Andrew Zimmern, chef and host of Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods, has never held back his feelings about crowdsourced review site Yelp, once calling it a “tremendous forum for a bunch of uninformed morons to take down restaurants.” It’s all well and good to slam the site, but what are people to do when they’re looking for insight on where to eat?
His problem with Yelp, Zimmern explains in an interview with Eater.com, is that someone looking for reviews has no idea of a reviewer’s personal tastes, biases, or knowledge of food.
“I’m no one’s food snob. I consider a perfect hot dog on the street to be as valid a food experience as dinner at Blue Hill at Stone Barns,” he says. “I do not care what people — who I don’t know where they live, don’t know what their eating habits are, don’t know what sort of expertise or standards they bring to the experience — telling me what they think of a hot dog on the street or Blue Hill at Stone Barns. It’s meaningless to me.”
The solution, says Zimmern, is what he calls “crowdsourced expertise” — the use of social media to find people whose taste seem to be in line with yours and who you’d consider knowledgeable on the kind of food you’re looking for.
“I would be interested to know where Rick Bayless likes to eat Mexican food in Chicago,” he explains, referring to the chef/restaurateur/better Bayless brother. “I follow Rick Bayless. I follow Mexican chefs who are there. I follow line cooks. I build my own profile. I take food seriously, so I have my own resources. People who don’t want to spend a little bit of time building their own network and their own profile on their social media love to turn to Yelp, and that’s great. The problem is that they’re not crowdsourcing expertise. They’re just crowdsourcing noise. My suggestion is, why wouldn’t you spend 15, 20 minutes and search on Twitter and follow some people in the city?”
Zimmern says that asking for crowdsourced information from non-experts “is such a waste of time. It was really hard 20 years ago to do that. Now you can just flip on your phone.”