“We need fewer food writers and more food reporters”

This New Republic piece from New York chef Kate Telfeyan, How Food Media Created Monsters in the Kitchen, draws a straight, searing line between all the high profile shitstorms re: abusive personalities that have been cropping up in both food media (think Bon App, Lucky Peach) and the restaurant industry (most recently at Brooklyn’s beloved Win Son). 

Telfeyan not only lays bare the codependent relationship that both industries are entangled in  but also criticizes the central point of view that almost all food writing takes, i.e. wherein the audience in mind is only ever the eater. What could food journalism look like if restaurants were treated as social institutions, Telfeyan asks, and food media treated its audience less like a gang of hungry open maws and more like individual parts of the larger economy and community? 

Anyway, you should read the whole thing (it’s not that long), but especially this part:

What’s really at stake here is how the food media approaches the task of covering the food industry. There are, of course, important exceptions, but the restaurant media, not unlike technology media in the breathless days of the big new iPhone reveal, is for the most part an uncritical hype machine. It still views its function as handing out recommendations and instructing people where and what to eat. But a restaurant is more than just its food: It’s a workplace, a repository of labor practices, a kitchen with its own particular culture and approach to the management of people and creativity. When so much of food coverage is devoted to celebrating and cultifying chefs as eccentric, demanding “creatives,” unbeholden to the ordinary rules of the workplace, can we be surprised that this new moment, in which many chefs and restaurant owners are being revealed as the abusive, domineering bosses they really are, has left the food media flat-footed? A pivot to a more critical, adversarial approach to covering restaurants seems unlikely as long as the food media is built on the idea of the chef as a singular creative mind.


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