For all the hate of Food Bloggers

For all the hate of Food Bloggers

I come at food blogging from both sides – a few years ago a blogger contacted me and wanted a free stay at my holiday barns for a review on her account, it turned out she had half the followers I had – of course I just laughed and ignored it. 

Being a business you get at least one request a month for a raffle prize, usually from a private school or a not local charity. I’m happy to offer a few a year but cap it off and choose my charities well. 

But if someone did for my business what I do for dozens of local food businesses for free on a daily basis for nearly a decade now I would be very happy. 

Reviews – are part of modern life, I get plenty on booking dot com as a professional I am meant to look at them as constructive and often can but when the average person who writes a review can at times be slightly bonkers, comments like cobwebs outside, dusty beams, one fly found in covid when the windows were open, too much rain or we found a dead rabbit by the lake – it’s hard not to be miffed. 

I’ve been in catering for over 30 years, roughly 15 as a chef and 15 as a cookery tutor, my parents ran a café later a restaurant, I spent over a decade in London as a chef and originally trained at city college in catering. I also did a patisserie course at Westminster College in London – so I would like to say I know my onions. Dining out isn’t a new thing, me and my hubby then boyfriend back in the early 90’s used to have a Sunday club where we would try a different Time Out restaurant from Tall Orders, to Quaglinos, Conran’s fine dining to back street noodle bars in Angel with the occasional Okabasi restaurants in Stoke Newington. We even turned up at Bibendum in a white work van, parking it around the corner out of sight, I remember ordering the sweet breads as a starter and it was £12, a fortune back then. I’d love it when my parents came to London to visit me introducing me to the Grill at the Dorchester and Afternoon tea all over incl. the Ritz, but other times we would grab something hot from a small rustic chain called Oggles I think.

Anyway I’ve always eaten out but in them days I just told my friends instead of blogging about it on social media or from a call box.

My biggest achievements were putting on pop ups just for fun which I ran yearly for a decade here at Lodge Farm cooking everything from scratch and selling around 60 / 70 tickets, including entertainment and a few surprises. One year I themed Mexican and had a chilli eating competition. Then there was the Afternoon Tea for 65 with proceeds going to Little Lifts a local Bawburgh charity. Hell – I even catered for my own wedding right down to a 3 tier traditional fruit cake – lunch and dinner. I must have been mad! I also invented the organic Chocolate sausage but that’s another story or a google search. 

Social media has arrived and progressed offering free advertising to a large audience who are probably local and interested in what you do. Its evolved that way  – gone are the yellow pages and expensive advertising spreads without the knowledge if they are effective – Instagram, X (formerly Twitter), Facebook and Threads are all free to set up, time consuming to manage but super effective and instantly gauged. 

I have to admit I’m not a lover of the lifestyle blogger the sort that pose in front of mirrors, it’s not for me, I have no interest in reading how gorgeous they are or what top they have on BUT food I love. 

Blogging was accidental to me I only set it up on the advice of the web designer for  – a website set up to advertise my cookery school and Food and drink walking tours, I also added a free directory and events section to help out a little. But since I started it over 8 years ago its grown into not advertising my businesses at all and mainly raving about the amazing food scene we have in Norwich. 

I probably spend an hour or two a day reposting catering jobs, menu launches, new places opening, places shutting down and anything else I think my 19k organic followers would be interested in. As well as posting a couple of times a week restaurant and event reviews. 

Along with that I make reels for Instagram and Tik Tok which is creeping up to a thousand, post on X, which is just over 4k, 3k on Facebook Love Norwich Food which local businesses can use as a free advertising page. I’ve never charged for anything, my money is made from my business – this is my hobby. 

I have had people say what’s in it for me ? – – well I do love the occasional invite, that accounts for 15-20% of my eating out but I don’t say yes to everything just those I hope will be good enough to review and 99% independently local. I also get invited to the odd launch party which gives me a perfect opportunity to get a feel for a place, I always try and go back if its good within a few months. Plus I sometimes get sent Norfolk food and drink to taste. I get all sorts of offers from all over but only contemplate Norfolk or Suffolk producers. 

I also really enjoy what I do it’s a hobby – first and foremost I love writing, I see myself as a food writer – I’ve been writing recipes for nearly 15 years now for several local papers and magazines and websites. I’ve written several books, poetry and short stories through the years despite being dyslexic. Plus Regular radio interviews.

I also get pleasure helping people – I’ve had photo sessions at my house for new producers, offered community cookery lessons, taught people things like breakfast, pizzas, pastry for people going into business. Given tips on teaching and demos and taken youngsters under my wing when they’ve showed an interest in catering. I’ve even helped people with eating issues and diets. Food is a massive subject and one you can always offer advice in as an elder in all things food. Plus of course my third business is Food and Drink walking tours in Norwich, supporting the local independent businesses and promoting food tourism in this area. 

