Aran Ward Sell, Restaurant Critic NO MORE.

When I got the phone call, I expected it to be an offer of extra work. That’s pretty ironic, really.

I’d just emailed my editor, you see, to ask if there was any additional work going, as I could really use some extra cash to supplement my income. My phone rang within a couple of minutes of clicking “send”—Edwina Bestrestaurants, proclaimed the screen. I had cause, I felt, to be optimistic.

So the news that my income, far from being supplemented, was to be pulled away from underneath my feet was a bit of an unpleasant surprise. I haven’t been sacked—it’s just that, as of March 10th, my job will no longer exist. My employers have lost a major contract [company name removed on request. Wouldn’t want to bring the Restaurant Industry down or anything], and as a result won’t be employing me or my fellow freelance-restaurant-profilers any longer. Bummer, eh?

Although, I have to say, I’m really not all that disheartened. Fact is, the job was starting to turn a little bit sour anyway. Obviously it was amazing to have a paid, named writing job—I never expected to be coming home from my year in Australia with professional journalism to stick onto my CV (or a novel, come to that. The post-production for that’s coming along nicely, by the way. Currently on draft 4). And the job itself gave me some fantastic experiences—met some great people, got to sit and drink coffee and chat to chefs and managers in a whole variety of beautiful venues across Brisbane.

And, oh, the food! Free food was never a regular aspect of the job, but it did rear its friendly face on…four different occasions. One was a bit bizarre; the Bavarian Bier Cafe, the other week. The two managers just wanted an excuse to sit around having lunch instead of real work, I think, and having a journalist to ply with crisp German ale and lager (not to mention schnitzel, sausages and sauerkraut) was just the ticket. I ended up staggering out at 2pm with six glasses of strong beer sloshing around inside me, which, though they’d been extremely pleasant to consume, left me with a rather disorienting afternoon of being unpleasantly tipsy in a sober world.

The other three were more conventional, and all excellent. There was Tartufo, a high-class Italian joint run by the cookery-wizard Tony Percuoco, a genuinely lovely man who prompted my dinner companion to announce that he wanted him (Tony) to be his (dinner companion’s) children’s grandfather. Then there was the Buffalo Club, still the classiest food I have ever eaten in my life, and quite possibly the best. You can refer back to THIS BLOG for a reminder of my raptures. And, finally, Sake. Featuring the friendliest staff in the entire world, this sake-and-sushi number plied me and Thomas with dishes from sashimi to ocean trout to, um, fried chicken, every course accompanied by a hand-selected sake provided by Miriam, their professional sake sommelier. That night was topped off with “sake bombs” at the bar, a procedure which involves balancing a shot glass of plum sake on two chopsticks over a glass of Japanese beer, thumping the table to a shout of “KAMPAI!”, and the shot glass overbalancing. And the glasses breaking, apparently, although I don’t believe that part was meant to happen.

Ah so! Good times. Good times and good memories have I had aplenty, from my tenure with De Groots. And the flexibility was fantastic, and it didn’t get in the way of my travel plans, and my editor was unfailingly delightful and accommodating. So why do I say it was turning sour? Partially self-defence, possibly. If I can convince myself that it was, then I won’t resent the job’s departure so much. But also…eh, the money was terrible ($80 a week is theoretically 48 pounds, but the (awesome) minimum wage levels here inflate costs, meaning its practically speaking even less), and it was. Annoying. Week after week there would be places promising to call me back and failing to, or asking me to call back at certain times then postponing further, or in the abysmal case of Ric’s Cafe Bar, flat-out missing their first two appointments before granting me five minutes with a grumpy woman complaining about how much driving she’d been doing.

And more than that, there was just the job itself; though I guess the job title was “restaurant reviewer”, it’s a corporate site, and I was always on a no-negative-publicity brief, which rather limited my journalistic freedom. Besides, most of the time I was writing profiles about food I’d never tasted, and atmosphere’s I’d only wandered through. None of it was dishonest, but I was definitely a marketing monkey rather than a genuine reviewer.

So; I’m enormously glad I did it, but a bit glad that it’s over too. Which is pretty much the perfect place to leave a job, I reckon.

Just so long as I can get my hands on a new one.

Time again to jump into that horrible, soul-sapping grind. Resume resume resume apply apply apply excuse-me-I-was-just-wondering-if-you-were-looking-for I-saw-the-sign-and-I GAH. The first two days of job hunting are fun, the remainder—when you’re checking job websites only to find that you’ve already applied for all the applicable ones, or wandering blindly into new areas in the desperate hope of A4 banners asking for staff—are just a pain in the unmentionables.

So here’s hoping, here’s hoping, that this narrative is going to flow smoothly into the next chapter of employment, without needing to sink into a tragic passage of unemployment. I’d like to be able to buy food and stuff, y’see.

Here’s hoping, here’s hoping, here’s hoping. I’ll keep y’all updated.

Goodbye, pretty foodstuffs.

2 thoughts on “Aran Ward Sell, Restaurant Critic NO MORE.

  1. Hey, when you refer to the previous blog you should link to it so that if you clicked on “THIS BLOG” it would take you to the entry you’re referring to.

    I’m sorry you lost your job – hopefully the market is better down under than it is here and you won’t have too much trouble finding another one.

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