The curried chicken ramen at Asiatique. To know what's in it, you have to ask chef Peng Looi; you don't assume. | Photo by Steve Coomes

On any given day, I could be asked by a reader, “How do you know so much about restaurants?” and then be told in so many words by a restaurateur that I don’t fully understand something I’ve written about.

Neither comment is humbling. When a reader thinks I know a lot, I’m reminded that I’ll never know it all, that there’s much more to master in this dynamic industry. And when a restaurateur points out that I need more information and insight, class is in session for me. I love learning about this business.

What’s troubling is how few restaurant writers really know their subject of coverage, yet there are more people reporting on this business than at any time in history. That’s not surprising since this is a fun industry to cover and readers can’t seem to get enough of it.

But I hear regularly from restaurateurs all over the U.S. that a reporter “has no clue” about the business because he or she never set foot in a kitchen or waited tables or washed dishes. Many times I’ve been told by sources, “I can tell from the first few questions they ask whether they know their stuff or not.”

Steve Coomes | Photo by Nancy LaRocca
Steve Coomes | Photo by Nancy LaRocca

There’s a lot of truth in those statements, but to be fair, such criticism is only half merited. Thousands of great reporters have never worked in the fields they cover. But they mastered coverage of it by being diligent, asking questions whether stupid or intuitive, and accepting criticism from editors and readers. The great ones are constantly open to learning.

Those journalists also know how to report. They know how to dig for and affirm facts, and when they cover controversial subjects, they do so with balance and use multiple sources. They also don’t believe everything they’re being told—even by sources they’ve grown to trust.

That kind of reporting is lacking in this business, and since most diners also aren’t experts, such misreporting gets a pass. That’s likely because restaurant reporting isn’t like sports reporting, where every statistic is readily available to reporters and readers alike. Serious sports fans know what’s going on with every team and can call out reporters who don’t to their jobs.

In restaurant reporting, detailed information isn’t so readily available or abundantly clear. In an industry where so many dishes are mere fusions of others, and classic drinks become the concoction of the week under Old School names, it’s not easy to determine the provenance of so many things with consistent accuracy.

Yet that doesn’t stop a lot of restaurant reporters from writing as if they really know what’s on their plates. Worse, they feel no reluctance about criticizing a restaurant for not meeting their understanding of how a particular dish or drink should be made—though it might even be wrong. Too often, opinion rules in restaurant reporting when fact gathering is needed. The notion that everyone’s opinion counts on social media has crept into actual reporting, where such slanted views should always be avoided.

So to my restaurant reporting peers nationwide, resolve this year to get the facts right by doing the following:

  • Double check the spelling of names. Just because a chef has a heavy Iranian accent doesn’t excuse you from asking her to spell her name out—letter by letter if necessary. Trust me, I struggle here, too, because it makes me feel a bit dim. But better to look slow and get it right than not say anything and screw it up.
  • Double check the spelling of culinary and drink terms, and be sure you’re using them correctly. Chefs will tell you they’re usually terrible spellers, so they don’t always care. But hell hath no wrath like a studied mixologist or oenophile who knows you didn’t even check the label of a bottle you mentioned. If you want to earn their respect as a reporter, then respect their craft as much as they do.
  • Don’t trust Facebook, Twitter or any social media user to get anything right. If you see a possible story lead, address the source directly and privately without sharing a rumor.
  • Just because you’re a great home cook or drink maker doesn’t mean you know how to do that for 200 people. Home cooking can fine tune one’s palate, but it won’t teach much about restaurant operations. If you can’t learn by spending some time in a restaurant owner’s or employee’s shoes, then ask to shadow them for a day. I bet you’ll never hear “no” to such a request.
  • Find more stories on your own rather than waiting for publicists to drop them in your laps. Contrary to some of my peers, I love using publicists. But I also know they’re paid to execute an agenda.
  • To Louisville-area food, beverage and business reporters: Acquire a better-than-basic knowledge of bourbon. Horses and hoops aren’t even year-round things here, but bourbon and restaurants are in the spotlight every day, and they’re inextricably intertwined. It amazes me to me to see how poorly reported bourbon is by the home team.

And to all our sources: Call us out when we get it wrong, but do it respectfully and privately. Everyone’s human, everyone makes mistakes and everyone needs a lot of grace. Understand that you are our teachers and we need your guidance to improve our craft. A better-educated pool of reporters means better quality writing, and better quality writing means increased positive exposure for everyone. It takes a village to work this out.

Happy New Yeer to all! (Oh, sorry, Year.)

