Burrata Pick me Up dessert Whale Cottage PortfolioOne of the changes New Media Publishing has introduced for Eat Out‘s 2014 edition is that its printed Restaurant Guide will only list 500 restaurants, as opposed to 1100 last year.  The method of selecting the included restaurants has changed too.

The process commenced with Eat Out announcing that it was looking for applications from restaurants to be included in the 2014 Eat Out Guide, such applications closing on 30 June.  It described the application process as follows: ‘This call to action turns up the heat and shifts the onus onto the restaurant to put themselves forward in a simple process‘.  The restaurants that wanted to be considered for inclusion had to complete a form.  Questions were asked about their Head Chef, the date on which the restaurant opened, the average cost of the main dish, the signature dishes offered, the seating capacity, whether BYO wine is allowed, the ambience description, the restaurant style, types of credit cards accepted, and additional facilities offered.  In addition, restaurants had to e-mail their menu as well as photographs, and a 100 word description of their restaurant.

Restaurants were informed that the ‘submissions will be scored on a variety of criteria by a panel of 50 of South Africa’s top food/restaurant industry experts (to be announced). The criteria include menu composition, ingredient seasonality, wine, service and ambience, amongst others. The 500 restaurants with the highest aggregate scores will appear in the 16th annual issue of the Eat Out magazine, which will go on sale in November 2013.  Note that not all submitted restaurants will be featured in the magazine – only the top 500 that impress our 50-strong editorial panel. Over the next month, the Eat Out team will be hounding restaurants to fill in their forms by the cut-off on 30 June 2013. You’ve been warned!’

The process of choosing the Eat Out 500 restaurants was described by Anelde Greef, Editor-in-Chief of Eat Out, as follows: ‘Over 3500 South African restaurants were eligible for the Eat Out 500 – all of them listed on our site with the aid of restaurant submissions that took place during June/July. Thereafter, our 50 editorial panelists (please refer to our press release) had a specified period of time in which to log onto a special section of our website where they had to rate and review restaurants of their choice. The panellists (sic) could rate as many restaurants as they wanted to. Restaurants were rated on food, wine, service and ambience. When the rating period ended, we calculated the average scores of all restaurants. The 500 restaurants with the highest ratings make up the Eat Out 500 and will be announced and showcased in the magazine, which will be on street at the end of November‘.

In the past a panel of 25 ‘Reviewers’, including stalwarts such as Errieda du Toit, Greg Landman, Graham Howe, Richard Holmes, and Diane de Beer, had written short reviews of the 1100 restaurants countrywide.  This year Eat Out doubled the panel to 50, but did not refer to them as reviewers, calling them ‘panelists‘, and only retained 13 of its original 25 ‘reviewers’, being Diane de Beer, Graham Howe, Greg Landman,  Hennie Fisher, Ishay Govender, Janine Walker, Kate Ziervogel, Katharine Jacobs, Marie-Lais Edmond, Petro Lotz, Priscilla Urquhart, Richard Holmes, and Sdu Gerasch.  The remaining 37 new panelists are a most interesting mix, and a number offer restaurant consultancy and communication services, which could compromise their integrity!:

*   New Media Publishing staff/associates:  directors Irna Van Zyl and John Psillos, MD Bridget McCarney, Anelde Greeff, Linda Scarborough, Kristia van Heerden, Aletta Lintvelt of Weg! and Go!, as well as Reinette Geldenhuis and Sam Woulidge linked to Taste,  and Katharine Jacobs, who was listed as ‘reviewer‘ in the past, making up 10 of the 50 panelists

*   Hoteliers Erwin Schnitzler of Mont Rochelle, Horst Frehse of the Twelve Apostles hotel, and Corneil Muller of The Urban Hotel in Bloemfontein.

*  Restaurateur Coenie Visser

*   Magazine and newspaper food and restaurant writers, including Raphaela Frame-Tolmie, Bernadette le Roux, Brent Meersman, Herman Lensing, Jeanne Calitz, and Kate Wilson.

*   Strategist (and former advertising agency Creative Director) Stefania Johnson

*   Cookery school representatives Carianne Wilson (but given the surname ‘Silwood‘ by Eat Out!) of Silwood Cookery School and Petro Lotz of Appetito Catering and Cooking School

*   Food bloggers (but not referred to as such) Ishay Govender and Alida Ryder (the latter called an ‘author‘)!

