It was from 2014, but I finally got around to watching “Foodies: The Culinary Jet Set” on Netflix. It told the story of the influential subculture of elite foodie bloggers by honing in on the backstories of six very diverse bloggers from different parts of the world.
What struck me as I watched the interviews was how interchangeable this documentary’s takeaways could have been with any number of documentaries I have seen that featured people dedicated to the point of obsession with their particular hobby or interest. This movie could have been about weightlifting, poker, art collecting, fast cars, fine wine, so many to choose from. These individuals are driven to collect/accumulate where they can achieve a high level of status. Sometimes the item is a thing, and sometimes it is an experience.
I was especially struck by one very arrogant blogger who liked to brag to strangers how he achieved significant financial success which enabled him to fund his food travels. It was apparent he was moving from one competitive pursuit to another, as he is the only (known) person to have eaten at all 3 Star Michelin restaurants in the world (for a given year.) He was “collecting” (conquering?) these restaurant experiences as his life’s mission.
The blogger was shown alienating chefs and service people at every turn, but having no idea how incredibly overbearing he appeared to others. At one point during a face to face confrontation with a world famous molecular gastronomy chef over what most would agree was an obviously subjective food complaint, he referred to himself as a “Self-Anointed” expert who doing the world a favor by offering up his opinions. Chef readily agreed with the self-anointed part, and the blogger had no idea to the extent of the mockery.
In the end, what the bloggers all had in common was an almost OCD obsession with dining at high end restaurants around the world, just for the sake of doing it. They mostly dined alone and wore very intense, clinical expressions I would associate with a violin player in an world-class orchestra, not someone enjoying their dining experience. There was a subtle discrediting as well. Two of the bloggers were very young and had money from their parents to support their dining habit. They obviously lacked perspective. A recurring topic in the film was the bloggers’ credibility to “review” the restaurants, a very justified concern as there are no official “criteria” that make a food blogger an expert.
My reaction? Perhaps everyone is forgetting the primary reason for going out to eat. Personally, I revel in the intellectual side of a remarkable dining experience or a great glass of Burgundy. But my passion extends to the joy of the meal; the play on all the senses and the sharing of this pleasure with my dining companions. Above all else, these meals are meant to be happy, to elicit joy. Ask any passionate chef what makes them tick, and they will talk about making people smile with wonder and happiness when they are enjoying their food, their creative expression of themselves.
Can I check off many of the top restaurants in the world off my list? Absolutely. And my blog is about the pursuit of many more. But where dining at these restaurants ceases to also be about joy as the highest priority is where I step off. These bloggers showed no passion for the overall experience and as a result were nothing but satires of themselves.
I have seen the same personality traits in those highly driven with individual competitive sports such as weightlifting or Poker,
so focused on the intellectual, or competitive nature that they were devoid of passion