Food Blogging with a twist – How Not To Do A Food Blog interview
Paul from ‘How Not To Do A Food Blog’ is one of rare breed; he’s a food blogger and an ex-professional chef, so he knows more than most people about the passion that goes into damn good food. He’s been reviewing restaurants on his blog (HNTDAFB for short) since 2009, firstly in Leeds and now in London. But if you thought he was one of these ‘la-di-da’ restaurant reviewers who care more about the fancy arrangement of some shrimps on a plate than they do about the taste of the meal, then think again….
hungryhouse: The food blogging scene in London is packed with passionate foodies such as yourself, but who or what inspired you to take the plunge and start your own blog about the capital’s food scene?
Paul: I started blogging up in Leeds a while before I moved to London for work. Up North I was probably one of five people doing a similar thing. I’d always loved writing and the day job at the time wasn’t really fulfilling any of my “creative” needs. As an ex-chef I’ve always loved talking about food so I just decided to start writing about it as a way getting my thoughts out on paper so to speak. Mostly to stop boring my friends… I started reading other blogs, mainly from London, and it spiraled on from there. After I made the move the bloggers I’d been chatting to on the web started to invite me out to try new places and I guess I’ve been hooked ever since.
hungryhouse: The name ‘How not to do a food blog’, how did it come about and how does it reflect your approach to food blogging?
Paul: How not to do a food blog for me is exactly how I think about food. I hate pretension, I’m not a fan of fuss, and I hope my writing shows that sentiment. I always wanted the blog to be a bit of a diary good or bad so in my mind the blog named itself. It also gives me the freedom to write about whatever I like. Sure one week I might talk about a new restaurant opening but the next I can write a recipe for dirty kebab house style chilli sauce as well.
hungryhouse: How have you seen London’s food scene change over the years? Is it really all about boutique burger joints now or are there still some surprises to be found round every street corner?
Paul: The burger scene has exploded over the last few years. As soon as you get a few trail blazers making some money from something new people will want to jump on that band wagon! There are burger joints everywhere these days but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. People forget that London is huge and you don’t always want to travel all the way across it to get something you love. For me though there are always little gems to be found; I live in north London now so it’s all about Turkish food and real kebabs cooked over charcoal.
hungryhouse: How do you choose which restaurants to review? Do you get tips from other food bloggers and friends in London, or do restaurants themselves end up writing to you to request a review?
Paul: Bloggers fall on new openings like hyenas pure and simple. Twitpics and instagrams fly around like blood splatter. It’s hard not to find yourself salivating over the pictures so if I see something I like invariably I’ll have to check it out… I tend to ignore most of the review requests I get unless I’d actually want to go with my own money. If you wouldn’t want to pay for it normally why go when it’s free?
hungryhouse: As an ex-chef, do you think that you understand better than most the blood, sweat and tears that restaurants owners and chefs put into their food? And does this make you a more understanding food blogger than most?
Paul: In short yes. There are a lot of bloggers out there who know a lot about food but haven’t a clue how hard it is actually getting a business on it’s feet. I don’t think that makes me a better blogger though; just a little bit more forgiving at times.
hungryhouse: What is your relationship like with restaurant owners? Do the majority respond well to your reviews and accept that their food might have room for improvement, or do they take your reviews to heart and banish you from their dining rooms?
Paul: I hate talking to restaurant owners; it’s probably part of the reason why I don’t take that many freebies. I go out to eat a meal not blow smoke up the owners ass. Chef’s belong in the kitchen not on the floor talking to the guests.
hungryhouse: I’m sure picking a favourite restaurant or dining experience in London is nigh on impossible, but then we’re a discerning bunch here at hungryhouse! What would be the most memorable dining experience you’ve had when writing for your blog?
Paul: My favourite restaurant hands down is Jose on Bermondsey Street. I could eat there every day; the Jamon is pure mouth sex. My first Bleeker Street burger was pretty fantastic as well. It was at Wilderness Festival; I was hung over and the meaty goodness saved me from falling over the edge that day.
hungryhouse: Leaving London aside for a minute, what other city’s food scene have you fallen in love with?
Paul: The food scene in Melbourne is amazing. Every bit as diverse as London but with more sunshine. What’s not to like?
hungryhouse: And lastly, you might get in trouble for this, but which blogger would you choose to be classed as ‘Not Just Another Food Blogger’? (i.e which food blog do you particularly enjoy following because it stands out from the crowd)
Paul: I read a lot of blogs but one that stands out for me is Chris Pople’s Cheese and Biscuits. The guy knows good food and has good taste. I’ve eaten a good few meals just on the back of his reviews and not been disappointed yet. For good humour you can’t beat the Foodurchin or Helen Grave’s Food Stories. For recipes that make me drool on my keyboard I’d go to Meemalee or Hollowlegs as well!
Thanks Paul for the interview.