Journalist in the streets, blogger in the sheets: Food journalists, food bloggers, food marketers.

It’s high time to reframe the food bloggers versus journalist debate.

Food blogging hasn’t been separate as a form of media from journalism since Conde Naste started food blogging in 2006. That’s the point that I argued that food blogging had died as a separate medium a few years ago. People like me who started as bloggers became journalists and got paid. Journalists tried their hand at blogging. Save for a few Luddites who write in the absence of the Internet, food blogging and journalism as practices have since been inextricably linked since the mid-00s.

The relative number of searches on Google for “food blog” is in decline. That peaked in 2010 which seems to suggest that for most readers, they’re just another form of web publishing, indistinguishable from any other online food media. If people are doing fewer specific searches for “food blog”, their relevance as a separate medium – one that readers value as something different from a newspaper or magazine website – is deteriorating. After just five years of corporate publishing, major publications are beginning to divest from food blogs.

Even though that shaky wall between food blogging and journalism as practices collapsed long ago, the debate about what divides food bloggers and food journalists as identities never ended because a third category of online food publisher grew: food marketers.

Food marketers write promotional copy on behalf of the food industry or to promote their personal brand in hope of remuneration from the industry. These are the people who attend the “make money with your blog” conferences, who are concerned with their brand; who want to build traffic to their blog to sell more of themselves. There is a fair degree of pride in the marketing work. They have media kits, show off successful collaborations with events and public relations agencies, ask for free meals, flights, hotels and airport transfers.

Much of the animosity between food bloggers and journalists is really between food marketers and journalists. Prior to the rise of food marketers, bloggers had little or no interest in getting paid; journalists drew a living wage. The decline of paid food writing work coincided with the willingness of food marketers to fill the content hole for next to nothing. Where being a journalist was a calling and a profession, being a food marketer was an aspirational lifestyle.

Like most marketing, food marketing is about an almost relentless positivity, happy words bleeding into the soft-focus cake shots; never eating a bad meal. Journalism is about truth and writing things that somebody doesn’t want to see printed, to paraphrase William Randolph Hearst’s maxim. It’s not to say that journalists have a monopoly on objectivity. The view from that particular tower is often the view from nowhere.

The big divide is around ethics. Journalists generally subscribe to an externally enforced code of ethics; marketers don’t because it could limit the size of their market or how they receive remuneration. Where journalism had a wall between editorial and advertising, food marketers are editorial and advertising. Food marketers also became the mould into which journalists are increasingly pressed, with the new demand to write “native advertising” alongside editorial work; and the idea that journalists themselves should be a brand.

The animosity between the remaining food bloggers and food marketers is that blogging seemed like more fun when there was no pressure for a success that was defined by traffic or cash or free meals; and that somehow food marketers are to blame for the cultural shift. Or at least, the expectation now on food bloggers from the rest of society is that they are all food marketers rather than a different sort of unique practice.

Melbourne’s Oldest Restaurants

Melbourne’s oldest restaurant is Florentino (est.1928), if you count restaurants opened on the same site, serving the same cuisine under the same name. The oldest continuously running restaurant (as far as I could find) is Cuckoo Restaurant in Olinda (est.1958) which took over the site from Quamby (est.1914). Even though they’re important to local cuisine, I’m not counting pubs. The oldest is the Duke of Wellington (est.1853) but it’s unclear if it has had a kitchen for that long.

Can you make generalisations about who will last a quarter of a century in the restaurant business? Is there a recipe for success in Melbourne?

Name yourself Jim and serve any cuisine at all as Jim’s Greek Tavern, Jimmy Watson’s (Italian), Jim Wong (Chinese) all attest. As for location, get in on Lygon Street and serve affordable Italian food, or as close to Parliament House as possible. Public servants obviously like to eat.

As for what to serve, it doesn’t seem to matter a great deal. The quarter century industry survivors run the gamut from some the world’s finest dining to unmitigated shit. There’s not any clear pattern as to what price point or level of service guarantees longevity. What does guarantee it is that they’re almost all family-friendly. If you go to any of them for a weekend lunch, I’d bet there would be more than one high chair. This is a list of restaurants where people went as children and still return as adults.

Here’s the list from the map: all of Melbourne’s restaurants older than 25 years as of today. Huge thanks to eatnik, essjayeff, stickifingers, mysecondhelping and dananikanpour for all the suggestions.

I’m sure that there are a large number missing: almost every suburban fish and chip shop will be 25 years old by now. It also omits chain restaurants. The first McDonalds opened in Melbourne (Glen Waverly) in 1973 and by 1982, there were 33. In the same year, there were 35 Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets. Burger King set foot in town in 1986. Also a word of caution about the opening years: they’re not necessarily exact. Quite a few were gleaned from reviews where they mention that a restaurant has “been open for more than 30 years” without mentioning an exact date.

If you know of any missing, comment below.

