The People vs Cheapo Food Bloggers and Bad English

This is a mini rant.

Friends know that my one guilty indulgence is reading food blogs ("flogs"). ("guilty" because I read them at work...yes, my boss reads this flog too) And Singapore, despite its little size, has a very developed food blogging scene. A quick surf on the internet will prove that there is an inordinate number of flogs for a country as tiny as ours. I suppose it's really due to the connectivity of our island, its technologically savvy netizens and their insatiable appetite and love for food.

But lately, I've noticed a worrying trend.

There is a growing number of flogs that I've stopped reading entirely, simply because almost 90% of their posts are all based on invited tastings. Don't these cheapos ever pay for their meals anymore?!? I've always thought that the (one of the primary) purpose(s) of writing a flog is to introduce to the good people of Singapore the various culinary treasures on our little island. An invited tasting will never be a fair assessment of the food served at the restaurant. The chef already knows that he's being judged and critiqued, and so the food will be the best possible quality produced, and service will be at its best behaviour. Just think: do you put in your best effort in your Chinese year-end exams or your weekly Chinese spelling tests? (I use this example because I would sometimes score a big fat zero on some of my Chinese spelling tests but still pass (reasonably well) for my year-end exams, because the year-end exams count and go on your transcripts forever, but nobody really cares too much about spelling tests because they are a weekly affair with no permanent implications.) It's the same with the chefs at such invited tastings.They put their best foot forward because they know that whatever they put on the plate will consequently be put on the internet, a permanent mark on their record of sorts.

Mind you, I'm not against invited tastings per se, just that some food blogs (you know who you are) don't even seem to pay for their own food anymore. Very rarely on these flogs do I see a post that's not an invited tasting. Do these people think that the typical diner will get to enjoy the same type of experience that a flogger gets at an invited tasting? The answer is a resounding and obvious "NO". This is why I always skip reading posts that are based on invited tastings. They're just not an accurate portrayal of the food usually served.

And if the flogger doesn't bother to even dine on his/her own dime anymore, and/or to critic food that's not an invited tasting, why would I even bother to read their flog at all? Their flog is full of inaccurate portrayals of the food actually served at such establishments on a daily affair! I've stopped taking them seriously as "food gurus" because most of their reviews are "tainted". Their flogs rarely contain reviews I'd rely on for honest and realistic recommendations for the best chow.

This is why, I think, more credible reviewers such as traditional media food critics tend to go back to the restaurant, after they've attended an invited tasting, to dine again, incognito, just to compare the food served during both occasions. Maybe floggers should do the same, to lend credibility to their reviews at such invited tastings.

I suppose there will always be the difference between the reviews by floggers and traditional media, the latter having more checks and tighter controls for accountability and credibility. The flogging scene's currently a bit like the Wild Wild West and there doesn't seem to be any checks on flogs. I'm thinking, surely the public court of opinion isn't enough to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Please bear in mind my irritation is directed at floggers who don't seem to blog about non-invited tastings anymore, whereby you'll be hard-pressed to find a post that's not based on an invited tasting. Those that blog about the occasional invited tastings are still alright, in my book. It's those extremely "commercialized" flogs that annoy the crap out of me.

Also, another pet peeve of mine is floggers who don't know how to use big words but attempt, miserably, to do so. Seriously, if your English isn't great, just use simple English. I've actually read a post wherein a flogger used the word "paranormal" to describe the view, when, I think, the word "panoramic" should have been used instead. I highly doubt that the view of the Marina Bay waterfront was supernaturally scary.

I have nothing against floggers who aren't very proficient in the English language, or those who make typographical errors (because even I'm not that meticulous in checking my work), or floggers who use slang (Singlish is, afterall, part of our local vernacular) or colloquial language. I applaud floggers who use their flogs in the betterment of their English. I can close one eye to small errors in grammar or spelling. But not pretentious try-hards who think that their 'engrish' is so 'powderful' that they make glaringly obvious CMI (cannot-make-it), ROTFL (roll-on-the-floor-laughing), forward-to-friends-for-LOL-moments, types of errors. Know your limits, and if you don't know what the meaning of the adjective is, don't use that to describe the food/view/ambience/service. Nobody will fault you for using plain, simple, English. Or else, check the dictionary. You're never too old to use one.

Okay, maybe the rant wasn't so mini afterall.


yixiao said...

gosh, some food bloggers ONLY write about invited tastings and product reviews these days ...

i'm not against invited tastings too as some start-ups need support from social media due to budget constraints ... but those bloggers really need a backbone (and they should be able to afford one since they don't have to pay for dining out).

Anonymous said...

Digressing slightly from your rant, but keeping to the ROFL notes, I once read a post by someone who visted an Italian eatery commenting that the "Anti-Pasta" menu was for people who didn't take to eating pasta. Not sure if this was a menu typo or a mis-reading, but it was quite amusing.

-just another avid "flog" reader

Cavalock said...

Hah, great rant. I hope to one day be a food blogger too!

Bern said...

