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Dec 3, 2008 11:03 AM

Reviews and Reviewers [split from Toronto]

(This post was split from the Ontario board at: -- The Chowhound Team).

Media does not announce they are there to do a review.. they just show up under an assumed name...

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  1. Exactly what I was thinking.....

    9 Replies
    1. re: millygirl

      yeah I originally thought that but I've worked in PR long enough to know that isn't the case anymore.

      Truthfully, if a restaurant opens themselves up for a review, they open themselves up to the good and the bad. They normally assume the cost - regardless of what anyone tells you. The most outlets would like to hide this fact.

      With that said, with Castor being open since September now and not a single review written, I think it's safe to assume that it's naive to think that our restaurant reviewers are not getting the bill footed by Castor.

      Sorry to have been the barer of bad news. But, truthfully, it's not that bad. An honest reviewer will say what's on their mind, regardless of who pays the bill.

      1. re: sweatersister

        sweatersister - as someone who publishes a website that covers food in Toronto, and who knows people who review restaurants for several of Toronto's established media outlets, I think that you're twisting things slightly in your assertion that restaurants foot the bill for their reviews.

        When it comes to reviews in any of the major newspapers, Toronto Life, Taste T.O. (the site I co-publish) and several other online outlets, restaurant reviews are most definitely done anonymously (or as anonymously as possible - with someone who is known and recognisable, like Gina Mallet, it can be difficult), and nothing is comped.

        That said, it is common for a new restaurant, or an old restaurant launching a new menu, to invite food media to a launch party or dinner. Most reviewers from the major papers and magazines will not attend these sort of events, although the publication will sometimes send a different writer to cover it, and will present it as a profile or feature rather than an unbiased review.

        We take a similar approach at Taste T.O. - anonymous reviews are classified as reviews, while articles based on media dinners/events are listed a profiles, and generally include a follow-up visit where we interview the owner and/or chef.

        There are also outlets that rarely do anonymous reviews at all, but instead run profile features. Martini Boys is an example of this - with very few exceptions, almost all of their restaurant articles are profiles, featuring interviews with the chefs/owners, and not a lot of criticism towards the food.

        There are, of course, some media outlets that blur the line between the two. I think it was BlogTO that ran a feature on Steak a few months back that was billed as being a "review" when it was actually based on a media dinner, and when the writer or editor casually mentioned that in a follow-up comment, it caused a bit of a stink. But in most cases, any reader paying attention should be able to tell the difference.

        1. re: gregclow

          that's why I like Taste T.O. - a lot.

          I don't even both with Toronto Life anymore, I think they are arrogant.

          Personally, I don't care who foots the bill for a writer, it's the writer's onous to be ethical. Don't you agree? Media preview or no, if the restaurant puts so much effort into misrepresenting their food for one night - everyone loses out. Don't you agree?

          I would rather a writer who cannot be bought. I think there are a few of those in the city.

          Martini Boys, I get bored reading their articles, they are too long and self waxing. BlogTO I don't even bother with... I prefer Torontoist.

          Still why no review on Petit Castor?

          1. re: sweatersister

            I am not in the business but maybe we can connect the dots a little. Castor hired a chef prior to opening, held parties and got buzz going, prior to renovations being completed, likely with the assistance of Luke's journalism connections and Brad's restaurant connections. prior to opening there was some buzz about the food being good and the place being trendy. Then, the chef leaves (and I have to disclose that I know him and know why he left) just prior to the Wednesday official opening and they are still looking for permanent kitchen staff. So could it be that a review is not forthcoming because the "press" is cutting Castor a break until the dust settles and they have an opportunity to get staff in order and someone who can actually cook again?
            just a thought.

          2. re: gregclow

            Agree 100% I have known enough restaurants that have been shocked to find a review of themselves when they woke up on a Saturday morning to know that these things are not planned or paid for..

            In a way I would hate to be James Chatto every one in the industry knows him so when he just wants to go out and eat everyone must assume he is doing a review..

            1. re: OnDaGo

              Maybe you're on to something here. Reason why there haven't been any reviews of this place is because the security guards have been instructed to not let any recognized reviewer in.

              Eventually someone will get in. Ruth Reichl at the NY Times was legendary for her disguises and aliases and how she was never caught.

              1. re: TexSquared

                Or maybe Kates is not good looking enough to get in ;-)

              2. re: OnDaGo

                Chatto doesn't really do reviews any more. His main TL gig is the monthly Dining article, which rarely includes an anonymous review aspect. They have a number of freelancers that do the actual reviews, and all of them are done anonymously.

                1. re: gregclow

                  I know James Chatto very well and know that his fingers are still very much in that pudding; he still does several restaurant reviews a week. Of course, you are right, there are a number of freelancers doing reviews for TO Life, as well. And, to sweatersister, restaurants absolutely do not foot his bill; nor are they alerted to his presence (unless someone recognizes him upon his arrival) or his purpose.