Alinea's Grant Achatz Will Read Your Blog
Chicagoist has a really fantastic interview with Grant Achatz of Chicago's highly-acclaimed Alinea, talking about all sorts of things like his philosophy as a chef and restauranteur, and how his creative process works in his kitchen and with his colleagues. This was my favorite thing to read:
C: What food-related websites or media do you keep an eye on, for ideas and feedback?
GA: I do it a lot less now, but I used to be really into all the blogs, like eGullet, LTHForum, all of those. I don’t read them so much anymore, I don’t know why. I feel that some of it is that they’re losing some credibility. There’s a lot of good, honest material there, then there’s a lot of … bullshit. You know, where, at the beginning (of these sites), there was a lot of useful information, honest information. Now, somehow, I feel that maybe it’s a lot of people using it as a microphone to hear themselves. Then it becomes less credible. But what I’ve always enjoyed about it is it's the voice of the guest. If people come here and have a lousy time for a particular reason, are they ever going to come back to the kitchen and tell me? No, it’ll never happen. You might get a phone call the next day, or the occasional letter. But, if they immediately go online and list their complaints, I’ll know and then I can fix it. So it was always about the instant understanding of how people perceive the experience. That’s why I read them.
Every once in a while I read interviews with chefs or owners talking about how much they hate that people can so easily write negative things about their food or their service on the internet, and every single time I've immediately put their names and establishments on my "never give them a dime of my money" list. Don't they realize they're badmouthing customers? And, in my case, turning off potential customers? Heaven forbid I eat at one of their restaurants and the food is bad or my waiter rude—what's to make me think I'm going to be treated any better if I complain about it there? My list of places that I know for sure will do right by me is pretty long, and life is too short for me to spend any of my time or money somewhere that might treat me like dirt.
Getting poor reviews for what you've basically put your entire life into is hard and hurtful, no matter what industry you're in. If someone's just talking smack, life is too short to spend time worrying on what crazy people think—let it slide right off your back. If the criticism is valid, then it does you a service to learn from what's been said and move forward.