‘5Questions’ ~ The Journalists, Richard Vines

After much thought we’ve decided to do a new series of  ‘5Questions’, but this time instead of chefs we’ve targeted people that shape the public perceptions of the hospitality industry. As our first participant we’ve set the bar pretty high in asking Richard Vines, Chief food critic from Bloomberg, to take part.

Mr Vines’ early career with British Rail probably seems a curious first step to becoming a renowned food writer. But via  LSE & Cardiff University in 1978 he became a professional journalist. After working on such publications as the Daily Mirror, The Times, China Daily, Asian Wall Street Journal and the South China Morning Post, he arrived at the international news agency Bloomberg as editor in 1995 and started covering food in 2004. His most recent scoop was the Gordon Ramsay / Chris Hutcheson split, which almost sent twitter into meltdown.

So here we go, the tables turned, & the journalists being asked the questions:

1.How do you feel the change in the media interest in chefs has influenced the industry?

Being a chef has become potentially quite a glamorous job, not just because there’s a chance to get on television but because the media coverage reflects and encourages a respect for food and for those who cook well and creatively. I’m sure it doesn’t feel that way when you are working long and unsocial hours in a hot, cramped kitchen but the higher media profile is, in general terms, a good thing because the more we focus on food, the better it should get.

2.How do you see the future of the printed media in the industry, with what seems the relentless march of blogging, social networking and the general internet?

I worked on newspapers for 17 years before going online at Bloomberg and the challenges to the printed word are enormous. But I don’t accept that the proliferation of blogging sites is a challenge in itself. The best writers — such as Marina O’Loughlin — are good because of their words, not because of the medium in which they work. The blogging website I most often turn to is Hot Dinners. The main difference for me in the rise of the social media is that I have to work even faster. While I can be trying to source a story properly (e.g. on Ramsay’s split with Chris Hutcheson) people on Twitter can just publish the latest rumor.

3.What is your view of the guide books, relative to their impact and influence on eateries & the general public?

The publication of the Michelin Guide is one of the two main scheduled events of the year for me, along with the World’s 50 Best. Guides are useful but the restaurant scene in London is evolving so quickly, I’m more likely to look online than at a book. But I’m sure a good writeup in Harden’s or Zagat does no harm at all.

4.What advice would you give to an aspiring chef or restaurateur looking to raise their profile?

I’m a bit in awe of chefs and restaurateurs: I can’t cook and I have no reason to believe I could successfully run a restaurant. If I were to try, I would consult successful peers rather than pundits, and — of course — I’d listen to my customers. I’d hope I could raise the profile of the place by word of mouth. But apart from engaging with the industry, I’d try to engage with food lovers via Twitter, rather as Russell Norman has done for Polpo and Polpetto. I’m not sure I’d go down the route of handing out lots of free meals but if I were desperate, who knows?

5.Who or what, do you think will be the next 3 big things to watch out for over the next 12 months?

I see the next 12 months as a time for consolidation rather than innovation, so i expect

a. More good-value restaurants, like Les Deux Salons.

b. More simplicity, like Polpetto.

c. More New York chefs following Daniel Boulud, with Wolfgang Puck leading the way.

As ever, we’d like to thank Mr Vines for his time and doing the ‘5Questions’. He is a regular tweeter and is worth following.

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  1. […] Writes for Bloomberg Muse & has also taken part in the ‘5Questions’ […]



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