Here We Go: Yelp Reviewers’ Class Action Suit
These Yelp jokes practically write themselves. The latest: a class-action lawsuit against Yelp by a group of its users claiming they are unpaid writers. Seriously, it gets even better. The suit, filed in Los Angeles, alleges these unpaid writers have earned the company millions in revenue (honestly, they probably have), and were unjustly “fired” when Yelp downgraded them from “Yelp Elite” after they failed to produce the review quota necessary to earn that designation. For its part, Yelp is brushing off the lawsuit as completely frivolous. Which it, of course, is.
I don’t know where to start with this one. First: I’m all for contributing online content to the greater good. A simple, helpful review that can help to influence others’ dining decisions takes seconds to write and can have great impact. I am thankful for the good peer reviews. But Yelp’s “elite” designation seems to have blurred the lines for these maligned “writers” who actually fancy themselves restaurant reviewers. In actuality (warning: sweeping generalization), many line up to be the first to dine at a newly-opened location, often packed shoulder-to-shoulder with other “Yelp Elites” in some sort of weird competition to contribute some sort of review. Yelp, I assume, encourages reviewing to maintain its robust community as well as its business model. I don’t like many of their business practices, but I do respect the online forum they provide for honest reviews. Yelp: perhaps it’s time to downplay arbitrary status and rankings and focus on real, honest, helpful reviews.
Anthony Bourdain Tells the Story Behind the Story
Each week, Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” on CNN takes viewers to oft-overlooked parts of the world, explaining culture, tradition, and food known in the area. The format ranges from all-encompassing (dining in homes and tapas bars in Andalucia, Spain) to restaurant-centric (the episode spent foraging in Denmark for meals at Noma, a can’t-miss.)
In general, Bourdain’s no-BS attitude and narration conveys honesty and sincerity in a way that’s almost surprising from an admitted former heroin addict. But it’s the same edge and wit and perspective that makes for fascinating and unique television. For this past Sunday’s Tokyo episode, Bourdain penned a Tumblr entry, posted several days before the show’s airing. Besides being a fantastic supplement to the show, the entry also serves as a warning of sorts — setting up the show and sharing his (potentially controversial) experience in Tokyo. His use of Tumbr is so smart, and his voice is clear enough to almost hear him reading aloud as you read. Such a smart, savvy, simple way to give viewers and fans the complete picture — one they might miss by solely tuning into the show. Well done.
illustration by April V. Walters
The Power of the #Hashtag
Instagram has already emerged as a powerful tool for chefs and restaurants to market their business, and good content deserves the spotlight. As such: two great uses of Instagram hashtags that, when clicked, display a whole lot of delicious food. The first, from Food & Wine, encouraged chefs to post photos of fall squash dishes (its “seasonal muse”), including the hashtag #FWMuse. Predictably, they got a great chef turnout, spotlighting their favorite dishes in an online slideshow. (That first one from Stephanie Izard is making me so hungry right now.) Worth a look.
Second example: most San Franciscans know Michael Mina for at least one of his restaurants in the city (he has four, with more on the way), but his reach stretches nationwide, with restaurants on the east coast, the Las Vegas strip, the ski slopes of Wyoming, and more. This month, Mina and his restaurant group are promoting #MinaMoments — uniting all of the restaurants and staff with themed prompts for posting. Each day has a theme, and the response so far has been delicious-looking. (You’ll have to search within the app, sadly — Instagram sadly doesn’t support hashtag linking on the web.) Still, worth a look to support the initiative — a great way to unite otherwise disparate restaurants.
MORE FOOD PHOTOS
The Photography of Modernist Cuisine
Modernist Cuisine, the four-volume, hundreds-of-dollars food bible, is pulling back the curtain on its unique method of photography in a new book: The Photography of Modern Cuisine. The detailed, unbelievable, close-up book of food imagery weighs twelve pounds and costs $120, but for fans of the books (or just fans of food and food photography), it’s a must-have. Plus, images contain insider info on how they were actually produced — answering important questions like, “How do you levitate a sandwich to photograph it?”
A bonus: the NPR article about the book contains five tips for taking better food photos — and they aren’t ideas we’ve all heard a million times before. Awesome.
Food52 Acquires Real Time Farms
Great news! The consistently awesome food and recipe site Food52 has acquired Real Time Farms, a crowd-sourced, nationwide food guide aimed to help people understand where their food comes from. It contains information about tons of farms and farmers markets and local food producers, and will continue to do so under Food52’s watch. The most exciting part of this? The fact that a mainstream editorial content site like Food52 has placed a spotlight on this extremely important subject, and will use its nationwide platform to market the content to an even greater audience.
- Attention Farmers + Chefs: Farmplicity connects you to each other, allowing restaurants to order the best local fresh food — Farmplicity
- How not to self-promote on Twitter, by Rocco DiSpirito — @roccodispirito
- San Francisco restaurant enthusiasts: support fellow residents displaced by the fire at Maverick with one of these awesome t-shirts — Maverick Fund