The "Anti-Pasta" thing is hilarious! Thanks for making my Tuesday!

Bern said...

Hey Yixiao & Cavalock, figured that there will be people (like u both) who share the same sentiments!

Cavalock, you are already a food blogger, whether you know it or not. Any blog posts on food will naturally make you a food blogger. Keep it up. But remember to use spellcheck! :)

food for parties said...

Thanks it is very good blog..

Glenn said...

Hi! I've been an avid reader of your blog, albeit a rather quiet one. Ill have you know that I am in completely agreement with you on all the issues that you've raised. And frankly, I have stopped reading SO many blogs because of the invites. That was one reason why I stopped accepting invites on my blog.

FoodieFC said...


Wow, what a rant!

I am definitely one of those who have made spelling/grammar mistakes in my posts. Sometimes, I happen to read again or a reader informs me and I change it.

Personally, I feel nothing wrong, but not to overdo it till more than 50% are invited (due to the reasons such as those you have stated).

There are some blogs that does not even state it is an invited tasting. It is only when I happen to read another person's blog then I realised it is for the same event.

Just my 2 cents =)

ice said...

Hey Bern, I've been following your blog posts for quite a while and this rant totally echoed my thoughts. Ditto to everything you have said here. I specially can't stand it when bloggers try to use "big" words like "parental" or "opine"?!? when they can simply use "parents" or "think/believe". As a lawyer yourself, you should know that "big" words in everyday usage is such a major put-off.

jaden said...

Hi Bern,

Am totally with you on these. Most of these blogs read like advertorials. They have totally lost their hard won credibility in my humble opinion.

Am not against free tastings but the prominent ones (you know who you are) now just seem to delight in getting freebies and being treated like stars.

In the first place, what made them popular was their independence and refreshing reviews instead of being led through a choreographed makan session.

Anonymous said...

ladyironchef CMI


Anonymous said...

To be fair, I think one should pay for his meal & not get it for free. I remember a few years ago, MediaCorp was doing this programme on overseas spa & resort, they wrote to some place in India & told them that they will be filming the stay & it will be hosted by Zoe Tay. However, the condition is that it has to be free for Zoe & her crew. The resort rejected MEdiaCorp politely stating that they are welcome to come & do a write-up on the place but it wont be free! Of course, MediaCorp cancelled that trip! Kinda make me wonder if it's a holiday trip for some people.

Bern said...

To be fair, invited tastings per se aren't that abhorrent. Especially if done in moderation and even more so if the reviewer goes back to the restaurant incognito to review it a second time.

But, asking for a free meal/lodging in exchange for a review is a completely different story entirely. That's just downright cheapskate and so utterly disgusting. In fact, I think this is even worse than those cheapo bloggers whose reviews consist of only/largely invited tastings. If you can't pay for the meal/lodging yourself without asking for it to be complimentary, then don't eat/stay there. Eat/travel within your own means.

Chaozhouzi said...

Hi, stumbled on your blog through links I clicked. Bravo, keep up the good "words". Personally, when I read any blog post that is an invited review, I will avoid the place. Came across one post by a well known blogger about an outlet in town. He wax lyrical about the food but it folded within the year.

Anonymous said...

wow! hi to everyone!


Amasou Umasou said...

Haha, you know what, I actually did a word search on my blog to see if I did use 'paranormal' in one of my posts.

Not sure whether the last part is directed to me. Actually one of the purposes I started my blog was to force myself to write. Though I no longer see it serving that purpose well these days, I have to admit my photoshop skills have improved tremendously :p

Bern said...

@ Amasou:

That u actually went to do a word search is funny!

Don't worry, I honestly cannot remember which blog it was that misused the word "paranormal".

And you weren't a "target". I don't pay too much attention to which blog made which mistakes because they all just blend after a while. And I'm not OCD enough to pick out every single mistake a blogger makes. I ain't no grammar nazi, that's for sure! It was really directed at pretentious wannabe fools who think they're so clever using big words when they are, in fact, making the most laughable mistakes. People like you who blog to better their English tend to use spellcheck or double check with the dictionary so they usually don't make mistakes like "paranormal" or "Anti-Pasta". They usually make grammar mistakes instead, which is really fine by me.

Oh and talking about photoshop, I have to agree that setting up this blog has improved my photo-taking and picasa skills tremendously as well! (considering that I didn't even know how to use the macro function on my camera before) I still have no idea how to navigate photoshop...too cheem!

Karen aka superfinefeline said...

I enjoyed your post thoroughly and loved the "anti-pasta" joke in the comments that followed.

I especially loved this part of your comment:

"But, asking for a free meal/lodging in exchange for a review is a completely different story entirely. That's just downright cheapskate and so utterly disgusting. In fact, I think this is even worse than those cheapo bloggers whose reviews consist of only/largely invited tastings. If you can't pay for the meal/lodging yourself without asking for it to be complimentary, then don't eat/stay there. Eat/travel within your own means."

Disclosure: I do attend occasional tastings.


Anonymous said...

3 words: My Sentiments EXACTLY

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