Local food blogger Dominic Armato is a gastro-geek on a mission. He wants to build a grassroots coalition of people who are passionate about food, and to that end, he has launched a discussion board called PHXfoodnerds.com
His aim is to bring Phoenix food-lovers together for food-related events, impromptu restaurant outings and in-depth discussions of ingredients, dishes, restaurants, chefs and trends.
According to Armato, local food nerds (he detests the word "foodies") need a virtual home, a place to build community through talking and sharing ideas. Borrowing the template from a similar discussion board in his hometown, the Chicago transplant created what he calls an "old school bulletin board" because he believes there's simply too much food knowledge going to waste here in Phoenix.
Why do we need another online platform when we've already got newspapers, weekly magazines, Yelp and Chowhound?
What he says makes a lot of sense.
Twitter's "great at moving news far and fast," but people "can't have a real discussion in 140-character snippets." He rejects Yelp because it concentrates solely on reviews and focuses too much on individuals, and he's not big on Chowhound either, bemoaning its policy of removing posts that veer even slightly off-topic, a buzz-kill for folks who might enjoy following a meandering but interesting conversation.
He gets a bit cagey when it comes to criticizing online news outlets. In fact, it's not entirely clear if he's ragging on azcentral or Chow Bella (or both) when he writes:
The only area that can handle discussion is practically an afterthought. And as a corporate entity, it's designed to generate more traffic at the expense of better traffic.
Thanks, Dom. We love you too!
And his viewpoint on top-down reviewing -- meaning paid restaurant critics and even influential bloggers who spout information but don't solicit or elicit responses -- is that no one person, no matter how good he or she may be, can or should be driving the conversation.
So, you may be wondering, how does an aspiring gastronaut get on board?
First by reading the food nerd credo -- a set of rules and guidelines that includes no spamming, no political or religious rants, no rumors of restaurant closures or health code violations without solid evidence and no being a jerk.
Second, by registering on the site. After that, it's pretty easy to jump in, using the index to find discussions on Valley Eats, Far From Home (dining outside of AZ), In the Kitchen (sourcing ingredients, cooking at home), Events and Gatherings, Other Culinary Chat (food news, food media, etc.) and Shop Talk (business discussion for the pros).
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So far, many of the people who've joined PHXfoodnerds.com seem to be people who know each other and hang out together already.
In fact, some of them are the same folks we have recognized here at Chow Bella as Tastemakers, including Lara Mulchay and Eric Schaefer. Discussions have included The Fry Bread House, Phoenix Food Memories, The Great Pizza Debate, Fish Tacos and Favorite Sushi.
So how about it? Are you food-nerdy enough?