Trey Popp Says My Opinion Is Worthless; Yours Might Be, Too

“Want a free meal? Start a food blog and Up might invite you for one…You gotta give Up credit as a promoter. Stuffing food bloggers with free food and digital prose pre-loaded with ’80s movie references is an unbeatable way to create buzz. But the danger of inviting comparison between P.Y.T.’s cookout-grade burgers and the man-sized version at Butcher & Singer is that a critic who actually pays his checks might carry one out.”Trey Popp

So, good buddy and fellow food writer Trey Popp said I’m in this shit for free food. Free food. Fo’realz. I get every check comped, every beer and drink on the house, every nibble is GRATIS, yo. Because , shit, why should I PAY FOR FOOD? I’m a blogger. I don’t pay for nothing. Isn’t that why we all started doing this? We’re all straight P.I.M.P.

Oh wait, no. I got a job and I pay for my meals. 5 or 6 nights a week. Because I love to eat. I love food. I love the culture. And besides the bones I get tossed by the good PR folks around town now and again, (which never included PYT, by the way) I spend all of my disposable income on prepared food, rare beers, wine, and travel to eat weird shit. Not a necessity in the lot there, but that’s my point. I do this because I love it. And I know what I am talking about, too. So do my colleagues.

I spent years in kitchens, behind the bar, washing dishes, traveling to eat victuals I heard about in movies and read about in books. Food psycho? Check. Big fucking check. Same with my contemporaries. I’m naming names. Foobooz, Drew and Felicia at Meal Ticket, Fries With That Shake, Mac and Cheese, Foodaphilia, The Unbreaded Boys, PhilaFoodie (Dave would never trash us, he never forgets his roots), Beer Lass, A Food Coma, Femme Fermental, Foodzings, Living On The Vedge, Holly Eats, Messy and Picky, etc. do this for the love. And as far as I know, we all have jobs and pay handsomely for the opportunity to eat great stuff. I dropped 180 bills to eat a shitty plate of veal at Marc Vetri’s eponymous outpost. No trust fund here picking up the slack. And sure as shit, The Big V ain’t comping me baby cow, crappy or not. Put a monster dent in my budget, but it was completely worth it. Same with Talula’s, every goddamn Starr restaurant, Garces’ places, Zahav and the like. Paid for all of them. Happily. Every last steamed soup dumpling.

Trey is a writer, first and foremost. That’s his job.  He writes about whatever gets tossed his way. Whether it’s food or Democrats buying votes or a Worst-Case Scenario book about camping, it’s what he does. THAT’S HIS JOB, and he trashes us about free food? Food bloggers do this for little or no pay, for love. We find passion in a burger or great beer, a perfect cupcake or slice of pie, and ache to tell our friends and cohorts about the experience. We’re big fucking nerds.

Kind of irnoic he called us out on legitimacy, considering he didn’t mention that often times the weeklies can only send their ‘reviewers’ once. Whether they admit it or not, that’s the truth. Not gonna blow any whistles, but a very prominent food personality in Philly told me his pub can only send him twice on very special occasions. Happens to work at a weekly. Ahem.

PYT, the place in question, has been inconsistent. I had 2 great burgers there and 2 mediocre. One good batch of fries and another terrible. Good and bad shake. But what the hell do I know, I’m a blogger. It’s a shame that we were brought up in derogatory fashion, because I can’t remember any ’blogger’ talking about how useless the ‘traditional media’ is.

I would trust E at Foodaphilia to tell me who bakes the best desserts in town, because that’s what she does in her spare time. I would ask Jess at Fries With That Shake where to get the closest version of In and Out Burger in the local, because she’s obsessed. Suzy and Felicia would be my first stop for a beer critique or recommendation, and Kells and Taylor could help me out when my veggie friends are in town. Unbreaded keep the sammies on lockdown. Not sure I would ask Popp to find any of that shit out. But next time I need to remove a tick, I’ll read his book.

  • Andy

    Big ups C.

  • http://www.foodaphilia.com e

    Food blogging is the least monetarily lucrative thing I do! It is definitely the most rewarding socially and culinarily, but I absolutely don’t get meals comped left and right when restaurant owners notice me whip out my camera. That’s bullshit, Trey.

