Last month, the Kojo Nnamdi show aired a piece on the lack of diversity in food criticism in Washington D.C and featured the following people:
- Laura Hayes Food Editor from the Washington City Paper
- Nina Oduro from Dine Diaspora
- Rock Harper from RockSolid Creative Food Group, and
- Jessica van Dop DeJesus from the Dining Traveler
Among the things discussed in the show were the differences between food critics and food writers, the lack of diversity in restaurant criticism, the democratization of restaurant reviews sparkled by the internet, why should universal design and cultural appreciation be part of a restaurant critic and/or review, and why is it important to have diversity among food critics.
The show was inspired by Laura Haye’s article in the Washington City Paper, The D.C. Region Doesn’t Have Full-Time Food Critics of Color. Why That Matters.
The conversation revolves around the benefit that diverse race and ethnicity bring to the table when evaluating a restaurant. Underlying the discussion is always present the unspoken fact that food critics are not perfect and, for that reason they can also not give a perfect evaluation of a restaurant or a dish. As objective as a critic may be, there is always going to be a filter depending on that person’s previous experiences and conceptions of particular foods and restaurants/ These conceptions are directly affected and molded by factors such as race, ethnicity, disabilities, social class, among others and it is naïve to thing that having a professional training will eliminate all those bias, especially when food critics have such different experiences at restaurants depending on, among other things, their skin color. This is specially true when critics evaluate things like service at a restaurant. I think this is a valuable discussion for any type of evaluation that involves the possibility of human bias (notice that this also applies to Machine Learning and AI evaluations based on human-generated data). Definitely a very interesting show which I fully recommend.
You can subscribe for free to The Kojo Nnadmi Show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts. While you are there, remember to check out our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies, by Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona.