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How To Make Your Fave Famous

How To Make Your Fave Famous
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  • How To Make Your Fave Famous

    Post #1 - June 27th, 2005, 1:58 pm
    Post #1 - June 27th, 2005, 1:58 pm Post #1 - June 27th, 2005, 1:58 pm
    There have been a couple of comments recently on the order of, "I posted about X, why didn't anyone try it?"

    I thought it might be good to post a few tips, based purely on observation of the behavior of the community going back to Chowhound days (and more specifically, going back to when I was not a Major Domo but a mere Majorette in the making). Here are a few principles of how to become a secret arbiter of taste, a culinary Magellan (not sure where that phrase came from), and to make your place into a fave.

    Don't just post about a place. Move in and make yourself at home. One visit and post isn't enough to prompt a strong reaction from others, usually. You need to keep going back to dig deeper into the menu, get to know the people who own it and what their story is, find out what the really outstanding items are; and all that takes multiple visits within a relatively short period. Vital Info is good about this-- though I'm not sure his family is always happy about it-- but when he finds a Zascianek, it's Zascianek month from him, he keeps going back and talking about it for at least a little while. When no one else has visited a place, it's hard for them to comment, so sometimes you just have to kind of keep the conversation going by yourself until some other folks finally go.

    Identify one outstanding thing people have to try. On the other hand, VI raised the question recently why a post by Zim drew several people to Khan BBQ when earlier posts had not. I think the answer is clear enough from the nature of Zim's post, which is a very compact but utterly convincing selling job on the chicken boti (worked on me). Especially on a street like Devon, where nearly all the restaurants serve pretty much the same dishes, simply saying "Tandoori Hut is a high quality place with excellent food" won't motivate a lot of sampling. Saying "Tandoori Hut has Frosted Flakes in mango lassi you'd run over your grandmother for" is much more likely to get action. Which brings us to...

    Hyperbole in the pursuit of deliciousness is no crime. RST was a master of this, back in his day. A dish wasn't merely a dish, it was a poem to the homeland from which it came, an epochal moment in the history of food in Chicago, a which-side-are-you-on choice which forever separated the pure food-hearted from the philistines taking filthy gelt from the corporate destroyers of food culture. How could you not try it after that. Of course, hyperbole must be used judiciously, you'll look like a shill if you praise everything extravagantly, from the water in the flower vase to the matchbook propping up one table leg. But wielded skillfully, it creates desire to go out and try that mere across-the-board excellence does not.

    Don't tell it, show it. This of course is the oldest advice for all writers-- or as Mark Twain paraphrased it, "Don't say that Grandma yelled. Bring out the old lady and let her scream." Specific and vivid details will attract more interest than general evaluative statements.

    Plan a dinner... after you've done all the above. It may happen that the only way to get people to a place is to plan the event there-- I'm sure it would have taken a lot longer to get me to 79th Street in Burbank, for instance, if the Chuck's dinner hadn't been planned. Successful event planning is probably its own topic, of course, but the best way to learn how to do that is to attend a couple and get to know some folks in person. (Not least because by the time I announce an event, I already know that at least 4 or 5 people are bought into attending, ahead of time. If they were to go "ennh" to the idea before I announced it to the board, I probably would rethink the whole idea.)

    Those are my tips. Others?
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  • Post #2 - June 27th, 2005, 2:04 pm
    Post #2 - June 27th, 2005, 2:04 pm Post #2 - June 27th, 2005, 2:04 pm
    Pictures almost always help, too. A particularly alluring photograph of, for instance, chickens on a rotisserie or a thai yam will do wonders.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #3 - June 27th, 2005, 2:20 pm
    Post #3 - June 27th, 2005, 2:20 pm Post #3 - June 27th, 2005, 2:20 pm
    I think Mike G makes some excellent points, especially the point about identifying a specific item. Erik M does an excellent job of introducing us to new Thai restaurants by highlighting their specific strengths through individual dish presentations. His combinations of descriptions, comparisons to other restaurants, and photos draw many of us right into these spots.

    There's also the less-discussed practice of having a smaller private meal to introduce just a few people. I've been out to a few of dinners with LTHers who privately invited a small handful of members via PM to a specific meal. This is much easier to plan and control than the big, open meal.

    Thanks for the post, Mike.

    Michael / EC