Name
Established
Cuisine
Abla's1979
Alasya Restaurant1978Lebanese
Bedi's Indian Restaurant1980Indian
Brunetti - Carlton1985Italian
Cafe Di Stasio1989Italian
Caffe e Cucina1988Italian
Casa Del Gelato1980Italian
Cuckoo Restaurant1958German
Donnini's Pasta1981Italian
Domenico's Pizza1968Italian
Dragon Boat Restaurant1986Chinese
Dunyazad Lebanese RestaurantLebanese
Flower Drum Restaurant1975Chinese
France-Soir1986French
Gaylord Indian Restaurant1985Indian
Golden Orchids Malaysian Restaurant1979Malaysian
Grossi Florentino1928Italian
Hanabishi Japanese Restaurant1988Japanese
Il Gambero1970Italian
Izakaya Chuji1989Japanese
Jim Wong Restaurant1968Chinese
Jimmy Watson's Wine Bar1935Italian
Jim's Greek Tavern1980Greek
Joe's GarageItalian
Kunis Japanese Restaurant1977Japanese
La Porchetta Carlton1985Italian
La Spaghettata Restaurant1984Italian
Lobster Cave1987Seafood
MariosItalian
Masani Italian Restaurant1984Italian
Paris Go BistroFrench
Patee Thai - Fitzroy1983Thai
Pellegrini's Espresso Bar1954Italian
Penang Coffee House1976Malaysian
Poon'sChinese
Ricardo's TrattoriaItalian
Shakahari Vegetarian Restaurant1972Vegetarian
Shark Fin Inn City1980Chinese
Spaghetti TreeItalian
Stokehouse1989Modern Australian
Stuzzichino Caffe Bar Spuntini1987Italian
Sukhothai Restaurant1989Thai
Supper Inn Chinese RestaurantChinese
Tandoori Den Camberwell1981Indian
Isthmus of Kra1989Thai
The Old Paper Shop DeliCaf‚
The Olive Tree1971Italian
The Waiters Club1947Italian
THY THY RestaurantVietnamese
TiamoItalian
Toto's Pizza House1961Italian
University Cafe1953Italian
Vlado's Charcoal Grill1964Steak
Warung Agus1989Indonesian
Geppetto Trattoria1981Italian
Eastern Bell1989Chinese

When food blogs stopped being food blogs

According to the data: 2010.

Or at least, that’s when interest in them began to plateau as a search term on Google and it’s probably a good marker of when they stopped growing as a medium in their own right and simply became part of the regular food media ecosystem where supply of food media well and truly outstripped demand. What hasn’t ever peaked is the nostalgia for the past era of food blogging where blogs were more fun, a nostalgia that started to coalesce around 2005. From Amateur Gourmet, today, commenting that food blogging is over:

Don’t believe that’s happening? Consider this: Eater.com, one of the most significant food blogs in existence, just hired three full-time restaurant critics. Meanwhile, the most popular recipe blogs are looking more and more like magazines. Can you really detect a difference between the imagery and presentation on blogs like Smitten Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks from the imagery you find in Martha Stewart Living or, more aptly, Bon Appetit?

As food blogs grow more and more professional, I’m left with a feeling of nostalgia for the “anything goes” era of blogging. That looseness, that scruffiness, was why food blogs were such an appealing alternative to more traditional media.

Vice is Hip Generator

You know that moment when you begin to suspect that a Twitter parody account is run by an algorithm? Maybe the Vice-like Twitter account @vice_is_hip is a bot, but just in case that it wasn’t, I built a bot to replace it. I present to you @vice_is_bot, generating an article for Vice every hour, on the hour.

Want to pitch something to Vice for yourself? You should write:

How this dubstep remix smoked crack with the Crips

Press reload for increasingly realistic ideas.

Cambodian rice is the best in the world

So it turns out that those people that I accused of romanticising Cambodian rice a few years ago were right. The Phka Malis variety is the best in the world. From the International Rice Research Institute:

Cambodian rice variety Phka Rumduol, often called Phka Malis or Cambodia Jasmine Rice by rice millers and traders, was chosen as the “World’s Best Rice” during the Rice Traders World Rice Conference held in Hong Kong in November 2013.

Rice samples from several countries, including Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Thailand, and the United States, were evaluated in several rounds based on raw (chalkiness, head rice, shape, and size) and cooked qualities (gloss, color, stickiness, flavor and texture).

This was not the first time Phka Rumduol was recognized as such. In a similar competition at Bali, Indonesia in 2012, the variety was also chosen as “World’s Best Rice.”

Via @sonnylebythebay

Google Search Trends 2013 are wrong.

Over the past few years, Google has released a set of listicle-friendly data to stuff into the maws of hungry time-poor journalists. Here’s the list of the biggest recipe searches in Australia for according to their 2013 report – those that are “Most searched – Search topics with the largest search volume”.

The weird thing this year is that it doesn’t add up – at least, if you use the publicly available data from Google Trends that the lists point towards. Here’s how two of Australia’s biggest recipe searches look for “chicken recipe” and “cake recipe” compared to the top few trends that they’ve listed.

Their “Overseas Destinations” chart maps “Disneyland” as the most popular overseas destination searched by Australians. Here’s how that compares to where Australians tend to go overseas on holiday.

Have I missed something? Anyone know why Google is a bit off this year?