Aran Ward Sell, Restaurant Critic…?

If all goes well, I will soon be a restaurant writer.

I wrote at length last week about trying to apply for jobs. One week hence, having dashed off newly-motivated CVs to every corner of the known multiverse (read: south-west Brisbane), none of the shops or fast-food joints to which I mostly applied have sent me so much as a rejection. But one position did get back to me, last Thursday, and it was by far the most interesting and unusual of the many positions to which I’d applied. You know what’s coming next …assuming you’ve read the opening paragraph. It was the job of a restaurant writer.
I choose the word “writer” quite carefully there. “Profiler” would also be appropriate. “Reviewer” would just about pass muster too, but I’m not 100% comfortable with “critic”. The job isn’t to be Michael Winner (I refuse to ever accept a job being Michael Winner) and swan around eating vast amounts of free food and complaining about the service, it’s a bit less glamorous, and a fair bit more technical than that.
What I would have to do, the friendly woman from http://www.bestrestaurants.com.au explained, was go around to high-quality restaurants and arrange to visit the restaurant. Then I would speak to the owners or chef, and collect a bunch of vital database information: location, accessibility, phone numbers, and so on. Then, more interestingly, I was to get enough information on the restaurant’s history and cuisine to write a 250-word review, take some photographs, and then submit them to the editor for an $80 — or $60, there seems to be some slight confusion on this point — reward. Awesome!, thought I. Certainly far more intriguing than any part-time job which I’ve ever held before, and as a super-awesome win-bonus cherry on the top, the reviews would feature my name in the by-line – that’s professional writing experience for my resumé, y’all. (Incidentally, the advert for this job requested examples of previous writing — so I linked them to this blog. The lady on the phone said she loved it. What an ego boost for Reasons to Remain! How epic will it be if these random mutters actually get me a job?)

The only slightly intimidating thing was that, in order to apply for the job, I would have to actually go out there and do it. I was given a week to select, contact, and profile a restaurant, write-up its review, and send in the goods. After this goes through, I’ll be informed whether the website would like to keep me on on a lengthier basis, doing around another one review per week.

The most difficult part turned out to be selecting a place to profile. As you can see, that web address up there reads bestrestaurants. This meant no simple dive in to the nearest greasy spoon to demand that they feed me on fried fish until I agreed to review them. The stipulation was quality — the sort of places you would genuinely recommend.
Of course, being new to Brisbane and pretty broke with it, I didn’t really know many. Also, any which I did find would have to both not already be reviewed on the website — which ruled out some of the first places which came to mind — but also actually want to be profiled.
The first restaurant which I tried collapsed at this first hurdle. It was a Greek place which I walk past sometimes, and always struck me as having an air of sophistication which a lot of the Brisbane roadside cafés don’t quite match. Some searching around online seemed to confirm the notion; this was a classy joint. Feeling quite content, I rang up, got put through to the chef, and smoothly began my spiel:
“Hi, my name’s Aran, I’m calling from bestrestaurants.com.au, and I was wondering if you’d like to be profiled on our website this week?”
“No. Sorry.” Phone slams down. Hmm. Ouch.

Once more into the breach, and this time with vigour. Scanning the website one suburb at a time, I noticed that my own location — Indooroopilly, rather disappointingly pronounced “Indropilly” — had only one restaurant featured. Brilliant!, thought I (I was doing a lot of mental exclaiming this week, clearly). Surely they’ll want to fill in gaps in their portfolio?* All that remained was to find out whether Indro’ actually had any restaurants worth featuring.
Just googling other online reviews seemed a bit like cheating, so I supplemented this by asking my housemates, who have after all been living here a great deal longer than I have. Both threw up the same result, a charming little place called Six Degrees Café-Restaurant. Deciding to take the personal approach, I dressed up smartly, had a shave, and practiced smiling nicely as I walked down to the place.
The owner, an Asian lady called Olivia, turned out to be lovely. Would she like to be featured on thingy dot com dot hey-you? Well, how much did it cost? Nothing? Then yes, she’d love to. Would next Tuesday suit, she asked me. Why yes, yes it would. Excellent!, thought I.

So today — I write on Tuesday night, cup of tea never far from my hand — I rocked up to Six Degrees, clutching a notebook and feeling surprisingly nervous. No need, everything was delightful. Olivia sat and answered questions smilingly, furnishing me with information and anecdotes about the restaurant, menu and clientele. Incidentally, if you ever set up a restaurant, try selling Belgian waffles with bacon. Apparently they sell like …hot cakes.
(One question which everyone I have mentioned this job application to has asked is whether, if I land the job, it will get me free food. The answer based on this sole experience is …not sure. Olivia did ask if I would like some food, but it was unclear whether there was any notion of it being complimentary, so I decided to forego the offer.)
So we wrapped up our little Q&A quite quickly, and I wandered around trying to get decent photos of the restaurant — which really was nice, it had art on the walls and a balcony overlooking the palm-tree lined street, and a general feeling of friendly high quality (I would include photos, but WordPress doesn’t want to play today). Splendiferous!, thought I, beginning to run out of synonyms.

So here, so here I stand. I’ve written up my review, and by the time this post goes online then I will have emailed it in. I’m certainly hopeful — I’ve already started stockpiling and cross-referencing restaurant recommendations from friends and housemates — but I don’t know whether I’m competing against other applicants for the position, or anything of the sort. I did really like how the woman who called actually took the effort to engage with me, asking me questions, answering mine, and emailing me with advice on how to approach restaurateurs afterwards, so I imagine they’re genuinely interested in my application, at the least.
But for now, all I can do is sit and hope. I’ve done my best on the review, so it’s over to the judges. It’s been an interesting experience, certainly, and beneath the nerves and deadlines it was really kind of fun. Plus, getting a little bit of money rolling in would start to increase the potential of doing a few more interesting bits of travel around Queensland a little further down the line. I really, really hope I get this.

Fingers crossed!

* Yes, I know, don’t call you Shirley. Rofl, lol, etc.

EXCITED EDIT: I got the job! I actually got it. WELL chuffed. Might even buy THREE packets of biscuits next week. Huzzah!

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3 thoughts on “Aran Ward Sell, Restaurant Critic…?

  1. Ahhh, well done.

    I can’t believe your blog has helped you get a job – that’s proper adult stuff right there.

    Hows the rest of your australian life going? x

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