Anyway what about Food Bloggers – we’ll I have been disappointed by not only food bloggers who buy followers but also general bloggers and local businesses that do. After all who needs thousands of dead bots and Arabic accounts who have no interest or help in a Norwich food account. And its dishonest to sell yourself as a blogger with more followers than you actually have organically and authentically. Plus those that ask, beg and hint heavily to get something for free. Of course I’ve had to ask for giveaway colabs and food events that I can blog about but I wouldn’t consider asking for free meals but if I’m invited than I’m mostly happy to oblige. Tip well and am very grateful. Especially not to take this piss – like one food blogger who was offered a cocktail by a local company and then asked for the party package?

Not to say I haven’t had invites when the food hasn’t been good enough for me to post about – that happens every few months not just with invites but also for meals we have booked out. I’m not going to trash it – that never goes down well, as I once found out when I posted about soggy batter. But I’ll contact the business and break down what was wrong – I’m more than capable of doing that too as I also worked for the mystery diner co. for 12 years and would have to write comprehensive reports from toilets to staff attire. 

Anyway my general advice and being part of Norfolk Food Bloggers to any blogger is don’t buy followers and likes, etc and don’t ask for invites – then hopefully we can all get on well. 

Occasionally they’ll be a foodie place that will slate bloggers for a bad comment or daring to score it, usually the same places, caterers are quite bad at taking criticism and yet sometimes it can be quite beneficial for the business. I did give up years ago at trying to advise venues – faces blanked over! And I got that look like what the f**** do you know! So didn’t bother and just watched them close down instead. That sounds arrogant like only my advice can help you – it’s not like that, sometimes anyone can tell when it’s not working and want to help to improve it.

Anyway – luckily Norwich has set the bar high, anyone coming in as an underweight doesn’t last long but that’s it  – catering is brutal. Restaurants close down every day. 

Recently some nasty opinionated male decided he should pick on me and make a comment on a launch party I attended. He slagged me off for not knowing anything, being invited, the food probably being bad and wrote with venom. The weird thing was he wasn’t even following me so had to search for the post – it turns out he goes to the same few places, often writes about food himself and kinda blogs, while at the same time professes to be an arsehole who hates food bloggers, despite the fact he’s not a food business owner or as far as I know ever been in catering. 

He offended the business owner, other bloggers and of course me – I went in furious calling him ****** which immediately got taken down its hard to control bullying when you had an arse of an older brother and me being dyslexic with a side of Adhd – I strode into adulthood defiant I would never be bullied again and am more than capable of mortal combat being an ex-boxer. Despite my heart issue – combat is advised low key these days so holding back is hard to achieve. 

Anyway after that episode the dick decided to open an account Judging the food bloggers of Norwich so he could be ultimately caustic for his own gain. Two posts in – upsetting all the food bloggers who knew, upsetting the businesses that he was insulting too by disputing their post opinions and ultimately nothing was achieved – there was absolutely no point – it was nasty and vindictive and completely unnecessary. Luckily the account disappeared earlier – and all though I hold my breath, I must admit to being relieved not to stress about his hatefulness anymore. 

But what it has done has reinforced us food bloggers, our dedication to the cause and our loyalty to each other. Support is everything – which is essential in our main aim. To promote Norfolk food and drink and have tasty fun doing so. 

Food achievement is everything to me this year 2023 – – I’m part of the team running Norwich Cocktail week , I was also an EDP Food and Drinks award judge for the café category, I’ve had a recipe published in the 2nd Norfolk Cook book, I held my first Hen party food and drinking walking tour and managed it on a Saturday night. This is the 15th year I’ve been writing for Triangle magazine. I’ve now eaten in all 4 Michelin starred restaurants in Norfolk, I’ve found the best food in Norfolk which I think should have 2 stars, Its been the worst year in my holiday barns, tourism is horrendous all over the UK but with lots of work and know how I’ve managed to grab last minute bookings to keep us going. I hosted a cookery demo for the Savvy Norfolk launch, I taught for HAF in Suffolk a scheme to teach parents and their kids healthy meals they can emulate at home. So I’m pretty chuffed so far – 

So when a little squirt with a little weiner picks on you  – you have to realise what your worth is and what you are capable of and after all I’m fucking epic and so are 95% of Norwich’s food bloggers – but I won’t be rating them, we all have something unique to offer and if you don’t like us don’t bloody follow us and if you don’t follow us – keep your chipolata out of it!

Zena – message me anytime, I’m here for the long game and always happy to help because I’m only a c*** on Tuesdays.