4.16.13: Zagat v. Bayless / GPS


Rick Bayless Corrects Lazy Zagat “Interview”

Last week, renowned Chicago chef Rick Bayless visited San Francisco. During an event he was approached by a Zagat blogger, who conducted an off-the-cuff “interview.” Then, she typed up the results and turned them into a Q&A, complete with a bit of liberal interpretation. Instead of favorable coverage, SF food-based headlines screamed things like, “Rick Bayless Trashes San Francisco Food,” and, “Rick Bayless Says SF Food is Boring.” So, Bayless, feeling as if his words were taken out of context, took to Twitter, and then the article’s own comments section, to clarify his statements.

He says, “I am sorry that this interview came out this way. This is from a 3 or 4 minute interview (I didn’t even understand that it was an interview when we started) between two sessions at the IACP conference. I was just answering a bunch of unrelated questions with off-the-cuff comments that were cryptic at best. These words do not represent my full opinions.” He continues (and it’s worth reading his full response.)

Lazy journalism is a topic for another time, but kudos to Chef Bayless for working to quickly — and authentically — clarify his points . You don’t have to work in PR or marketing to understand the importance of a thoughtful public persona — especially in a city like San Francisco, where chefs are like rockstars.

[Also worth noting that the snarky last lines of the “interview” have since been removed. They read:

RB: I am curious to check out Nopalito. What’s it like?

Zagat: It’s wonderful, but I’m afraid you’d tell me it’s too Californicated and “similar.”]


Ozersky on why Zagat is Irrelevant; What’s Next

If that last Bayless piece hasn’t convinced you that Zagat is a dinosaur these days, perhaps Esquire columnist Josh Ozersky can. In his “Eat Like a Man Q&A” (near the end of the page), Ozersky answers the question, “Do you think dining guide books like Michelin and Zagat are becoming irrelevant in the digital age?” Predictably, he pans both of them, particularly Zagat and its “community peopled entirely by middle-aged flibbertigibbets.” [Exhibit B: Zagat can’t spell San Francisco.]

Ozersky mentions sites like Yelp, calling them “or something like them” the future, but thankfully also says, “There will always be a few writers whose opinions you trust or are at least interested in, and they can sometimes be correctives to the hive-mind aspects of foodie discourse.” Bottom line: books are for old people, the social web is the review medium of the future.” Here’s hoping smart people continue to iterate and expand on new models and methods of disseminating this information.


Restaurants Target Your Table with GPS

Last week’s New York Times Magazine — its annual food issue — contained an interesting piece on fast food penned by Mark Bittman, a food writer I’d consider best of breed. The article is full of interesting thoughts and recipes surrounding the current state of “fast” food in the US. But for purposes of my interests, it also contained an interesting detail of an emerging “fast” food chain called Lyfe (Love your food everyday, groan): in an effort to streamline food ordering, cooking and serving processes, Lyfe will use GPS enabled coasters so servers can deliver orders to diners in their dining room. (Also of note: the chain will allow online and mobile app-based ordering — not new concepts, but forward-thinking nonetheless.) The goal of all this technology: to cook and serve fast food that’s also nutritious and delicious.


Cooking with “the Synthetic Gastronomist”

We live in the future, and it’s a future where we can teach robots to cook. A New Yorker writer visited Manhattan’s Institute of Culinary Education for a taste of a new kind of collaborative meal: one created partially by chef, partially by robot. The machine doesn’t physically make the food; rather, you tell it what you want (in the case of the New Yorker piece, “Indian ceviche with fruit and tequila), and the program suggests how to create it (using red cabbage, in this example, because of its flavor profile.)

The program seems a hugely complex model of flavor profiles and notes on ethnic cuisine, but, like any creative endeavor, cooking is still best given a human component. The computer doesn’t have full reign… yet. But as we hunger for new flavors, unique combinations, and dishes that stand out on restaurant menus everywhere, this could be quite a tool to profile the tastes of the future.

More via The New Yorker.


SF Chron’s Michael Bauer: “Why Are Commenters So Mean?”

The Internet and its cloak of anonymity solicits all kinds of ridiculous, and SF Chron restaurant critic Michael Bauer doesn’t like it. He was so miffed about angry comments on a recent review of the $298/plate Saison tasting menu that he wrote a column dedicated to the Internet nasties. Commenters on the Saison review, he says, mostly mock the chefs who cook and the patrons who dine at such a pricey restaurant. He defends them, likening the experience to a nice vacation or a great concert, and really, why do you care what other people spend their money on? Unsurprisingly, commenters on this piece tell Bauer he deserved the nastiness. “What do you think will happen when you write a column about a $300 tasting menu?” Oh, anonymous Internet commenters. Take it to Yelp and respect a seasoned vet on the restaurant review scene.


A Dollar For Your Instagram

…Maybe even two! Brooklyn cheap-hunting site Brokelyn spotted a savvy vendor during Williamsburg’s Smorgasburg (a weekly event from Brooklyn Flea allowing food vendors set up booths along the W’burg waterfront). Falafel purveyor Saucy by Nature offered $1 limeaid (normally $3) to anyone willing to Instagram or tweet a photo of the stand. Prove you shilled for the cause, and a cheap beverage is yours. Smart.


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