*   PR and Media Manager Priscilla Urquhart

*   Sommelier Miguel Chan

*  The balance are mainly freelance writers, one of whom is the wife of an Eat Out Top 10 chef.

Speaking to one of the panelists, I was told that they had to evaluate restaurants they had been to in the past 6 – 8 months, and evaluate them on four factors: service, the quality of the food, the value for money, and the atmosphere/decor of the restaurant.  It is clear that the restaurant descriptions in the new Eat Out 500 will be summaries of the information which the restaurants provided, and not an evaluation by Eat Outreviewers’, as in the past!

The 50 members of the Eat Out 500 panel are:

Aletta Lintvelt Food editor, Weg! and Go! Magazine
Alida Ryder Author, Simply Delicious
Anelde Greeff Editor-in-chief, Eat Out
Anna Montali Freelance food editor and writer
Bernadette le Roux Editor, Condé Nast House and Garden Gourmet
Bianca Coleman Freelance journalist
Brent Meersman Food columnist, Mail & Guardian
Bridget McCarney Managing director, New Media Publishing
Carianne Silwood(sic) Vice-principal, Silwood Cookery School
Cathy Marston Freelance writer and wine educator
Charlotte Pregnolato Freelance writer
Coenie Visser Freelance writer
Colette du Plessis Freelance writer
Corneil Muller Operational director, Urban Hotels
Diane de Beer Journalist, Pretoria News
Erwin Schnitzler Owner, Mont Rochelle
Graham Howe Wine and food editor, Habitat
Greg Landman Freelance writer
Gwynne Conlyn Freelance food and travel writer
Hennie Fisher Culinary arts lecturer, University of Pretoria
Herman Lensing Food editor, Sarie
Horst Frehse General manager, Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa
Irna van Zyl Founder and executive director, New Media Publishing
Ishay Govender Freelance writer and recipe developer
Jacquie Myburgh Freelance journalist and media consultant
Jane Broughton Freelance writer
Janine Walker Freelance food critic and writer
Jeanne Callitz Deputy editor, My Tyd
John Psillos Founder and executive director, New Media Publishing
Josef Talotta Freelance writer
Kate Wilson Editor, Women’s Health
Kate Ziervogel Owner, South Coast Live
Katharine Jacobs Online editor, Eat Out
Kristia van Heerden Johannesburg correspondent, Eat Out
Leila Saffarian Freelance food editor and writer
Linda Scarborough Copy editor, Eat Out
Lisa van Aswegen Freelance editor and writer
Marie-Lais Emond Freelance editor and writer
Miguel Chan Group sommelier, Tsogo Sun
Paul Duncan Head of design for homeware, Woolworths
Petro Lotz Owner, Appetito Catering and Cooking School
Priscilla Urquhart PR and media manager, World Design Capital Cape Town 2014
Raphaella Frame-Tolmie Food editor and features writer, House and Leisure
Reinette Geldenhuis Woolworths marketing: MasterChef project, hospitality, event and sponsorship manager and TASTE
Richard Holmes Freelance food and travel writer
Rupesh Kassen Freelance writer
Sam Woulidge Freelance writer and columnist for Woolworths TASTE
Sdu Gerasch Freelance writer
Stefania Johnson Creative strategist
Tracy Gielink Freelance food and wine writer

 

Writing about the panelists, Greeff salivated as follows: ‘This is truly a first, a coming together of industry experts and some of SA’s most respected food journalists and food lovers to decide who will be named as part of Eat Out’s top 500 restaurants in the country’.  This statement appears to imply that its previous panel of reviewers were not the most respected nor leading restaurant reviewers!

The ‘Eat Out 500’ is a power list of great restaurants across South Africa‘, gushed the media release in conclusion. The 500 restaurants with the highest aggregate scores will appear in the 16th annual issue of the Eat Out magazine, which will be released at the Eat Out DStv Food Network Restaurant Awards held in the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on 10 November.

Note:  Photograph is of a new Burrata ‘Pick me Up’ dessert, crafted by Chef Annemarie Steenkamp.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio:  www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage