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On the House: Forget Bloggers, Let's Talk About Chowhound

Welcome to another installment of On the House, a regular bi-weekly-ish column written by the owners and operators of LA's best food and bev establishments. Our ongoing resident proprietor is one David Haskell, owner of Bin 8945. Haskell takes on blogs vs. websites like Chowhound.

I grew up in the restaurant business. The most important thing to my parents' friends (Michel Richard, Thomas Keller, Jean- Louis Palladin, and many others) was the New York Times or LA Times. We didn't have the Internet till the late 90’s. These chefs and restauranteurs had to only worry about the professional reviewer. But now it's all about bloggers. I didn’t even know what a blog was before I opened Bin. The word 'blog' is still underlined as being spelled wrong when I type it.

The problem with bloggers, as I see it, is there is no control. People can say anything at anytime. What can you do? I love when people write reviews of the food, wine, and service. I'll look at all three things and see where we need to improve. Nobody is perfect.

But then there's something like Chowhound. If someone posts the Internet that I hit on someone's girlfriend, or I’m gay, and I’m a homophobe, what can I do? I think we we (restaurateurs, chefs, and professionals) should just ban websites that continuously spew the bad.

I banned Chowhound. It’s not that I don’t think the writers supply some decent informative reviews. It’s that most of the reviews never critique the food or actual service. I always thought my profession was to supply the best food and service for the cost. If you want to review that, then please mention the food and why you didn’t like it. Or the service. Did we not put down silver for every course? But “It sucks” is not a review. People have come to my restaurant with cards that have their 'handle' name. OK, that is funny. But it reminds me of the guy with the 'producer' card who hits on all the girls.

So, how do we co-exist in this “blogger” world? I read the blogs. If there were 50 that had nothing to say, but one was very informative, then that one is worth my time. If one review can help me produce a better product, then it’s worth it. So the real food bloggers should keep writing. We do care!