’5Questions’ ~ The Journalists, Tim Hayward

This post ‘5Questions’ is for a freelance journalist called Tim Hayward. For those of you that aren’t regular tweeters or users of the Guardian’s ‘Word of Mouth’ Blog, we’ll try to give you a brief description of his work & background.

Mr Hayward is most commonly known for his work for The Guardian newspaper, writing about food and commenting on food related issues. In 2009 he received the Guild of Food Writers award for new media, only the 2nd time that it had been awarded. His writing style is laced with dry wit that is as sharp as any chefs prized knife. In reply to one of our posts about a two star chef phoning some bloggers who had given his restaurant a bad review, Mr Hayward replied:


Yes there may well be egos on both sides, but to be honest I think you’ll find the chef’s are more easily bruised than bloggers.

Quite possibly true. But then that’s kind of the point in the end, isn’t it? An interaction like this is entirely played out in the currency of ego. Whose is bigger? Whose is more fragile? Whose will remain damaged?

The most fruitful interview would be with the financial director as, I suggest, events like this have precisely zero effect on the most important measure – actual arses on banquettes.

Mr Hayward is also owner & publisher of Fire & Knives magazine, quarterly publication solely on the subject of food. On top of all that, he also write for Waitrose Food Illustrated magazine, Delicious, BBC Olive magazine and Saveur in America.

Having already written a few of these posts from journalists it’s easy to point out that the following ‘5Questions’ are very entertaining. So sit back enjoy Mr Tim Hayward’s ‘5Questions’.

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

Hell yes, massively. When I worked in kitchens it was a nasty, blue-collar job and if the chef was even vaguely trained it was because he’d been cashiered from the Catering Corps for poor personal hygeine. Catering college graduates were regarded as over educated fops and everything worked on physical bullying.

There are obvious downsides to the media influence: many people are attracted to the celebrity aspect only to be horribly disillusioned when it turns out to be a tough gig and  I guess you do have to listen to chefs banging on about their ‘passion’ for ‘local and seasonal ingredients’ in a way that would make an X-Factor contestant cringe with embarrassment. But, in the end, things have improved massively and the UK now regards cooking as a proper career.

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?

Pretty much everyone in the industry regards the printed newspaper as doomed – on a 3-10 year death dive. But it’s idiotic to a believe that, in that time everyone involved in old media will lie down and die like a dinosaur and every blogger will make their fortune.

Old media players with a recogniseable brand – personal or corporate – are repositioning themselves to stay afloat and make a living out of the diminishing money pot. Restaurant Critics have already re-invented themselves as ‘columnists’ and most are well on the way to becoming multi-media ‘personalities’.It will be interesting, as a belwether, to watch what happens to Gill and Coren, now the Times firewall has robbed them of a wider audience.

I came into this from the new media and personally, I’m doing quite nicely under the banners of old media’s brands. I’m not kidding myself I’d be working at all if I’d had to rely on the traditional career path of being a print journo but I understand what’s happening as things get more and more random and I’m small and flexible enough to carve out a space and capitalise. Nobody, I should add, is getting rich, except Google.

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

I think Michelin is all but irrelevant as the world no longer measures food by a French standard. I like what Hardens are doing but I’m bored by their indignant ‘underdog’ shtick. They need to stop protesting, man up and sound like serious confident players.

Competitions like the Top 50 are massively popular with chefs and so will continue to attract growing media interest. No single foodblogger or online entity is ever going to build enough of a brand to be trusted and definitive. Truth is, the audience is shifting. Most people with the brains to research a restaurant online look at several different reviews and draw their own conclusions.

Growing audience sophistication and Google itself are the biggest threats to guide books, sites, critics or anyone else who sets themselves up as public arbiter

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

Right now and looking into the future, the media in general are wide open. It’s a massively complex field and nobody is in any kind of control. If you have the time, the inclination and you like to break old rules, you can play the media like a xylophone and beat it like a gong. But if that’s not your area of ‘passion’ or expertise, then a) cook great food, b) run a tight ship and c) be nice to everyone.
Those have always been the rules of being a successful chef and they still are. If you run a great place, let the bloggers, the reviewers and the punters know you’re there and let them do the work of spreading the word.

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

1. Professionalising Bloggers: Some US foodbloggers are much more professional than UK ones. At the moment it’s amateur hour here but some players will be upping their game. Expect some to use PRs. Expect some to launch blogs specifically with a view to creating a public profile for some other entity – a book or a TV career.
2. The big Apple: Keep an eye on Apple’s iNewstand technology. If they ever pull it off it’s going to do for magazine print what iTunes did to the music industry.
3. The death of the celebrity chef: No, seriously. When Pat Llewellyn launched Ramsay and then Jamie, they were fresh phenomena in an environment that hadn’t seen them coming. They made millions across several media without, as we constantly remind them, actually being working chefs. Each Sleb Chef that’s been launched since has carved a slightly less impressive arc until this last year we’ve seen a clutch of people who will struggle to maintain any relevance at all after a single series. No names (but you know who I mean, Sophie, Val, Anjum). If I was a chef right now, a really good looking one getting courted by TV producers, I’d tell them to stuff it, get back to the kitchen and really flog it ’til my knees gave out at 35.
If Ramsay lasts until the Dec 31st he’ll implode in the new year. When he does, he won’t be replaced in the public affection.
Should you wish to have a daily intake of Mr Hayward, please feel free to follow him on Twitter where we’re sure he’ll quite gladly tell you all about his latest posts on the ‘Word of Mouth’ Blog.
He can also be found on this own website:
Many thanks again to Mr Hayward, as entertaining as ever.
3 Responses to “’5Questions’ ~ The Journalists, Tim Hayward”
  1. chumbles says:

    Fascinating stuff which, in general, seems pretty much spot on. But I’d take issue with the sleb chef bit; there are still some sleb chefs who draw audiences and interest, vis Rick Stein; but that’s more because of David Pritchard’s capabilities than his own.

    There is also a slightly different phenomenon happening in TV Foodland called the Hairy Bikers (and before them The Two Fat Ladies) – I like them (especially their Food Tour of Britain), where they are not really chefs but meet professionals and explore food in both the common and professional environment.

    As for “Sophie, Val, Anjum”, that’s as much bandwagon jumping as anything else, you could hardly call the divine Sophie or even Nigella a chef, but the former is not a patch on the latter as a cook. (But I’ve always preferred brunettes.)

    • chefhermes says:

      Thanks for the comment Chumbles, We’ve always felt that Sophie was a pale imitation of Nigella and so was hardly a surprise that her show got dropped. Whether we like it or not as they are granted valuable TV airtime they influence public perception on food in some small way.

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  1. […] blogging collective behind Chef Hermes keep publishing great posts, lately “5 Questions with Tim Hayward” caught my eye as Mr Hayward definitely is a voice to listen to when it comes to food […]

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