  • rory

    Popp’s mad…but a tip o the hat to Tommy Up offering a free burger if you print out Popp’s review.

    he does know how to promote.

    Considering the weeklies have recently cut their food sections in half or more, I thank god there are good food blogs to pick up/improve (yep, i said it. improve) the amount and quality of the food knowledge in the city.

    It’s not like us food bloggers/food-blog-followers stopped reading the weeklies just because the blogs existed. it’s not like we don’t recognize when a promoter is promoting…we just don’t look a free burger in the mouth! (ironically, I personally agree with Popp–my burger was decent/good, but I’d rather head up to Sketch unless I’m really craving booze with my burger…and i’ve heard good things ’bout swift half’s burger if I’m stuck in the piazza).

  • Hunka Burning Love

    How exactly did Popp get to be a restaurant critic anyway? I find his reviews essentially worthless because they always come off as if he has an ax to grind — with restaurateurs, culinary trends, his readers, etc. Also, I think its kind of funny that a guy who writes for a newspaper that runs ads for hookers, trannies and rub-and-tug joints is questioning the legitimacy of bloggers.

  • Ben

    Some of the bloggers you mention get free food and behind-the-scene looks frequently. There is a difference between this and reviewers like Popp and Laban who try (granted, not always successfully) to approach a restaurant the way a typical customer would.

    Popp was a jerk about it, but this is an important distinction to make. Different bloggers try their food in different ways. You would do well you get off your high horse and recognize that, just as in print, there are shills and there are genuine critics/journalists in the blogosphere. And also hacks that regurgitate another story from elsewhere and put nonsense, snarky spin on it.

    I recommend everyone read the GrubStreet article about this:
    http://philadelphia.grubstreet.com/2009/09/tommy_up.html

  • CEF

    @ Ben

    This post was in response to what Trey had written. If anyone needs to get down off of a high horse, it’s not us. Why this shot was taken in the first place is beyond us. It’s not as if we start trash talking print media folks.

    I understand the reviewers go in ‘as customers’, but what about those of us who actually are customers? Sure we have all gotten press invites and been to events. But to say we don’t pay for our own food is absurd. Unless I actually go and pay with my own money as a regular customer, I couldn’t comment on what I had experienced. Press does get a different look at the meet and greets and opening events.

    As for regurgitating stories, every paper in the city reviews each restaurant (or as many as they can) and all of us write about the things that are happening around town. Often there is overlap. Not much you can do about that, my friend.

  • Ben

    @CEF,

    FTR my comment about the story regurgitation was not directed at you guys or Philebrity. It was about blogs that post links but act like its a scoop that they read some article from Philly.com before any of the other blogs. And then top it off with self-righteous blather and baseless speculation.

  • http://macandcheesereview.blogspot.com Taylor

    You’re right Collin, food bloggers are passionate nerds who write only for the love of food and (hopefully) the benefit of the few readers we reach. To date, I have never once been comped a meal, been paid to write a review, reviewed a restaurant at the owner’s suggestion, or made one cent in the food blogging hobby that takes up so much of my time it is almost like a second job – a second job I do for free and out of passion.

    Now I’ve heard of bloggers being offered free goods, but I think this is more of a myth, and when it does happen it certainly is not the norm. Only recently, have I started to get invitations to media previews of restaurant launches like the one Tommy offered to bloggers when he opened PYT. So far, I have been unable to attend any of these events, including the PYT event.

    And if I could attend, I would have no qualms about writing up my impressions. Why? Because, like all reviewers, I write reviews obviously with a bent to my opinions and impressions (if I didn’t, I would be just reiterating press releases, which has it’s place, but that’s not what I do), but I always write with transparency and would offer up front if a meal was comped (I do believe all of the bloggers who attended Tommy’s event mentioned the fact that they were reporting on a media event), if the owner is my friend, if the cuisine is my specialty so I’m ultra-picky, or any other relationship or fact that might sway my opinion.

    And, finally, in getting to know so many of the wonderful food bloggers in the Philadelphia area, I can assure you that the bloggers who have been in the game for a while, and will continue to be in the game, bring the exact same passion and transparency to their reviews as I do, you do, and, supposedly, paid reviewers do.

