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No More Invites, Please

23 March 2010

Almost as quickly as this blog had started accepting invitations to food tasting sessions, has it now decided to step away from all these invited sessions for good. In some ways you could say that I feel more relieved now, because I have always been hesitant about doing these invites especially after all that I have been observing in the local food blogging scene. For sure, it has been very flattering at the start to have been invited for these tastings as I thought it was a clear recognition of my blogging efforts, and it was also from these sessions that I found personal favourites in BLIC and Grand Hyatt's Oasis.


Unlike many other bloggers though, I dare say I was not easily buoyed by such flattery, and neither was I that desperate for free food. In fact, many other things came to my mind and it was only a matter of time before I was very sure this was not the direction that this blog should take. Amongst the myriad of considerations, three factors in particular played significant roles in influencing my decision.

Firstly, the notion of integrity in this blog is immensely important to me. While I know that I could defend some of these tastings as innocuous introductions to my readers, nevertheless I am aware that it would not be as easy if I were to start being very critical about some of the things I eat. As some have remarked before, it would be a great disservice to my readers if I cannot bring myself to be completely honest about my experience and if I'm obliged instead to be lenient.

I do know of some bloggers who are conceited enough (perhaps as a result of their "popularity" that they gather prematurely from the number of comments and blog hits that they get) to think that they can attend these tasting sessions and choose not to blog about it if they so choose to do so. Personally, I can't bring myself to do that because it shows disrespect to any chef who had tried to make an effort, and moreover I never believed in having a free lunch. Also, such bloggers are deluded to think that they are gourmets of the highest order (just by having a food blog for heaven's sake!), which is further exacerbated by those who continually dine in the most pretentious of places possible and then scorn everything else.

Which brings me to my second point on pride and fame. You can say that I have been increasingly disillusioned, if not disgusted as well, by some of the food bloggers who continually appear to be competing with one another for food tastings, whether it is by dishing out their namecards like sales pamphlets or by offering to do these tastings openly on their blogs. Even some girls on the night streets are more discreet. I have also heard stories of bloggers calling up the management like spoilt and pampered brats if they have been asked to abide by the restaurant's policy of "no photography", and all I can say is, I don't want to be like these people. This is just a food blog to share with you my own food experiences, and not as a platform for me to earn fame and start acting like a pathetic prima donna. I know I am better than this.

Finally, what has been very important to me is you readers. Since the start of 2010, the readership of this blog has somehow more than doubled and continues to increase by the day (bless you people!), and while I am honestly flattered, it also means that I now feel even more accountable for what I write. Inasmuch as this may be a personal blog and tastes are after all subjective, I do want to try my best to be as honest and as accurate as possible in my entries. This I believe can be helped by paying for my own food (so I can truly assess if it is indeed worth the money) as well as not having to be restrained by any obligations, moral or whatsoever.

I do wish to assert that nothing in this post should be taken as a personal attack on anybody, or neither does it mean that I am looking to severe ties with any of my fellow bloggers who are still very much intent on going for these food tastings. This decision to stop participating in such sessions is mine and mine alone, and has been determined by own principles. I am sure different bloggers must have had their own agendas when they started their food blogs, and thus I do not wish to impose my own values on others.

Essentially, this blog is for me to share my love for food and the joy of eating. It has never been for fame, fortune or free food, and I am very glad that I've finally decided to make a strong stand for what I believe in. Of course, I still do welcome any information from restaurants and eateries about their in-house offers, promotions and specialties, just like everyone else. I don't see why I should be treated any differently just because I have a DSLR camera and a blog.

And so, this is the direction that this blog will take. I can't say this is a "new" direction, because it's just keeping to what this blog believes in and what it has always set out to do: to share the love.

Cheers :)

40 Foodie Comments:

Daniel said...

Well said. I'm sure its a relief for you now in some sense.

Keep the love coming though! =)

March 23, 2010 at 4:33 AM
Xinli said...

as a person who enjoys eating and sharing about it, I agree with you (:

It is not easy to blog about the food because of the implications it has involving myself and the restaurant. Sometimes I think some bloggers had treated it too lightly. Although, the intention behind it could be the same: to share the love of food.

Anyway, it is comforting to know that there is someone out there to point out some of the negative trends that are catching hold in the food blogging community.

Thank you and may you continue to share the love (:

March 23, 2010 at 6:44 AM
ice said...

Say Aye to para 5 & all the others. Which brings me to point out a pet peeve of mine. To shun a restaurant or any place for any matter just because they have a no photo policy is the lamest excuse not to dine at the place. So what's their purpose then? To feed their blog or to feed their stomach?

