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Singaporean chef Benny Se Teo weighs in on the debate over paid food reviews

In the digital age, food reviews face a bitter transformation, raising doubts about authenticity.

Singaporean chef Benny Seo Teo, founder of Eighteen Chefs, asserts that passion and culinary knowledge should define food critics.



SINGAPORE: In an age of digital influence, the world of food reviews is undergoing a transformation that’s leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of discerning diners.

The ongoing debate surrounding paid food reviews is stirring controversy and raising essential questions about the authenticity of culinary critique.

Food, as we all know, is a highly subjective experience, with individual taste buds varying widely.

What one person finds a gastronomic delight may be considered sheer mediocrity by another.

This leads to a fundamental question: Should just anyone qualify as a food critic?

The answer, according to Singaporean chef Benny Se Teo, the founder of Eighteen Chefs, should revolve around one’s passion for food, culinary knowledge, and genuine experiences, rather than the ability to weave together fancy words.

On Monday (9 Oct), he turned to Facebook to express his views on the discussion surrounding paid food reviews.


Mr Se Teo’s concerns about the surge in paid reviews

“Paid reviews however have been on the rise and they leave a bad taste for a multitude of reasons,” Mr Se Teo said in his post.

Mr Se Teo expressed his perspective on the matter, highlighting two primary concerns regarding the increasing prevalence of paid reviews.

Firstly, there are worries about objectivity, with reviewers who receive compensation to laud a restaurant or dish potentially compromising their credibility and impartiality.

Secondly, these reviews erode the authenticity of the critique, making it difficult to trust someone’s judgment when their financial interests are intertwined with the establishment they are evaluating.

“There is hope amidst the chaos of this culinary quagmire”

Despite these challenges, Mr Se Teo stated that “there is hope amidst the chaos of this culinary quagmire.”

Some reviewers are taking principled steps by either paying for their meals or dining anonymously.

These actions are aimed at preserving the integrity of their reviews, ultimately fostering trust among readers.

In essence, Mr Se Teo believes that the world of food reviews should be a platform for genuine opinions and experiences, free from the influence of monetary gain.

He emphasizes that the core of a food review is its authenticity, not its eloquence.

He encourages readers to scrutinize the source and their motives when reading reviews, reminding us that a truly satisfying food review is one that leaves us craving honesty.

“the next time you read a review consider the source and their motives and remember that a truly satisfying food review is one that leaves you with an appetite for honesty,” he said.

Response from Internet users

Most online users agree with Mr Se Teo’s take on paid reviews, expressing sentiments such as “Well said!” and “I totally agree with you Chef!”

However, a few also contribute their unique insights and personal experiences on the subject.

A user expressed their acceptance of paid reviews under the condition that they are openly disclosed, and the evaluation criteria are well-defined.

They pointed out that statements like “in partnership with…” lack transparency and appear ambiguous, potentially suggesting an intention to hide something.

Another user concurred with Mr Se Teo’s perspective on the issue and provided their personal insights as a Food and Beverage (F&B) business owner.

They acknowledged the lack of authenticity in paid reviews and Google “reviews” but refrained from commenting extensively due to their current role as an F&B owner.

In a light-hearted tone, they quipped about the possibility of someday writing a book titled “Hawker Confidential” once they retire.

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Singapore Map is another supposedly paid reviewer. For $400 you get their amateurish looking certificate. And they will claim they have observed your F&B outlet for quite a while when you are only opened for business less than a month. Nowadays when people see the Singapore Map certificate on any stall, they would immediately know the stall holder paid $400 bucks. Can’t blame the stall holder as he was conned into believing in the credibility of Singapore Map, thinking the certificate will boost his sales.