  • Phreebie

    I saw you getting hooked up with free stuff at varga.
    Just sayin.

  • http://style.pwblogs.com lexis-nexis lady

    @Ben

    “It’s not as if we start trash talking print media folks.”

    Let a plaque be erected upon this place! It shall read, “September 3, 2009: Here was cast the first stone in the Media Wars of the Early Century, by Philadelphia City Paper writer Trey Popp. Indeed, neither side had talked shit about the other until this sad day.”

  • Ben

    Taylor,

    I know for a fact that more than one of the blogs mentioned in the post regularly get free tastes and meet with restaurant owners, chefs and other insiders. It is certainly not a myth. Food bloggers are passionate nerds, but they all take different approaches to getting their content. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as the bloggers don’t misrepresent themselves, and I don’t think any of our local favorites do. But to generalize about food writers of any medium is just lying.

  • http://bhiladelphia.blogspot.com/ bhiladelphia

    if trey ever read one of my reviews… he he (sigh).

  • http://macandcheesereview.blogspot.com Taylor

    Ben – No generalizing or lying on my part, I was just putting out there my experience as a food blogger. And, I did mention that gratis food does happen, but is not the norm. Poll all of the food bloggers in Philly not associated with print media to see who gets comped, and I think you’ll find it’s an extremely small percentage.

  • http://Www.phoodie.info CEF

    @ Phreebie. Read my post. I never said I didn’t get free stuff. PR events, liquor tastings, etc. have all been part of the job. But I do not review food or meals that I didn’t pay for. The original shot was that bloggers write positive reviews for people because we didn’t pay for the meal. I always go as a paying customer first before passing judgment.

    @lexis-nexis
    Sounds alot like the plaque those kids put together in Red Dawn. WOLVERINES!!!!!!!

  • http://drawingforfood.blogspot.com HK

    I’ve never eaten a free meal because Im a “food blogger”. In fact i go out of my way to NOT to review overhyped places that everyone raves about. Part of it is that I like to seek out the road less traveled, but also do you really need to read another write up of PYT or whatever latest place the Philly PR machine is relentlessly pushing? It’s really boring reading about the same 4 restaurants every week.

    It drives me nuts when restaurants in Philly with great food fail (example- Ansill, etc) while mediocre, overpriced, trendy places with a massive PR presence thrive.

  • Marty B.

    Oh come on, this indignant stance is an instance/universal ven diagram logic fail. Anyone reading the article and the graf’ you’ve pulled from it knews exactly what Popp was insinuating (as explained later on Grubb street): a collective or community of hack bloggers got a comp meal and gushed about the place, allowing official and stealth PYT marketeers to spam up Philadelphia’s internet traffic with “rave reviews”.

    By and large the “food blogosphere” is a rehash of PR or comprises indexical writing at best. That is, the writer doesn’t really have anything to say but point to things or repeat what a marketer tells ‘em. There are exceptional food writers out there who find an audience through blogging. Collin, you’re one of them. That said, I wouldn’t fault Popp for saying there’s a lot of bullshit out there and letting it slip that he, and a lot of readers, are sort of sick of that bullshit.

  • hamburglar

    I personally find most of the philly-based food blogs to be lacking in original content. I often feel there is an incestual web of links among the food bloggers.

    Let’s face it – despite the slight insult to bloggers – Popp was totally right. The burgers at PYT are subpar compared to the loads of places in Philly you can get a stellar burger sidled by a decent beer.

    I don’t want want a violinist preparing my sushi, and I don’t want some glorfied promoter/DJ making my hamburger.

    I’ll gladly pay you next Tuesday for the original content you give me today…

  • Marty B.

    Good comment, hamburgler, but the Hamburgler is a straight-out thug. He just grabs the burgerbag and runs. Wimpy’s the guy with the complicated credit default scheme to burger-bezzle.

  • hamburglar

    i am aware, i was just trying to cram in an additional reference to a fictional hamburger obsessed fiend. little known fact: hamburglar is actually the in vitro love spawn of zoro and phyllis diller.


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