Pengest Munch episode 13
A nice meta-piece of food writing, Navneet Alang asks "Who Gets To Be A Restaurant Critic?" and analyzes the work of Youtube sensation Elijah Quashie -- aka, the "Chicken Connoisseur." The interesting thing being, a dapper and pleasant Mr. Quashie only reviews London chicken shops -- pretty much the cheapest and most deeply fried eats in the country.
I'm making it all sound a lot more complicated than it really is. Navneet gets to it:
"That, however, is just the trouble with standards: They don’t translate well across types of people, or the group divisions that help define those standards in the first place. The tension between haute cuisine and populism, a Times review and Yelp, is about competing ways of deciding what’s good — of whether chips should be fat and soft like in a chippy, or thin and crisp like bistro frites. But when the public discourse around food is so overwhelmingly dominated not just by highfalutin critics, but those who are often white, middle-income, and left-leaning, the assumed standards by which food is judged tend to reflect and replicate exactly those values. If critics these days seem to most value food which presents a vision, highlights the ingredients, or inventively mixes influences, it’s because those are the values of upwardly mobile, culturally omnivorous eaters who believe in conscious capitalism.
This is why the Chicken Connoisseur feels so pleasantly unusual. It checks off all the boxes for what modern food criticism looks like, self-reflexively paying attention to its own status as criticism, but instead of taking you to places with small plates, or omakase, takes you to chicken shops in Hackney or Tottenham or any number of other London areas that haven’t been entirely subsumed by gentrification. Those shops are, in a simple empirical sense, the kinds of places where millions of people eat, but that people concerned with food as signifier of cultural capital would rather ignore — perhaps because such places don’t represent change or novelty, the necessary fuel of the media, but also perhaps because the change they might stand for isn’t considered relevant. In putting a critical vocabulary people were already using into a polished, appealing YouTube show, however, Quashie ends up providing a model for what a food criticism that speaks to a broader, browner, less-wealthy audience might look like. It’s fast food, framed as a product of its place and time, by someone who is winning and funny in front of a camera, and who happens to be young and black."The politics are significant, and the humor and positive energy are infectious.