Love the direction your blog is going. You know I'm more than 200% with you on this one.

Those "pathetic prima donnas" are just getting too big-headed, spoilt & ... pathetic.

March 23, 2010 at 6:51 AM
*Harris said...

Daniel: A relief indeed. Can't wait for a food outing next month, I miss those!

Xinli: You're right to point out that blogging itself is difficult, let alone having to do tastings. I suppose just know what you (and your blog) has set out to do, stick to it, and you'll be fine :)

Speaking of which, do share your blog here!

Ice: Aye! I know, some bloggers do think the key to a good blog is just pictures... well, their prerogative. I do know I would need places that allow photography if I'm on blogger outings, and only because it would be nice to capture the outing in pictures :)

Thank you for your support Ice! You sound more warm than cold though hahaha.

March 23, 2010 at 8:59 AM
HungryEpicurean said...

Haha for some points in question - I have a clear understanding of who you are driving at =P

Dining Buddy, I'm glad you've got this out of your mind, and keep the food and creative juices flowing! Looking forward to many more good posts ahead!

"is just pictures..." Haha, like how one blogger, in particular, likes to focus on a single focal point, losing focus of the bigger picture in mind. (Both literally and otherwise).

March 23, 2010 at 9:10 AM
*Harris said...

Yes, I know you have seen me being quite affected with this (at times, moral) dilemma. Free now!

March 23, 2010 at 9:12 AM
Angeline said...

Nice. I mean photo. :P

Like Ice, I supported you on this too. Glad you've found your new direction and look forward to more mouth-watering post in your blog. Whatever you do now, it sure makes you happier and unrestrictive in your writing.

To a better blog, better pictures and better posts.

Cheers :)

March 23, 2010 at 9:23 AM
*Harris said...

Oh yeah, I forgot to credit the photo lol.

Photo Credit: NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, for the FASS Marketing Handbook.

Thank you for your support Angeline! And I was laughing out loud when I read your raining like cows tweet. To me, I only think of having more beef haha.

March 23, 2010 at 9:28 AM
Reiz said...

Way to go Harris. :)

We still look forward to your food love!

March 23, 2010 at 9:31 AM
Angeline said...

haha! cause i suddenly thought of "The Day After Tomorrow" movie! Where you can see cows falling from the sky. LOL

March 23, 2010 at 9:45 AM
*Harris said...

Reiz: Thank you! Your blog on unique and unpretentious places has always been quite of an inspiration to me :)

Angeline: Oh haha. I don't think we would want such a scenario then, more burgers or not.

March 23, 2010 at 10:14 AM
sarah | luvx3 said...

Good for you!

Nothing matters more than enjoying what you love doing. Keep up with the passion! (:

March 23, 2010 at 11:06 AM
elaine said...

Kudos to you, Harris! Sugar is with Salt on this (:

March 23, 2010 at 11:28 AM
foodaholic said...

just keep one love going; the love for food. :)

March 23, 2010 at 8:12 PM
*Harris said...

sarah: yes, very well put! "Nothing matters more than enjoying what you love doing."

elaine: thanks sugar ;)

phoebe: *pats tummy* thats testament to my love hahaha!

March 23, 2010 at 8:35 PM
theimportanceofsalt.com said...

Bravo for not taking anymore invites and having the courage to express it!

Dave

March 24, 2010 at 1:22 AM
Ken said...

Well done brother. Perhaps its a testament to the paucity of jobs out there for these other food bloggers that they literally take to begging for free food.

keep up the gastronomical delights! the prodigal son returns to the sunny island in a week and i shall see you then.

Darren

March 24, 2010 at 8:10 AM
*Harris said...

Dave: Thank you Dave! Hope you enjoyed the oysters at PA, regardless of whether you hit 120 or not. :)

Darren: Broooo, I was wondering who's ken and darren. See you once you're back for some Asian grub ;)

March 24, 2010 at 8:21 AM
Xinli said...

to *Harris: Thanks for the advice (:

Here is my blog TheMOOSE
It is still in the infant state though. Your post will be very relevant for my buddies and a guide in making reviews as we are still quite new to the blogging.

to ice:
I agree with you on that one, those guys are making themselves look silly. Sometimes, I think it is not that the service is bad, or the food is bad it is just them being too demanding and being bad patrons to the restaurant.

A little understanding from both sides is a key ingredient to a happy meal.

