8 things to keep in mind to become a food reviewer
Kunal Vijayakar shares his top tips on the art of writing a great food review
In the run-up to the Indian Food Bloggers Awards (IFBA) 2021, several industry leaders shared their insights during a series of live conversations on Vikhroli Cucina’s Instagram handle. One such interesting session was the chat that food writer, author, and television personality Kunal Vijaykar had with Sameer Malkani, Co-founder of the Food Bloggers Association of India, about food reviewing. From preparing for a review to the art of writing one, Kunal spilt the beans on food reviewing essentials to keep in mind.
Here’s a look at his top tips:
Prep or no prep?
Kunal says that he does not look at earlier reviews before trying out a new restaurant or a menu by a home chef. He says he relies on his gut feeling about a place and word of mouth from people whose food knowledge is strong. However, he points out an important point to keep in mind, “Do not depend on one person’s judgement of the food at a restaurant because people have very varied palates. You must go and taste the food yourself. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to go there again.”
According to Kunal, restaurant reviewers should ideally remain anonymous. “For me, it is very difficult to go to a restaurant anonymously and eat. However, it could be possible for the newer generation. Anonymous food reviews are always good,” he says.
Good writing is key
Merely having knowledge about food isn’t enough, says Kunal. A person’s writing skills play an equally important role. “When writing a review, you should be able to write well, so learn how to do so. You must be able to describe well and tempt people through your words,” explains Kunal. His main criteria — a reviewer should tell a story about food and describe it well. He suggests talking about how the food’s visual appeal, its aroma, how it feels as one eats it and then what it does to the reviewer’s emotions. Another important reminder —“If you like the food, use good language and avoid using terms like yummy. Use descriptions like mouthwatering or say, ‘The flavours hit my palate’.”
Develop a writing style
It’s often easy to understand who has written a review because of each reviewer’s distinct style. “I always write slightly funny, and I am not terribly romantic about my writing,” says Kunal. “Your writing style will depend on who you are and what you want to portray. If you have a good sense of humour, write in a funny way. If you are a romantic at heart, write accordingly.”
What all to include
According to Kunal, certain parameters need to be included when one is writing a restaurant review. “Begin with the cuisine on offer, talk about the pricing, the location of the restaurant and the ambience. Describe the experience after the food comes to the table — is it value for money? Choose four dishes you liked and write about them. Towards the end, also mention if the staff treated you well. All that comes under the package of a restaurant review,” he explains.
Just jump in
The best way to test the waters is to keep writing and get feedback from other people, feels Kunal. “Read other people’s reviews and see how they use language. Every creative product has an art and craft attached to it. The art comes from within you, it is your talent. If you like food, then you already know a lot about it. The craft is what you work on and hone. If you want to do Instagram, work on your photography. If you want to write reviews, then work on your writing. If you do videos, work on your on-screen presence — how you speak and how you want to present things. The rest will all follow,” he says.
Opt for a blog over social media
Kunal feels that blogs are the best media for food reviews. The reason? Social media such as Instagram are more visual. “You don’t need to write much for Instagram because viewers mostly enjoy the picture. If you want to review food seriously, then launch a blog and start writing. People won’t take you terribly seriously as a reviewer if you just post on social media. Unless you’re a known reviewer who posts, then it will have credibility because of who you are.”
It can be challenging for an upcoming blogger or food reviewer to stand out in today’s crowded scenario. However, Kunal has one suggestion — patience. “Developing your following is a slow process. Faith, trust and credibility are the most difficult things to gain. However, you can create your own audience with regularity, sustainability and style,” he says. He also suggests doing food reviewing as a side career. “All the big food reviewers are usually journalists, and food reviews are part of journalism. I don’t think one will have enough revenue just a pure food reviewer with their own blog,” he cautions.
Along with these pointers about food reviewing, Kunal also spoke about his new YouTube channel – Khaane Main Kya Hai? However, his advice about food reviewing seems to have hit the right notes, what do you think?