The engines of distinction: discourse for main course in restaurant reviews
Williamson, D; Tregidga, H; Harris, C
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Through a study of a set of restaurant reviews, this paper examines forms of knowledge constructed within such reviews and considers their potential effects. It examines 200 restaurant reviews published by New Zealand magazine Cuisine over a five year period, 2003-2007. We find that the reviews narrowly focus on food, wine and ambience over other categories such as service, chefs, cost/value, and owner/operator. We note that through such focus and the language used, the reviews demonstrate an extreme level of exclusion; ignoring a vast field of possible criteria for judging an establishment and experience. Furthermore, through focusing on areas that both allows and creates specialist knowledge and mutual elevation (i.e. food, wine and chef/owner worship) we argue that restaurant reviews are engaging in an escalating discourse of class distinction. Potential effects of this discourse noted include the identification that the celebration of distinction and exclusion perpetuated in the restaurant reviews analysed here stands in contrast to understandings of hospitality as inclusive practice. We suggest, and note concern that, in the attempt to create new levels of refinement and distinction, the core idea of hospitality is becoming lost.