Food blogging: everyone’s a critic

With renowned food blogger Matt Armendariz set to speak at Dubai Food Festival, Vision considers how technology has led to an influx of amateur food photographers

A couple of decades ago, exposure to new ideas about food came from just a few different sources. We might have picked up culinary ideas at a friend’s dinner party, decided which restaurant to try based on a review in a newspaper, and pored over cookbooks for inspiration in the kitchen. Unless we were swapping recipes with friends, the professionals were in charge.

Now, things are a little different, and if you have recently uploaded a photo of your chia seed-infused, bee pollen-sprinkled superfood smoothie to Instagram, you’re a part of the new world order. User-generated Yelp reviews can be more important to the reputation of restaurants than the criticism of expert food writers, food bloggers have become stars, and I’m just as likely to trawl Twitter for fresh sandwich-filling ideas as I am to poll my friends in person.

Matt Armendariz has experienced both sides of the divide. An LA-based former professional graphic designer and art director in the food industry, he turned to blogging in 2005 as a way to share his passion for all things culinary. Now he teaches food photography workshops, writes books, contributes to magazines and ad campaigns, and continues to document his relationship with food at mattbites.com. The site was chosen as one of the Times of London’s list of the 50 best food blogs in the world.

The good news for aspiring food bloggers in the UAE is that Armendariz will be sharing his skills as part of the Dubai Food Festival, which runs until 15 March. The Festival has partnered with Gulf Photo Plus, which organizes workshops for photographers in the Middle East and has a photography festival in Dubai running from 7-14 March, to put on a series of food photography, styling and writing events.

Locally based food stylist Fiona Archibold will offer a class on presenting dishes in a spectacular way, while Armendariz will be leading seminars on smartphone food photography and food writing for bloggers. He'll also teach a two-day food photography workshop for those wanting to go deeper, covering composition, lighting, props, retouching techniques and food photography trends.

Her Excellency Laila Mohammed Suhail, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, commented on the collaboration between the Dubai Food Festival and Gulf Photo Plus, saying that it brings the worlds of photography and the culinary arts together “in a way that is truly exciting, while also highlighting Dubai’s diverse and vibrant dining scene in a way that has never been done before.” Armendariz himself took to Twitter to say that he was “beyond thrilled” to be heading to Dubai, and “absolutely cannot wait to get there”.