shuna lydon

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« the politics of blogging about the restaurant one works in. | Main | /a new day »

16 March 2008


I am not a chef but I love Ideas in Food and my knowledge of the insides of a professional kitchen has been bettered by reading them.

I will now have to add Chadzilla.

It is too bad that these reputable sites as well as yours are not pushed more and quoted more in Serious Eats and Eater as opposed to the sites they do push.

i don't think the blog is the issue, it's the chef. As an example, the Tilth blog focuses more on the restaurant and the food than the personality and feelings of the chef. Your blog deals with emotion, raw uncensored emotion which obviously is a large part of the kitchen, but seems to be absent from a lot of the chef blogs out there right now. Presenting an opinion or a feeling on a blog connected to a restaurant somehow blurs the lines between a food blog and an online diary. Personally i want to hear about the passions, the angers, the drama and the good times that come with the job. Otherwise i could just look at the restaurants website.

Blogs are a form of theater performed by those who write them, people whose light and dark qualities are magnified and dramatized and self-edited. This makes for an interesting study of the human psyche. Some bloggers become drunk on the idea of cyberfame and a captive audience, while displaying little humility or discretion. Others become role models, teachers, muses. Reading a blog can seem strangely voyeuristic and submissive, especially the fact that bloggers can see who reads them and what links they click, deleting comments at will. While the blog has the potential to be a powerful, liberating, transcendent vehicle for the communication and connection our society craves, can we resist its darker narcissistic pull?

Is it appropriate to name names in a blog? I’d say this is a personal decision, one that depends on the intentions of the blogger, and whether doing so serves the purpose of the blog. I believe that any writer, blogger or otherwise, can say anything they need to say without disclosing sensitive personal information, and there’s a subtle dignity in such discretion, and yet there are times when giving something a name and a place grounds it in reality in a way sorely

In some ways our digital age has cheapened language, made it too easy, too throw-away, draining words of meaning. Sometimes it’s what isn’t said that holds the most power. At the end of the post or page, it’s the essence of the writing that matters. Despite a blogger's occasional rough edge or faux pas, if depth and soul is felt in a deeper bone, all is well.

These are nice posts, shuna, and excellent comments. The issue is important, especially in an age of phony memoir.

I think people in the public eye, chefs like you or writers like me, need to be as transparent as possible. But I think you've got a responsibility as a publisher of a blog not to write publicly about people who don't want to be written about. If your client doesn't want his or her business mentioned, then I'd honor it.

That said, coming as i do from the world of journalism (and blogging is a form not only of memoir but of journalism that's still being defined), I'm wary of anonymity, especially anonymous commenters either promoting or slamming another person or business. Some people must remain anonymous for a number of reasons, but as far as i'm concerned, you give up your right to be critical.

I love that many chefs are blogging by name, but do be careful. For your own job security and in consideration of the privacy of your colleagues and boss, make sure the chef or restaurant knows, or simply tell people, I'm writing about this distasterous service or this incredible night, and I'd like to mention you by name, is that all right?

[The restaurant you used to work at] topic: I read the comments at that EatSF and having been back to [The restaurant you used to work at] for a work dinner, I would first say very clearly the new pastry chef (in title only) has a great deal of work to do.

We were literally served a dessert with a component that looked and tasted like dog poo. The manager came over to ask us about the "new" desserts and just wanted to argue with us why we were wrong about her desserts. I have eaten all over the world many places and never had a manager be that rude, they comped us the desserts but left a bad taste in our mouths and elsewhere.

My boss, who can bring an enormous amount of business to their restaurant, was with me, and they were so argumentative that we will be taking our business elsewhere.

Etc....: do what you do, there will be opinions but what you do is true to you and thats what matters. If future employers don't agree, they won't hire you, but they all have known in advance what you do, who you are and as long as you are true that that, nothing even matters. IMHO. its not a f-you its not a rebel thing, its a choice of how you express yourself, nothing more and nothing less. its interesting and thoughtful and delicious and intriguing. for those that don't agree, they have the choice to read someone else's blog, the end.

happy ides of march and see you SATURDAY !!!!! woo hoo.

I've being following your blog on and off for about a year now. What I like about it is how you get the readers to think about the food, the food business and the people who work, eat, sweat and die by the food business.

You have made it very clear it is about the food, and the people who are employed by the food business whether an employee or an owner. It's not an easy job to explain an not an easy one to live.

Personally, I agree with a previous comment I don't think you should necessarily give the name of the place and the specific people involved especially when it is negative. But maybe, like you have done with so many other things, comment on why we should think about a particular issue like health insurance for those in the industry and why is important and should be a given in the food business.

I think you have done a great job bringing many issues to light. Your ability as a writer to explain the complexities of the food business should be applauded, as with your commentary on its faults and shortcomings of the industry on the whole.

I would still like to see you lobby for the farmers' markets and how to use the produce they bring and get more credit for it.

I decided to blog anonymously because it was important for me to keep my business life separate from my food chronicles. I didn't want clients or prospective employers to be able to read about my baking habits as they were deciding if they wanted to work with me. I've been very glad of that decision.

As my site has evolved--and when my book is published next year--my blog will be effectively "outed." Will this change what I write about? I'm not sure I'll feel as comfortable writing about some of the more personal things (I know some bloggers who, as their audience has grown, have gone through their archives and taken out more personal posts).

The merging of private and professional on the web is challenging--it's a grey area that is still evolving and being figured out. Your situation is acute. Your site is passionate and personal and yet also about your profession--and you have developed an audience who appreciates that. Anyone who hires you has the potential to benefit from that following, but they run the risk of the exposure that may come with it (having you write about the business in ways they may not appreciate).

At the end of the day, people do get fired for blogging about their place of work (Dooce much?).

If I were a business owner I wouldn't want my employees blogging about my company--especially not without my knowledge and blessing.

I think we are free to write anything we want about what is ours, but once we are being paid by someone else then it is theirs. We own a part of that, sure, but not enough of a part that we can post it for all the world to see--especially not without their knowledge. I personally think anyone you work for should be given an "opt out" clause (that's just my opinion). At the same time, I have loved your passion-fueled work posts.

Another part of the discussion is the fact that there are levels of writing. It's one thing for a blogging chef to post a menu and talk about what is exciting them. It's another thing when they are writing about in-house politics, which may be perceived as airing dirty laundry.

(Do any of us want to be worrying about this sort of nuance, each and every time we post? Of course not.)

A blog is a construct, it is not the full totality of anyone's job or life. We decide with each post, each paragraph, how much to reveal and what to hold back (and that line is set in a different place for each person).

But even if you don't identify your employer on the blog, members of the food community in the area and other food bloggers are eventually going to know where you're working.

I've been thinking about this since you orginally posted the question...and I'm still thinking. Tough question. Good luck finding your way through it. I am sure that you will.

Shuna... you got me thinking on this whole chef blogging issue... I'm confused. I don't know what to think. Obviuosly I don't work for anyone at the moment so mentioning an employers name is not an issue. But how do you feel about sharing recipes? What's the danger in that? How about when bloggers publish cookbook recipes?

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