I know of one place where photography is not allowed not because they don't allow but rather it is located in the Supreme Court. Therefore, for security reasons, no photography is allowed.

March 24, 2010 at 8:24 AM
*Harris said...

Wow, you have a neat group blog there with well-drawn pictures to boot, looks really good!

I know what you mean by giving scores on reviews, I used to do that but it gets harder with each new post you do because it's difficult to compare, be it across price, cuisine etc. And you are also right to add that useful reviews don't just slam a place and leave it hanging, but provide constructive criticism.

So new bloggers or not, you guys already have a lot of sense ;) I've added you on my blogroll, and I look forward to reading more delicious posts! :)

March 24, 2010 at 8:34 AM
Xinli said...

to *Harris:
haha yup it does get more and more difficult each time.

Maybe someday I shall try drawing my thoughts if something turns out to be difficult to describe in words or scores.

and thanks for adding our blog to the blogroll! looking forward to more posts from you too! =)

March 24, 2010 at 8:21 PM
*Harris said...

yeah, i think the drawings are really cool. you can go to those places that don't allow photog and then draw! that would be quite amazing ;)

March 24, 2010 at 9:17 PM
Pet said...

yay! yay! yay!

I totally agree with your decision!

I've always had my doubts about invited sessions coz' I don't see how anyone can truthfully give an independent review given that the meal's free and the food is probably better prepared than it would be for a walk-in customer.

Unfortunately I've been seeing more and more blogs that feature invited sessions and I've stopped reading some of them.

May you enjoy more great food ahead and do share them with us! I've actually quite a number of places after reading your posts and seeing your yummy food photos!

March 24, 2010 at 11:06 PM
*Harris said...

Hello "Pet"! Thanks for your support, glad we're on the same page on this. :)

And yes, I will always share my food experiences with all of you. Hope most of the places that you went after reading my posts did not disappoint you and went alright! :)

March 24, 2010 at 11:49 PM
coffeechee said...

You are a brave boy Harris
Happy birthday
Keep posting and keep eating and most important of all, enjoy it!

March 25, 2010 at 1:14 PM
*Harris said...

thank you "coffeechee", for your birthday wishes and for your support :)

March 25, 2010 at 11:20 PM
Kim said...

I must say I'm relieved. You know that I support your blog since its inception a few years ago... and I still read it religiously (as a way to pass the time and also to see what's good to eat)and it seemed to me that your blog of late took on a very different direction from its beginnings.

The beginnings had you reporting about more heartland food. It was down-to-earth and affordable for people like me who get very little pay and I could better relate to you then. As you got invited to more food tastings and moved progressively to more upmarket eats, I was proud of you for your blog getting so much acclaim, but food-wise felt a slight loss of connection.

Of course I still supported your decision; this is your blog after all. Who am I to dictate the direction of it? But it was a little alarming to me to see its changes.

To sum up, (because i think this is super long already) I'm glad you decided to stay true to the purpose of the blog. :D

March 31, 2010 at 12:32 PM
*Harris said...

Hello Kim, glad that you wrote to tell me how you feel! How are you doing, been ages since we've seen each other!

Anyway yes, it was quite a difficult period because inasmuch as I was flattered by the recognition, I was trying to battle the dilemmas (as mentioned in the post) within. Relieved that I finally made the step, three months later.

About "upmarket" food, I have to admit my savings have been freed up and I have no one else to spend on except myself. That said, I still enjoy good and affordable eats MOST, like Kichn and Ah Loy Thai. :)

I'm still the same Harris you knew in 2006 till today :)

April 1, 2010 at 12:05 AM
Kim said...

Didn't think you'd changed that much, don't worry. Yes it's been ages...since the new year I believe.

And I keep forgetting that you have more 'disposable income' now. Haha.

April 1, 2010 at 3:58 PM
*Harris said...

Yes, "more disposable income" is a good way to put it ;)

April 1, 2010 at 5:42 PM
Sparklette said...

Hey Harris and everyone else,

This is kinda late, but I would like to share a couple of thoughts.

I happen to be one of those food bloggers that receive a number of food tasting invitations regularly. I don't accept every single one of them, just the minority which I'm genuinely keen on. For every session, I treat it like any other meal and constantly remind myself that I need not feel obliged to be lenient. That's the only way I can give an honest review to my readers. To put it bluntly, the integrity and name of my blog is more important to me than the restaurants'. I think this is important to know, and what many bloggers fail to remember.

