The ghost stories that are told around the campfire about the Good Food Guide are almost as legendary as the book itself. Good Food Guide editor Myffy Rigby turns a hose on some of those flames...
Myth: We accept freebies for favourable reviews
Our independence costs us a lot of money, but it's what separates us from other publications. The Good Food Guide is a massively expensive undertaking – not least because we visit every entry in the Guide as well as all those new openings for each edition. And then, of course, there are all the places that we visit, but that don't make the cut, or that close before the Guide comes out. New chefs mean new reviews too. As do total menu changes. The list goes on. Our readers can rest easy knowing we stand by what goes in our pages. We're sent free dishes from time to time, but we hate being sent stuff we didn't order and can't write about. It's a waste of calories all round.
Myth busted: Nope. Our independence is hard fought and expensively won.
Myth: Reviewers get better service than everyone else
Very often we wait much longer for food while chefs faff around making sure the dishes are just right, and overly attentive service is actually quite off-putting and makes it hard for us to do our jobs. The best-case scenario, if recognised, is having a senior or better informed member of staff running your table. The worst case is the chef sitting at the table watching us eat, and waiters talking through the entire meal. It's well-intended, but means we can't properly do our job and usually ends in us having to send a second reviewer in for another look.
Myth busted: Yeah, sometimes we do. But not always to our advantage.
Myth: Eating out every night of the week is luxurious and fun
The popular rule of thumb is it takes 10,000 hours to become proficient at something, and I'd hazard that includes eating in restaurants. It's always interesting how many people drop off the dining buddy roster after sitting in on two or more reviews in a week. Don't get us wrong. It is definitely a fun gig. We have the opportunity to see the most innovative dining in the country every night of the week. But it's also a huge amount of responsibility. There are no nights off during reviewing season. There's no room to get it wrong, to be sick, sad or otherwise unprepared to have a great time. These are people's livelihoods at stake. That is the privilege and the challenge.
We're sent free dishes from time to time, but we really hate being sent stuff we didn't order and can't write about.
Myth busted: It can be, on the good days.
Myth: Restaurant critics wear outlandish disguises to avoid being recognised
Weirdly, some people actually like being recognised. Those people don't work with us. The Good Food Guide has a strict code of practice. Reviewers are briefed to be discreet and thorough. It's amazing how far being quiet and respectful can take you when it comes to being "made" in a restaurant. The best disguise is just not acting like an entitled boob.
Myth busted: Some do, some don't. We don't.
Myth: We don't review beyond inner-city limits
Ah, that old chestnut. We'll let logic do the legwork for us on this one. Chefs and restaurateurs open restaurants in areas where there's lots of foot traffic, thus increasing the likelihood of bums on seats. So sure, there's a pretty high chance of finding interesting restaurants to write about in areas where there are also live music venues, galleries, museums and theatres. But there are also plenty of new operators who can't afford to open in areas like that. Which is why so many restaurateurs have been choosing to open outside the city limits, one of the more exciting developments in recent years. With Good Food Magazine launching (look out for the first edition in The Age and SMH on October 4), there are more opportunities than ever to tell stories outside the usual well-trodden neighbourhoods.
Myth busted: We're more interested in how good, delicious and interesting it is to eat at a restaurant than in its postcode.
Myth: We only give favourable reviews to chefs with tattoos and pretty Instagram accounts
In much the same way opening a restaurant in Surry Hills or Fitzroy doesn't guarantee a great review, the same goes for that chef who thinks getting a bunch of tattoos and flat laying their tweezer-heavy dishes on the 'Gram is going to guarantee hats. Good styling can't mask bad food.
Myth busted: Yeah, nah mate.
Myth: It's all but impossible to get re-reviewed for the Guide once you've been dropped
It's certainly not easy if a restaurant has been dropped from the book for, say, really awful service or food. There are so many openings each year, we can only find places for the best of the best. But after a restaurant has been through a period of transition – new chef, owners, fitout – that's when we'd traditionally take another look. We do rely on readers, writers and industry to keep us abreast of these things, and great places we may have overlooked. So tell us!
Myth busted: Our commitment is to quality – if a venue looks promising enough, we'll send a reviewer in to check it out again for potential inclusion in the next edition.
Myth: It's the best job in the world
Myth confirmed: It really is.
The Good Food Guide's third annual national edition is now available in newsagencies and bookstores, and at thestore.com.au/gfg20, $29.99 with free shipping.