Waiter Confidential: Chowhound-Aholics Anonymous

In the foodie blogosphere, you can be somebody. Just pick a site (Chowhound, Yelp, EGullet, et al.), a clever byline, and you're in. It's like AA for food junkies -- a sympathetic forum in which Epicurean souls are bared and horror stories are exchanged in catharsis.

Of course, it's just as easy to choke on all the smoke being blown around while you're at it.

"Chowhound's my thing, but it's a pain in the ass at the same time," my bud, "Buttercup," admits. "I can't get enough of the snark factor and the ongoing dialogue, but there's a lot of bullshit out there, too."

Gainfully-employed civil servant, computer geek and writer, Buttercup's a Chowhound A-lister. (In case you're not in the know, www.chowhound.com is an international food-related site with local message boards, including one for the Southwest, accessed by Phoenix types.) She's on a (real) first name-basis with some of that site's big dogs, as well as a secret email address book that gains one entry into an Eyes Wide Shut-like circle of prime posters.

"You won't find bloggers there who mention places like, say, Pink Taco and Los Olivos on 'Best Mexican' threads."

While perhaps revealing little more than something of her own subjectivity and taste through that comment, Buttercup still manages to articulate a better distinction between what wheat and chaff is served up for digestion out there in the ether.

Finding fault with certain formats, she sites a specific instance when the West side's popular Pizza A Metro was taken to task over a perceived kitchen faux pas by a Yelp enthusiast.

"Someone actually bitched about their carpaccio being undercooked (carpaccio is traditionally served raw altogether). But because Yelp doesn't moderate or afford browsers the opportunity for discussion within given threads, everything posts, regardless of how mistaken, misinformed, or malicious the content may be."

Point taken. It's easy to just sit and write shit if there's no one to answer to editorially. (Note: If you don't like something I've written here, you can post away - or complain directly to my editor, Amy Silverman, at amy.silverman@newtimes.com.)

Ending our chat on two Chowhound positives, Buttercup offers hearty endorsements.

"'Seth Chadwick' (a double masters-degreed Ivy Leaguer whose balanced blogging has gotten positive play on NPR, and in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times) almost always attaches his signature disclaimer that his reviews are 'intended as a snapshot in time,' and that 'your mileage may vary.'"

Then she promises to fix me up with her favorite, "JK Grence," a.k.a, "The Cosmic Jester". More the literary layman than the well-versed academic, Grence works on the front line of local food and beverage, and, according to Buttercup, blogs with the best of them, cooks like a witch, and throws Truman Capote-esque dinner party/symposiums.

"You two definitely need to have a conversation," B. insists.

Absolutely. Just get me an invite. I'll bring the absinthe. -- Anonymous

Anonymous has seen it all in 25 years of waiting tables and tending bar at some of the Valley's most beloved restaurants.


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