What Makes YOU Such an Expert?

I have never claimed to be an expert on anything. REALLY. Even though my friend’s ex-husband called me a walking encyclopedia and an old boss (at my worst waitressing job ever) called me “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”. But in the age of everyone being an expert on something, I have begun to wonder about a few things.

I recently went to someone’s business webpage, knowing they are NOT a Chef, Food Writer, Food Critic or culinary professional of any kind, and it said they were, “…recipe developer, professional taster, photographer…” and on and on. With at least 7 things this person claims to do as a profession, are they saying they are a modern day DaVinci? Assuming that you want to hire an expert or a professional, would you think someone who claims to be SO many things is really good at any of them? I thought it was ludicrous that someone would claim to be a professional expert in ALL of these seemingly incongruous fields in addition to others I didn’t list.

So I got to thinking…I know, dangerous. I have been told that K9 squad dogs can only be trained for one sniffing job. A dog can’t be trained to sniff out drugs AND bombs AND cadavers. A sommelier and a cicerone have to go through extensive training and testing to be listed as experts in their field and claim those titles and I don’t personally know of anyone who is BOTH. They need to be able to identify several styles of wine or beer by taste, sight and smell alone. Doctors and lawyers have to be accredited by an oversight organization in order to practice and be considered professionals, as do many other professions, and while someone may in fact pass both tests, rarely do they practice both at the same time. And let’s talk about the artistic endeavors as well. Just because you have a camera, that doesn’t make you a photographer any more than owning a paint brush makes you a painter.

Most Chefs I know work in recipe and menu development for their chosen venue. They all have culinary backgrounds. In the food industry, there are corporate Chefs who work behind the scenes to create the food you buy off the shelves and in chain restaurants. You don’t think those amazing Ben & Jerry’s flavors magically appear by formula do you? There is a STAFF of people working together in recipe and flavor development. In order to be a “recipe developer” what are the necessary qualifications? Do you have to have a culinary background or is tossing together a few ingredients enough? Does working in the kitchen in ANY capacity, either home or professional, and tweaking a recipe make you a recipe developer? Any Mom who has made the perfect meatloaf worked in recipe development? If so, then I am a recipe developer. Check one for me.

Professional Taster? REALLY? You must be joking. Whoever heard of such a thing? Well, okay, sommeliers and cicerones ARE professional tasters, but see notes above. Professional taster of WHAT exactly? Could I call this person up and say, “Hey, I have a batch of [insert your food choice here] I need you to come and taste it? What is the going rate for that? How do they get paid? Is this a growth industry? If so, where do I sign up? If a Chef is a professional and he tests his recipes on his wife, then all Chefs’ wives are professional tasters as are all of his friends and family who I am sure are guinea pigs at one time or another. I like to eat out and I always tell the truth when I am asked how my food is. Does that make me a professional taster? Does telling a Chef what you honestly think about their food make you a professional taster? Is knowing the difference between herbs and spices the designator? Most everyone I know has taste buds, so is that the only qualifier? If so, then I am a professional taster too. Check two for me.

Do you see where I am going with this? No? Let me explain. Everyone’s tastes are different. Yes, I will admit that some people have a more highly developed sense of taste than others (Moment of Truth – I am in the highly developed category, what’s called a “Supertaster”, I gave up counting at 37 on this test and yes, my tongue is still blue and slightly irritated from the test). Does being a supertaster make me qualified to write this blog, restaurant reviews or a cookbook? Not really. Does it make me qualified to be a food critic? Maybe, but having someone hire me to do that is what would make me a professional, and frankly I would LOVE to get paid for my thoughts and opinions. Who wouldn’t? Do you know what makes a restaurant/food critic a professional in their field? There are several things. They know how to write, and write well! They know food. They know what they like and WHY they like it. They can explain to you what they like in terms that you will understand. Even if you don’t agree with them, you will see their point. For example, I often agree with John Curtas on quality of food, but I don’t always agree with him on anything else, but I do see his point more times than not. They, in essence, ARE professional tasters of a sort.

So the bottom line is this: Whenever anyone gives you a line like, “I am a professional taster”, just look at them and say, “Oh, really? Where did you get your certification?” Or you can use my line, “Bitch, please! I eat food, so am I!”