Whether or not the food is complimentary or I paid from my own pocket is irrelevant, because at the end of the day the review would still be the same, whether positive or negative.

Sometimes readers get confused between a food review and sponsored post, and automatically assume that just because the blogger gets invited to food tasting, his/her review should be read with a pinch of salt. No doubt there ARE bloggers who would wax lyrical about how fantastic the restaurant is when it isn't just because the meal was free. I find that it is unfair to the rest of us who are genuine in giving an authentic review that would mislead no one.

I guess what I want to say is that you need not reject all food-tasting invitations. If you worry that the integrity of your blog is at stake, I would say that at the end of the day, you are the one who's in control of all that is published on your blog. That's the beauty of blogging, isn't it? Just do right by yourself and your readers would come; it's not your duty to please all the PR people and restaurants.

April 1, 2010 at 10:37 PM
*Harris said...

Hello Veron,

In truth I must say that yours is one of the rare few that still try to be fair in most tasting session. A look at your drumbstick or cake rating icons is proof of that.

My rant however is about the rest of the black sheep, who unfortunately are too lost in the artificial atmosphere of it all to be able to give a more accurate write up on the food. We don't need to look far if we were to compare your Prelude post with another particular blogger (the one with the identity crisis).

For tastings like buffets, it sure is difficult to prepare meticulously in advance, but for the ala carte meals it's obvious the chefs will do their best because the "media" is here. It becomes a showcasing event. Even the whole atmosphere is a set-up, made to make you feel comfortable and at ease and to make sure you can take good pictures.

Now, I think it's perfectly fine what these PR companies do, and I will not deny I was treated very well. But I personally want a walk-in experience, out of my own pocket, to judge how anyone who walks in would feel, and to know how much of a pinch would I feel as well ie. is the food worth the money?

And finally, and it's probably just me, but I don't take a free lunch. I have that tinge of obligation, it's my own principles. Because of that, I might as well do my readers a favour and step away from it all.

Cheers Veron, you're doing a good job with your site and those promotions I'm seeing ever so often. Not full of pretentious food too and I like that. :)

April 2, 2010 at 12:36 AM
HungryTrotters said...

I have a backlog of reading your posts and I stumbled into this. Hats off for you Harris :) That sincerity is so visible in your blog, from the very first time i've read your first post. Keep it up!

April 9, 2010 at 2:28 PM
*Harris said...

Hungrytrotter: Heya! Thank you for your kind words, it certainly brought a smile to my face. It's things like these that I feel encouraged to keep up this passion and love :)

By the way, is there any names that I can address you by? Calling you hungrytrotters may be a little rude! :)

April 9, 2010 at 9:10 PM
HungryTrotters said...

I just read your comment asking for my name...hahaha you should know it by now...but i don't mind hungrytrotters...or just plain hungry...coz i always am :)

May 14, 2010 at 2:30 PM
Victoria said...

Interestingly, because of all the hoo-ha (you know what I'm talking about) about food blogging and particular complaints about you from certain others, I eventually wound up at this post (that I also see that was taken out of context in XX's post, most unfortunately).

I am somewhat new to Singapore and am too quite appalled and somewhat fascinated with the food blogging or blogging scene in general.

This post is refreshing to read. While there are some finer points I'd debate about, overall, I respect and agree with your values. Cheers!

-V

August 27, 2010 at 12:22 AM
*Harris said...

Hi Victoria, thanks for your little note, I appreciate the kind words. I know no one really read my whole post here (the thing about long posts haha...) so I'm still getting slammed.

Despite this, don't take this as representative of Singapore, there's still a lot of good in this place. Whether you blog or not, just enjoy eating and follow your heart :)

August 28, 2010 at 6:19 PM
D said...

Hi Harris

I've been following your blog for countless months now, essentially because I feel that yours is in the blessed minority of being one of the more bonafide (and less hoity-toity) food blogs around.

Any self-respecting food blog cannot possibly entertain invited tasting sessions of any description and still be expected to be taken seriously, so kudos for taking the no-more-invited-tasting-sessions stance, although it's pretty obvious that you already eschew such affairs to begin with anyway.

Keep up the sterling work, top man!

August 30, 2010 at 3:52 PM
Anonymous said...

that's nice :) I know of certain food bloggers who get greedy enough to request tastings and eat extra stuff while at those tastings. Glad to see you're not one of them! :)

March 18, 2011 at 12:25 AM
Vivilicious said...

Really gives me hope to to see a blogger with some real integrity. Well done you and wishing you every success!

May 24, 2011 at 4:06 PM

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