Previous articleRing 2017 in Right with Our Favorites
Next articlePost mortem on Hillbilly Tea No. 4: It never should have opened
Steve Coomes is a restaurant veteran turned award-winning food, spirits and travel writer. In his 25-year career, he has edited and written for multiple national trade and consumer publications including Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living. He is a feature writer for Edible Louisville & The Bluegrass, Whisky Magazine, and The Bourbon Review. The author of two books, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and the "Home Distiller's Guide to Spirits," he also serves as a ghostwriter for multiple clients.


  1. ?I’m starting with the man in the mirror
    I’m asking him to change his ways
    And no message could have been any clearer
    If you want to make the world a better place
    Take a look at yourself, and then make a change?

  2. Every weekend i used to go to see this web site, for the reason that i wish for enjoyment,
    since this this web page conations genuinely pleasant funny data too.

  3. First off I want to say superb blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you do not mind.
    I was interested to know how you center yourself and clear
    your mind before writing. I’ve had difficulty clearing my
    thoughts in getting my ideas out there. I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems
    like the first 10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted just
    trying to figure out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?


  4. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right
    here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish.
    nonetheless, you command get bought an impatience over that
    you wish be delivering the following. unwell unquestionably
    come more formerly again since exactly the same nearly a lot often inside case you shield this increase.

  5. Hey are using WordPress for your site platform? I’m new to the blog world
    but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you need any coding knowledge to make your own blog?
    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

  6. Its like you learn my mind! You appear to grasp a lot about this, such as you wrote the e book in it or something.
    I feel that you simply could do with some percent to power the message house
    a little bit, however other than that, that is fantastic
    blog. An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.

  7. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my web site thus i got here to return the favor?.I’m trying to in finding issues to
    enhance my web site!I assume its good enough to use some of your ideas!!

  8. Thanks for some other wonderful post. Where else may anybody
    get that type of information in such an ideal manner of writing?
    I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the look
    for such info. cheap flights 32hvAj4

  9. Just wish to say your article is as astonishing.
    The clearness for your put up is just nice and that i can assume you’re knowledgeable in this subject.
    Fine with your permission allow me to clutch your feed to keep updated with forthcoming post.
    Thank you a million and please continue the enjoyable work.

  10. I was very pleased to discover this great site. I want to to
    thank you for your time due to this wonderful read!!
    I definitely loved every little bit of it and I have you book marked to see new stuff
    in your website.

  11. Hello very nice site!! Guy .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your site and take the feeds additionally? I’m glad to find a lot of helpful information here within the publish, we want work out extra strategies in this regard,thanks for sharing.

  12. Magnificent beat ! I would like to apprentice while you amend your site, how could i subscribe for a blog website? The account aided me a acceptable deal. I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided bright clear idea|

  13. Have you ever considered publishing an e-book or guest authoring on other blogs? I have a blog based upon on the same information you discuss and would love to have you share some stories/information. I know my visitors would enjoy your work. If you are even remotely interested, feel free to send me an e-mail.|

  14. Greetings from Florida! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your blog on my iphone during lunch break. I enjoy the information you provide here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my mobile .. I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyhow, fantastic blog!|

  15. Hey I am so happy I found your webpage, I really identified you by error, although I used to be researching on Askjeeve for something else, Even so I’m here now and would similar to to convey many thanks a great deal for the outstanding put up and a all round thrilling blog (I also like the concept/layout), I don’t have time to search all of it on the moment but I have bookmarked it as well as added your RSS feeds, so After i have time I will probably be back to browse a lot more, Be sure to do keep up the great work

  16. Genellemeyi sevmiyorum ama soz konusu tema turk kizi ve cinsellik olunca,
    kendimi tutamadim. icerisinde buyudugu aile ve toplumun sekillendirdigi tabu ve onyargilara sahip turk kizinin benligindeki
    “cinsellik” algisindan kaynaklaniyor olabilir. sevismenin ne denli ayip, sevisen kizin ise ne denli x oldugu bilgisiyle
    buyuyen ayse, ozlem, kezban, *. sevisirken elbetteki.

  17. 3:00 Asya amatör seks Görüntülemeler: 11647
    Tags: amatör anal. 12:00 Korean kız ile güzel memeler jjshows com Görüntülemeler: 1531 Tags:
    amatör Japonca. 8:41 Korean trampling Görüntülemeler: 21206 Tags:
    Kore. 59:00 Korean t v yetişkin film bölüm 1 Görüntülemeler:
    23750 Tags: Kore.