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Aug 7, 2014 10:27 AM

Inviting Professional Voices to the Community


The food landscape has shifted dramatically in the years since Chowhound was founded. The love of food and the pursuit of deliciousness aren't niche interests for an obsessive few with a drawer full of take-out menus, they're a broadly shared passion.

The lines between professionals and amateurs have been shifting, too. Diners have become bloggers and critics, enthusiastic home cooks have launched food trucks, suburbanites have become farmers, farmers have become artisan producers, and the professional chefs have become celebrities and personalities. And across the internet, all of these groups mix, sharing ideas and information. The food-obsessed are no longer disenfranchised and invisible.

On Chowhound, we've held back from that wider and ever-expanding discussion, in order to keep the conversation here pure and unbiased. And there's been merit in that -- creating a space that's free from marketing pressures has been valuable.

But there’s also so much value in a larger conversation. We’ve been working to make it easier for people to make different kinds of posts -- sharing photos and links and asking questions -- and we’d also like to see different voices participating in the community. Diners, restaurateurs, bloggers, producers, and everyone who is passionate about food should be part of the conversation here.

With that in mind, we're stepping back from moderating industry voices out of Chowhound. Instead of limiting them to answering only specific, factual questions about their business, we'll welcome them to openly join conversations, to let us know what they're up to and share their knowledge. This applies to restaurant owners, employees, and insiders, and also other industry folks like suppliers, cookbook authors, etc. It also applies to bloggers and website owners who may want to link information they've posted on their own site.

Of course, it's still important that the conversation remain honest and friendly -- we're not inviting angry restaurateurs to abuse users who post negative reports, and fake reviews are still forbidden. And while the merest whiff of self-promotion isn't going to get a post removed or a poster banned, outright spamming from people who never join the conversation will remain unwelcome.

Though we expect it’ll take some time to find a new equilibrium on the site, as people work out how best to participate here, we’re looking forward to seeing some interesting and creative posts from folks in the industry. We’d love to see bartenders sharing the recipes for their house cocktails, chefs posting photo stories about their new menu, and cookbook authors answering questions about their books on Home Cooking.

  1. Good call.
    It'll be interesting to see who it attracts though.

    1. Looking forward to this; it should make for interesting new conversations/content.

      1. I really don't know whether to be worried or excited. Depends on how it's pulled off. Anyway, I'm posting to follow the thread, and I'll start making some popcorn just in case there's an entertaining shit storm (i honestly don't know whether to expect one or not).

        Does this mean I can speak openly about my experiences running a competitive cooking league (which is essentially defunct now anyway)?

        Someone should call Jbannister

        11 Replies
          1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

            It was actually a pretty casual, small-time league. There are some write ups and info if you follow the link in my profile, but we were pretty lazy about writing anything up, and people who competed besides me and the other guy I ran the league with never wrote anything up, so they never made it to the web. Actually competing was both waaayyy harder and waaayyy more fun than you might expect though. Interestingly, the other guy running it with me was able to use the competition as a way to get his foot in the door in the restaurant biz (jumping almost straight into cooking under a James Beard nominee and sous chef-type positions), which I've often wanted bring up in threads where people wonder whether they should drop $50k+ on culinary school.

            I've mentioned it a few times on CH, but I've always had to be pretty cryptic about the details, or the post would get removed. So most of the time it wasn't worth bringing up, even if it was relevant to some thread or another. But next time it's relevant to some thread, I'll try bringing it up in more detail.

          2. re: cowboyardee

            That seems likely to be totally fine, yes. And I have to admit I'm intrigued by the idea of a competitive cooking league.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Someone from Chowhound Administration should call Jbannister, apologize profusely and beg him to come back! Class act all the way, no bull sh*t & no net regurgitation. OK, I said my piece, now delete me!

              1. re: Tom34

                For that matter, does this mean that Joanie will be allowed to post on the Greater Boston Area board again? My understanding is that she was banned for having personal relationships with too many industry folks, even though she herself was not professionally affiliated.

                1. re: Allstonian

                  We've received one request already from a banned user, and we'll consider those requests on an individual basis. There are some posters who left or were banned because they refused to cooperate with requests that they not post about places where they had become friends of the house and received special treatment, and they'd likely be welcome to return at this point, though we would ask that they disclose any comps or special treatment they receive when talking about those restaurants. Neither of the people mentioned specifically is banned, though.

                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                    Without CH asking I mostly stopped posting about a place where we've established a bit of a relationship with the owner and I'm sure we at times are getting special treatment. I'm not sure I can be objective about it anymore. I think CH shouldn't change that stance.

                    1. re: c oliver

                      If you're a regular at a place, you'll probably get special treatment. Anybody else can do the same.

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        You can be a regular but never establish any kind of rapport with chefs/owners. When that wound up happening, I couldn't in good conscience go all in. I'll still mention the place if someone says 'hey, I'll be visiting...."

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I agree. There's a line in the sand between getting to know the owner, being recognized and warmly greeted by him/her, and receiving special treatment because you're a "regular." There are a couple of places in my neighborhood where I'm recognized, and even acknowledged by name, by the owners and servers. Maybe from time to time an app they're testing out is sent to the table with no charge. I don't think that changes my objectivity. If the place began to slip consistently, I wouldn't overlook it.

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            Oh, I definitely wouldn't overlook any problems, but I don't feel like I need to continue to praise them. When the owner gave me about a dozen morel mushrooms last year, I figured I really was an insider :)

              2. The risk here, of course, is in having restaurateurs and their PR minions posting endless niggling responses to defend against the tiniest criticisms. There are plenty of industry pros who are more sophisticated and tactful when it comes to responding to negative customer opinions in social media, but they're not the ones who historically have tried to post on Chowhound (where their comments were swiftly removed once the mods identified them as industry or industry-adjacent).

                In my experience, the chefs and owners who have tried to post here have been likelier to bring a John Tesar-like sense of decorum and restraint. I think it's going to take some assiduous moderation to prevent overzealous or hypersensitive industry folks from clogging up otherwise-useful discussion among actual Hounds.


                5 Replies
                1. re: MC Slim JB

                  We definitely see this as bringing new challenges to our moderation team, but they're smart, thoughtful folks, and they'll be able to help make this work.

                  When I presented these changes to our volunteer mods, one of the things we talked about was putting more focus on helping people participate well, instead of simply removing posts that don't meet a minimal standard. We expect to spend a lot more time in the future reaching out to folks and trying to guide them into being better posters, even if the posts they're making are not precisely against any particular rule.

                  1. re: Jacquilynne

                    "We expect to spend a lot more time in the future reaching out to folks and trying to guide them into being better posters ..."

                    I'm all for that, though I think moderating participation by people with vested interests will take more time than volunteers will be able to provide.

                  2. re: MC Slim JB

                    PR bullshit will be pretty obvious I think.

                    1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                      Obvious yes. To those who care. Will that number include the bosses here? I doubt it. Best guess is that this turns into shill city,