Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interview with Angie Schiavone, editor of Everyday Eats(Sydney)

Last year, I had the pleasure of being a reviewer for Everyday Eats, Sydney's bible for foodies on a budget. It was great fun but also a great responsibility--as someone who loves food and the whole dining experience, I couldn't just concentrate on my own pleasure(though that was important) but also on observing and noticing what other people were eating, the atmosphere of the place, etc. As observation and noticing are the stock in trade of a novelist though, that wasn't too difficult. What was difficult, though, I found, was rating different places against each other(each reviewer covers six allocated restaurants or cafes)--because usually that involved totally different styles of food. Writing the reviews to produce something succint, informative and lively--and not too personal either, as there's a 'house style', if you like--was also a challenge but one I very much enjoyed.
Anyway, the book's coming out out next week and to celebrate its imminent release, I did an interview with Everyday Eats' fantastic editor, Angie Schiavone. Enjoy!
(The book will be out in Sydney at bookstores, newsagents and more generally at the Sydney Morning Herald online store on Tuesday Feburary 28 for $24.99. A digital edition will be available for download from smhshop.com.au/everyday or from iTunes $9.95, and an app is in the works, release date TBC, price $8.49.)

Sophie: Who is Everyday Eats aimed at? Has its focus changed over time?

Angie: This is actually only the second edition of Everyday Eats, but our sister publication - The Age's Cheap Eats (in Melbourne) has been around for decades. I know way back when Cheap Eats first started in Melbourne, they included McDonalds among the listings. These days we leave the cheap fast-food chains to their own devices and focus more on world food, family run restaurants and cafes - anywhere you can get a good quality feed without spending lots. The budget is $30 per person or less, and often it's hard to spend that much. The book is great for anyone on a tight budget, but it's really just for anyone who loves food, and exploring different cuisines and different parts of Sydney.

Sophie:. Are there any trends that you've seen emerging over different years: for example, are certain kinds of restaurants becoming more popular?

Angie: One wonderful trend - if you'd call it that - is that we're getting more authentic renditions of specific regional cuisines from various countries - rather than a "greatest hits" of a particular cuisine, or a "dummed down" version that won't scare timid diners. Thai is one example: Sydney's got restaurants serving North-Eastern Thai food , and even one new one that specialises in Southern Thai food. This year there were also lots of new Mexican and South American restaurants to include, Korean is continuing to become more popular, too.

Sophie: What do you look for in a review? Are there things you watch out for?
There's an art, I think, to writing a restaurant review. It's important to give people a clear picture of what's on offer at a certain place, so they can then figure out for themselves whether it'd be up their alley. There's a fair degree of subjectivity involved, so if we get carried away praising a place we particularly love, it could mislead readers who don't necessarily have the same taste. I always try to keep in mind that we're telling people what a place is like, rather than whether we like it. Adjectives are the key: use lots, and make sure they're evocative rather than subjective.

Sophie: Putting the book together out of so many different contributions must be a huge job. How do you go about ensuring there's coherence to the book?

Angie: Lots of reading, re-reading, research, picking people's brains, digging deeper and asking questions when a review is submitted that perhaps doesn't give a vivid enough picture, editing, double and triple checking facts... it all helps! It's trickier with things like star-ratings, as there can be so much of a range within one rating, and some reviewers are less generous than others: so there's lots of discussion, and lots of extra meals had by me until I'm sure we've got it right.

Sophie: Anything other you might like to add!

Angie: Sydney is such a great place for affordable dining! Proof of that is that this year's edition of Everyday Eats has more than 550 listings, with 130-odd places that weren't in last year, and about 70 different cuisines represented. I'm hoping people will start using our facebook page (www.facebook.com/smheverydayeats) to share tips with us and other fans - whether it's about places we've reviewed or new hidden gems. I really hope people embrace Everyday Eats and that we end up a decades old publication, like The Age's Cheap Eats!

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