The Development of Newspaper Restaurant Criticism in Ireland, 1988–2008
A dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of MA in Gastronomy and Food Studies, School of Culinary Arts and Food Technology, Technological University Dublin
This dissertation examines the development of newspaper restaurant criticism in Ireland from 1988 to 2008. This era was a time of considerable economic change in Ireland. It was also a period that saw changing attitudes to food and dining out, as well as a more varied restaurant landscape. This study aimed to determine how the format and focus of newspaper restaurant reviews changed over this time frame. It also explored the role of the restaurant critic, and how reviews reflected developments in Irish food culture and the economy. Using a mixed methods research design, a sample of reviews from the Irish Independent, the Irish Times and the Sunday Tribune was quantitatively analysed. A smaller sample of reviews was also thematically analysed, and interviews were conducted with three Irish restaurant critics and one commissioning editor. The results indicated that restaurant reviews changed significantly from 1988 to 2008, with reviews given greater prominence in newspapers. The results also showed that restaurant critics framed individual dining decisions as indicating good taste, and critics extolled qualities such as authenticity and simplicity. The provenance of ingredients became increasingly important over time, while critics rejected faddishness. A changing Irish restaurant scene was indicated and critics acted as educators about new foods and restaurants. Price was a consistent feature of all reviews and as the country became increasingly prosperous in the mid-nineties, concerns were expressed in reviews that a greater choice of restaurants did not always result in a better meal experience.