With the Oscars and award season over us now, everyone can get back to doing what they do best or worse, be it making movies or whatever industry they are in which divvies out the annual trade gongs to the well or no so well deserving. I know someone who just won a Grammy so it can be momentous at the high end of international awards. For food world the only show in town, for me anyway, is the Michelin Guide. At the other end of the food awards scale you can just buy dubious food plaques and certs online to fool your customers. .
The awards industry is like any other, it has to make money and keep everyone happy but often the politics and methodology has to be taken with a large grain of salt. Admittedly I do begrudgingly have to attend award ceremonies now and again. The problem for me, in food especially, is it’s so subjective and one person’s culinary love is another’s hate. Also for real recognition anyway, places should not have to even apply, pay money or do interviews and presentations to gain a trade award, it should all be purely on merit from qualified impartiality and expertise.
The best award in my opinion though is a full hotel or restaurant, repeat customers, loyal, caring, hardworking staff and being able to pay the bills. I knew a chef once who had dozens of awards including a Michelin Star and refused to hang any of them up on the wall for this very philosophy. He had his food do the talking and meeting his customers afterwards to hear the personal gratitude from them for such a great experience was enough for him.
Word of mouth is the real key however; true branding is what people will say about you when you are not in the room. Somebody going on about how great you are to someone else behind your back and highly endorsing you is unbeatable. Basically acting as a de facto sales agent for your business. You can bet your bottom Euro the person on the other end of this positive referral messaging will be beating a path to your door.
I was always sceptical about food awards while judging cooking competitions, assisting guidebooks, inspecting restaurants, secret shopping or writing food review columns. The Romans summed it up with their famous “de gustibus non est disputandum” mantra meaning one should never argue about taste. You will always see it on TV food shows where diners at one table are waxing lyrical and those at another are giving out about the same dish.
On this page the regular food reviews are purely a commercial exercise, simply of places and owners I know, where the food is decent enough and I have this public platform of my own making which pays me nothing but is looking for constant interesting content to give you the readers something to read. Therefore I give them a free plug to boost some extra business and with no fee charged. Some of the pieces get ten thousand hits now and that can only help their marketing.
So how do you feel when the wall outside is littered with food plaques and write ups and more of the same inside but what you get meal and service wise is a letdown? You would feel a little betrayed. You may get a bad experience in a good place but you will never get a good experience in a bad place. This has happened to me both as a chef and customer.
You can have a bad service in the kitchen when things just do not go right for all sorts of reasons beyond your control. Likewise you might be that unlucky diner with the rookie server or the dish that got away. We say in food, never let mistakes leave the kitchen but some do and if it is you then it might be just the luck of the draw and you may still happily eat there for the rest of your life. In the end there is only one judge and award giver and that is you the customer and your continued custom.