Pepe Samson doesn’t even cook, but with a quick look at his website, you’ll discover a long list of restaurants and food haunts he’s reviewed. Whether hole-in-the-wall or fine dining, new or established, in Metro Manila or smaller cities (or even abroad!), name it and Pepe Samson has probably tried it—and has something to say about it.
To the jaded reader who questions his right to review food sans a culinary background or even cooking skills, Pepe has an answer: He has an experienced palate. “I like to explore different kinds of food from your side street vendor to a 5-course meal establishment,” the travel-turned-food blogger told The Crafters in an interview.
“There are foodies and food experts,” Pepe clarifies. The experts are those who have an extensive culinary background; the foodies are those who review out of their sheer love for food. Pepe doesn’t purport to be a food expert. But will that stop him from writing about food and restaurants? Clearly not.
The blogger-expert divide is not new, with Martha Stewart herself famously arguing: “[T]here are bloggers writing recipes that aren’t tested, that aren’t necessarily very good, or are copies of everything that really good editors have created and done. So bloggers create kind of a popularity, but they are not the experts.”
When you think about it, though, are people looking for experts? Research from Nielsen suggests that some of the information consumers trust most are those that come from people they know and fellow consumers who write about their experience, categories where Pepe Samson and his fellow food bloggers fall under.
His sense of authority, Pepe said, comes from having tried a lot of food. “I have a lot of basis for comparison and I think I have enough experience to recommend where to go and where not go,” he added. Besides, if his opinion doesn’t count, why does he get a lot of invites from brands and restaurants for reviews?
If he were to choose, however, Pepe prefers visiting restaurants where he’s not invited. “When I visit a place I don’t like to tell them I’m a blogger,” he said, adding that he is not into blogging for the freebies. “Sometimes if you tell them you’re doing a review they treat you differently. The waiters like be hovering over you,” he added.
Pepe nonehteless admits that it helps to have another skill besides an experienced palate as a food reviewer: an eye for good photos and an aesthetically pleasing content.
“I made sure to read a lot of materials or even just follow my favorite food photographers on Instagram,” Pepe Samson said, as he challenged emerging food bloggers and influencers to deviate from the ubiquitous flat lay, which he says can keep you from evolving your craft.
Whether you’re doing photos or describing the food experience, the best advice Pepe Samson has is for you to be authentic. “For me, it’s all about genuinely sharing your experience,” he added, noting that people have a way of telling when you’re being real. “When food genuinely excites you, people also get excited to try them,” he said.