Last year New Media Publishing changed its annual Eat Out magazine, having featured 1100 restaurants in earlier years. Last year the Eat Out Top 500 restaurant guide was based on applications sent by restaurants themselves, and the top 500 selected by 50 food and restaurant writers and lovers. This year the Eat Out 500 top restaurants could be nominated by anyone, mainly the public, and chosen and reviewed by a panel of 30, mainly food writers.
Earlier this week Eat Out announced the Top 20 Restaurant shortlist, which will guarantee those restaurants a space in the 2015 Eat Out Top 500 Restaurant Guide.
The selection and evaluation of the Eat Out Top 500 is sketchy: ‘...a list of candidates was selected (how, on which criteria?), rated (on which scale, on which criteria?), and reviewed by the panel‘ (the criteria for reviewing are mentioned as food – defined as menu composition, seasonality, and presentation – and ambiance, service, and wine/beverage selection). Surely they mean that a particular member of the panel reviewed a particular restaurant? The end result is described by Eat Out (twice in its media release) as a ‘power list of great restaurants‘! Someone alerted me to the hard sell to new restaurants by Eat Out to be listed on their website, at a fee, and one wonders if those that advertise on the Eat Out site receive preferential treatment. I feel sorry for the new restaurants which we write about, which information Eat Out then uses for its sales calls and free meal grovelling.
Interesting to see is the elimination from the panel relative to last year of ‘judges‘ of three hoteliers; the World Design Capital 2014 PRO Priscilla Urquhart (who had egg on her face for organising the most embarrassing Gala Dinner of the Year, attended by VIPs from around the world, and the Braai cooked for disastrously by new Eat Out Top 10 Restaurant judge and new MasterRobertsons judge Reuben Robertsons Riffel!); and Jane Broughton, whose husband is a chef and on the Eat Out Top 20 Restaurant shortlist.
The panel of 30 restaurant selectors and evaluators are the following, most of them unknown:
New Media Publishing staff: This segment has reduced in size to 4, compared to 10 last year, having been dominated by staff working for Eat Out‘s publishing company: Anelde Greeff (Editor-in-Chief, Eat Out), Jean Calitz (Eat Out Deputy Editor), Linda Scarborough (Eat Out copy editor), and Katherine Jacobs (Eat Out online editor)! No Abigail Donnelly then?
Food writers/bloggers: This segment consists of 17 writers: Alida Ryder (‘Simply Delicious’ blog), Bernadette le Roux (Condé Nast House & Garden), Charlotte Pregnolato (freelance), Colette du Plessis (freelance), Diane de Beer (Pretoria News), Graham Howe (freelance), Greg Landman (freelance), Gwynne Conlyn (freelance), Ishay Govender-Ypma (blogger), Kate Ziervogel (South Coast Live), Leila Saffarian (blogger), Marie-Lais Emond (freelance), Mokgadi Itsweng (True Love), Richard Holmes (freelance), Rupesh Kassen (freelance), Thulisa Martins (Food & Home Entertaining), Tracy Gielink (freelance), and Tudor Caradoc-Davies (freelance). In this group is a free-lance writer who does not know how to spell ‘Grands Chef’ when writing about Relais & Chateaux Chef Peter Tempelhoff, and neither does Eat Out, having published the review, which no doubt will appear in the 2015 Eat Out magazine!!!
Cooking school chefs/cooking consultants: There are 5 on this list: Bazil Stander (The Food Innovation Company, about to leave the country, in moving to Sydney), Hennie Fisher (University of Pretoria), Jodi-Ann Pearton (The Food Design Agency and The Cookie Design Emporium), Petro Lotz (Appetito Catering and Cooking School), and Zama Memela (Easy Eating).
Wine: Two panelists specialise in wine: Cathy Marston (author and lecturer, but also part of a Social Media consultancy for restaurants, a definite conflict of interest), and Paula Mackenzie (Vinimark – The Wine Company)
Other: 2 ‘judges’ in this group are Aubrey Ncungama (One & Only Cape Town ambassador, making it a conflict of interest in respect of the hotel’s Nobu and Reuben’s restaurants – the mention of his participation in ‘Come Dine with Me‘ three years ago is old hat, and best forgotten, and Aubrey probably would be the first to request it!), and Lentswe Bhengu (‘Africa on a Plate’ presenter).
Greeff’s pat on the back for herself and the team of panelists in putting together the 2015 Eat Out 500 guide is funny: ‘The 2015 issue of Eat Out magazine is a celebration of the very best of South African’s restaurant industry. At its centre is a power list of the 500 best restaurants in the country, put together by an experienced group of food experts and writers. It’s an impressive list – the panellists and the restaurants – and makes for exciting reading‘, in that most ‘judges‘ are not known, and probably don’t eat out much unless invited! The ‘exciting reading‘ claim is odd!
The 2015 Eat Out 500 will be sold from 17 November, the day after the 2014 Eat Out Mercedes-Benz Restaurant Awards.