Ethics of A Food Blogger

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So recently I’ve been confronted with an interesting topic: Why do you get free meals and why should people believe your blog?
This question even popped up on the popular restaurant review page “Oman Restaurant Review” and the admins there were accused of trying to score free meals…etc.

Should bloggers get paid? should they get free meals? how do you insure that a blogger’s views are honest and not bought?

Well, here are some popular bloggers and their opinions before I share mine…

Heather Duncan from The Duncan Adventures had this to say:
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“As a Blogger I am constantly ploughing my time and money into a site to please other people. Shelling out for camera equipment, domain names, traveling to places in search of a good story – it all adds up! I don’t make any cash back on my site so effectively I am at a loss. I just keep blogging because I enjoy it and feel a sense of pride. If a company wanted to invite me for a free meal to discuss their upcoming events, I don’t see anything wrong in that. A small ‘perk’ in return for all the time devoted to creating something bigger is a not a bad thing. A ‘perk’ is just a small reward, not pay day.”

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I asked one of my favorite food bloggers; Susan from HeyFatsu a few questions that I’ve been asked a lot! this is what she had to say:
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Me: Why do people differentiate bloggers from traditional media? essentially they both get asked to join in for food tasting.

Susan: It’s probably because people see bloggers as people who write for free, whereas the print media gets paid a salary for it. That makes bloggers look more objective and open, so maybe people feel somehow betrayed if they then perceive bloggers as getting “bribed” with food.

Me: Do you think its ethical? would it sway opinions of bloggers?

Susan: Blogging is so varied and doesn’t follow a set structure, each writer is going to make their own ethical choices. Personally I was brought up on a diet of Enid Blyton and righteous indignation so I have a very firm view of what I am morally comfortable with. I think that readers can sense when there’s honesty in what’s being written, especially highly intelligent ones like the people who read FatSu. I hope people reading FatSu know that while I might love food and appreciate sometimes being invited, I wouldn’t ever change what I wrote based on that for the sake of a free meal. Maybe for a massive pile of cash.

Me: If you got invited to a place and didn’t like the food, how would you handle that? does getting invited sway how you write?

Susan: Sometimes, I get invited to places and choose not to go because I have had the food before and not enjoyed it. So free food alone would not be enough to tempt me. Free awesome food, I will not turn down. Why would I?! If anyone were to ask it I ate for free, I would tell them the truth. I have never and would never lie about that, or anything else on my blog. My blog only retains its value for readers if it’s honest and entertaining. There’s never been any pressure on me to make specific references, or efforts made to influence my posts, by any of the people that have invited me – if there was, I wouldn’t continue to eat at their restaurants. I’m no food whore. And nobody tells FatSu what to write.

Being invited doesn’t sway how I write. How good the food is sways whether I write. I’ve been invited to restaurants and not particularly enjoyed the food – to me, that makes for a pretty dull post, so I tend not to write it up, particularly when it’s a cuisine I’m not that familiar with (on the ground of well, what do I know?). Of course if I was a traditional restaurant critic, I would have to give a full evaluation regardless, but luckily I’m not. I can choose what I write about, and I like to write about good food. All my negative ranting tends to be aimed at the market in general, whether it’s the proliferation of faceless chains or the lack of ripe avocados on the shelves.

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Initially, I had set out to write a big post about this but all my points are covered! what id like to add is that we don’t write to get perks, we write because we enjoy it and as Susan rightly said, it will be a very boring post if we write things that we ourselves can’t enjoy!
More so, we have intelligent readers…..if I write that a restaurant I visited has amazing food and great service and you get treated to an unpalatable meal, would you believe my next post? would you continue to read my blog?

No, you wouldn’t …….

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For the love of food!

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The first time I went to Love at First Bite (L@FB), I remember my reaction…….This is not Oman! The creative concept i was surprised by is unique and I was very surprised that it was created by a passionate Omani entrepreneur! everything from the menu to the furnaiture was his brainchild.

The name just puts you onto the owners mindset! The satirical names of the dishes alone should make you try this place out……can you picture going on a first date and ordering “Marry Me”?

When you see themed restaurants, usually the experience isinteresting but the actual food isn’t the highlight……….that is certainly not the case with L@FB……the restaurant owner (Khalid) oversees the creation of the dishes himself and has his own inputs, so you feel that individual touch to each dish…how do I know?

Well……I was at the OpenMinds forum a while back, and someone recognized me from the Freezing Omanis, as I was talking to him and updating him on what iv been upto, Khalid walked by……he walked by at the same time that I was getting to talk about my food photography.

Khalid talked to me about doing some shots with his restaurant but these weren’t average food shots………..he wants the personality of his restaurant to come out in the themes…..and in doing that I saw how immersed he is in the love of his restaurants……….nothing less than perfect came out and I didn’t have to step into the kitchen once!

