Food Blogging for Free Bites?

J.C. Reid, a fellow blogger at the Houston Press and the man behind the awesome Houston Foodie site, has written a very interesting article today on Eating Our Words that all food bloggers should read:

Will Blog for (Free) Food?

In the article, J.C. describes a recent event that was attended by several area food bloggers (as well as other non-food bloggers) at a new restaurant, Saute.  The restaurant fed us for free, in exchange for an honest appraisal of their food and constructive criticism.  As you may imagine, this arrangement represented a very, very, very thin line between business-minded reciprocity and outright bribery.  Was that line crossed?

More importantly, J.C. asks:

Even a few years ago food bloggers wouldn’t have registered a blip on a restaurateur’s radar. But a funny thing happened on the way to making a dinner reservation. People started reading even the most obscure food blogs to find out where and what to eat. So what’s a restaurant owner to do?

Food blogging has made a strange and rapid rise lately, perhaps due in part to so many people recognizing that — in all honesty — it’s not hard to do.  You have to have at least some formal training to be an art critic, for example, but any yahoo with an America Online account can now stand upon a soapbox and rant loudly to the internet about the poor service or overly-expensive food or low-quality steak they received on any given night.  Everyone eats, right?  So everyone should be able to criticize food!  Right?

I’m not the only one who’s noticed this trend.  But, being as I have no formal training myself other than working in a restaurant and a small cafe for brief stints (as well as having a chef for a mother), I’m not one to cast stones.  Instead, I’m far more interested in your opinions.  Have food bloggers become — to use the colloquialism — too big for their britches?  Are restaurants and the general public paying too much attention to the opinions and whims of the great untrained, instead of genuinely talented and respected food writers?  Go and read J.C.’s article, and leave your comments there.  Let us know what you think!