Top Chef Discovers Bloggers – Or At Least Andrea Strong

I didn’t really know whether to cheer or be disturbed last week when Top Chef revealed that food blogger Andrea Strong had been at the openings of the competing restaurants in the “Restaurant Wars” episode of the show. Padma Lakshmi proceeded to read her comments and it seemed like we heard more from Strong than guest judge Daniel Boulud, a world-renowned chef. Reading Strong’s The Strong Buzz, it is difficult to discern where she gained enough food knowledge to be a credible judge alongside Daniel Boulud, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, Ted Allen and even Padma. The buzz in the blogosphere was loud afterward and it seems the writers were in much of the same quandary as I am.

Perhaps one reason Strong was called in for commentary was that she was very willing to focus on many of the elements outside of the actual food being served. She weighed in on Brian’s profuse sweating, the stench of vanilla candles, and the horrors of eating off black tablecloths. Gawker pronounced her just mean. I’m still not sure I understand what is so horrible about the name The Garage or why black tablecloths reminded her of Dracula or Billy Idol. She lives in a city (New York) where everyone wears black all over their bodies every day.

On the positive side, Serious Eats sees it as a sign that food bloggers are going mainstream and “food media will never be the same.” I’m not so sure since, apparently, the primary reason why Andrea Strong ended up the only blogger identified and mentioned in “Restaurant Wars” was because she was willing to take a pledge to not mention anything about her Top Chef appearance until after the show aired. This doesn’t sound like a show ready to throw open the gates for online media. It sounds more like throwing mega-publicity the way of those willing to play the game by the rules of old media.

In the final analysis, unsurprisingly, Anthony Bourdain, on his Top Chef blog had some of the most telling and witty words about the role of food bloggers in today’s restaurant world:

” it takes only one bad dish, one messed up plate, for people to start buzzing about the place going downhill — particularly in this era when half your customers seem to be food bloggers.”