This was the nicest yet most difficult shoot I have done so far……….I spent a week just thinking of the concepts for each dish and a lot of will power to not eat everything I saw! and it got harder after I tried the food!!!

So lets dive into my favorite foods and images!

“I can’t make you love me” ……except if I offered you this heavenly sandwich……..the cheese and chicken are just a perfect match!

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“Deception” I tell you! ……this devilishly fresh asparagus soup tricks you into thinking its an ordinary soup but shows its true flavors at the first sip.

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“She Loves Me”…….you don’t have to take a gamble on whether you love this dish or not……the prawns are nicely battered and crispy while the sauce just adds that zing to it!

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“Lies”……This is definitely my favorite sandwich! the sauce mixes so well with the cheese and meat…..ok this is making me so hungry that im gonna go off to eat something now….

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WARNING…….the next photos aren’t for the faint hearted or anyone with a sweet tooth “Addiction”

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If you want something to share, “its complicated” will take the complication out of the equation!

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Or you can end the night with an “Affair”

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Well……….these are my top picks but its difficult to say as there are many more noteworthy dishes! the choices will just drive you “Bananas”

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All puns aside, this place has my attention……….and serving till 12 midnight makes this a perfect classy place to go to if you are out till late!

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A Culture of Brave Foodies – ‫#‏عزومة_عمانية

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You know……iv been asked about my blog and how iv been blogging about food alot lately
Well if you disregard that im a food photographer….should you still be surprised? in short….No

Just think about our culture…….unlike many other countries, our culture doesn’t have the bar/club culture and in summer its insanely hot so there goes most of your camping and trekking activities. entertainment for many of us here means going out for a meal!

But its more than just that………..people are very passionate about it here. I mean VERY passionate.

Through my dealings with restaurateurs I quickly realized something……this isn’t just business to them, its a burning dream thats coming true, and their personalities will be clear and obvious in how their restaurants are run.

So recently Omran has organized an event to showcase local restaurant SME’s, it had a very beautiful name to it as well (#‏عزومة_عمانية) which means, An Omani Invitation..it has such a nice meaning in arabic full of hospitality and friendliness …….instantly I wanted to go, these guys are smart and passionate and if i can help out with a photo or two then hey, im all in!

I got there and I was IMPRESSED!

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I know a few restaurateurs, and they are very passionate but I always assumed that those are the people in my circle…..I was very pleasantly surprised that each one of the people I met is wildly passionate and invested in their restaurants. So much, that they spent the whole time serving the customers with pride flowing when they talk about their restaurants.

I was very impressed with 3 places in particular…..

The first one is Shuwa Express,

I love Shuwa, its one of my favorite Omani meals, and this new take on it is one of my favorite food related things that has ever happened!!! im not exaggerating……..I love the fact that its a sandwich with sauce and the same authentic spices of shuwa! innovation while keeping the traditional flavors. If you haven’t tried it then you are missing out and should get yourself to bareeq al shatti!

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The second Place was village food…..I absolutely love the arabic name, it means a lot…it means neighborhood food, and thats what’s so cool about it….the culture of growing up in your neighbourhood and that its your mini town with all your friends there…that brings nostalgia to many people who grew up here! The food he brings is what you want a catering company to provide! simple yet very tasty dishes……..burgers and rolls, sandwiches that look and taste fresh.

In an industry where many go fancy, this guy’s simple approach with a focus on taste and quality is what really brings it to the table…….if you are luck enough to speak to him then you will be really inspired by his passion!

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The third one was the big shocker for me………iv been at the Chado tea lounge in Oasis in al shatti (opposite bareeq al shatti) and I was always under the assumption that it is an international franchise that came to Oman.

I was shocked to know that its an Omani brand through and through…….the logo, the setting……the selection of teas!!!

The owner was telling us the story behind it and OH MY GOD this guy knows his stuff!!! he obviously loves what he does and against odds he is doing something amazing……

My thought now is that why are we not making this a big brand in Oman? this brand can be big and really grow……and one day, I see it going around the region being the place for tea lovers!

The private tea room in Oasis is amazing and it deserves a post on its own…..im still in shock as im writing this.  Just go to Chado and tell me that you didn’t think a big group made that happen!

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Im very lucky to know these entrepreneurs……just think about what they do, They fully invest their time and money into something they love.

Would you be able to quit your job in the next year and open up a business of your own? to not rely on your stable income and put all bets on a business you dream of having? well I know I can’t….not now at least.

So next time you go to a restaurant and think of posting your experience online, just think about it………….don’t use words like ‘pathetic’ and ‘disgusting’…..if you had a bad experience then say how you would want it to be better, and if you had a good experience then let them know! nothing will make a proud business owner feel better than knowing that their hard work is appreciated by the people that they made it for.

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For now, I must say……im feeling very proud to know such brave foodies.