workers. I don't live in the city and I don't eat high end everyday. I have a four year old and most of the time, I'm lucky to eat my food while it's hot. I find it helpful to find new, affordable places that I can take my kid or a nice place that I'm not going to frequent often. If I'm going to spend a reasonable amount of money to eat, I'm going to look for some advice so I know my money won't be wasted. Ultimately, I'm going to make my own decisions.

                          And who doesn't have sponsors? Commercials and advertising are pretty unavoidable, you can't turn on the television without one, even satellite radio that claims to be commercial free, isn't.

                          1. re: BaileysMom521

                            Well, yes, everyone has sponsors. The obvious point that so many Phantom fans seem to be missing is that not everyone who reviews restaurants is so nakedly influenced by their sponsors as the Phantom.

                            There's plenty of more trustworthy advice out there that meets your requirements -- like here, for instance, where very few people eat high-end every day, and lots of folks are looking for new, affordable, kid-friendly, everyday places.

                            1. re: MC Slim JB

                              A inherant problems with these type of programs is that they are paying to be on-air, so that requires them to bring in their own sponsors. Larry King is not expected to bring in his own sponsors for his CNN television program.

                              1. re: MC Slim JB

                                Any idea how many new episodes are produced per year? How much the restaurants are paying for the commercials that appear during the show(it's a semi-national show, as WSBK is available as a option on cable & satellite systems across North America). Was the show any better when David Robichaud was hosting(I was a occasional watcher of PG when David was hosting, & now watch fairly regularly PG with Dan Andelman hosting, but I'm watching as an outsider based in Montreal(Canada)).

                                1. re: BLM

                                  The show was originally only on cable (NECN) and had Billy Costa hosting, with Dan "managing" the web site and running a short bit on the show that highlighted the web commentary. It was better then, but the payola pattern was established early on - there just wasn't as much need for payola on cable, so it wasn't so over-the-top. When they moved to WSBK/38, they droppped Billy, who started his own show (TV Diner). Robichaud wasn't as good as Costa but he was a lot better than Dan.

                                  This is show biz. They've learned from their dad (Eddie Andelman, a famous Boston radio sports talk show host for many, many years, and a sometimes guest on PG over the years). They just happened to choose food as their subject matter - for all the depth of information one gets from the show, they could as easily have stayed with sports or politics or anything else. But it's show biz - it's entertainment. If you like it, good for you. Just don't expect to learn anything.

                                  Chowhound works for people who like chains as well as people who are looking for the best Omakase experience. So there's no accounting for particular tastes or needs. There's no injunction against discussing the merits of big macs. But to the degree that chowhound encourages learning and discovery, PG ain't the place.

                                  Whether you're interested in the best hot dogs or the best real Kobe beef, you'll find out about it here long before it appears on PG. For example, Speeds has been a discussion point here for many, many years (there's a thread from 11/4/2000). And the quality of the discussion - whether of the ingredients, technique, or the dining experience as a whole - is much more detailed and full of divergent commentary.