|Linh Moon's Instagram account.
At a restaurant near West Lake temple, Linh ordered boiled snails with lemon leaf, fresh-water crab soup, and shrimp cakes. After all the dishes were served, Linh and her assistant arranged the food and the lighting to ensure the best photo quality. While carefully tasting the food, Linh also focused on the restaurant’s cleanliness and service so she could write a comprehensive review.
This is what Nguyen Mai Linh (nicknamed Linh Moon), who has worked for 5 years as a food reviewer, and has 16,000 followers on Instagram, does to produce her daily review.
Food reviewers share their culinary experience and comment on food, drinks, and restaurants on social networking platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Tiktok, and Youtube. They can be culinary experts, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), or simply foodies!
Linh was motivated to pursue this job by her desire to introduce Vietnamese cuisine to other people, especially foreigners living in Vietnam.
“I used to ask myself everyday: What should I eat today? I think many people also ask themselves the same question. That inspired me to become a person who could answer that question for other people, or at least give them some recommendations, and promote Vietnamese cuisine to foreigners who live in Vietnam", Linh said.
To write an accurate review, a food reviewer needs to remain objective and give honest feedback about the food and the restaurant. They are writing not just for the customers, but also to restaurant owners to improve their quality.
"A review should accurately and honestly convey the taste, texture, smell, and presentation of a dish, a drink, a café, or a restaurant. That’s the best way to let restaurant owners know their strengths and weaknesses and encourage them to improve their quality,” said Linh.
“Reviewers comment not only on the food, but also on the atmosphere, the staff’s knowledge and attentiveness, the speed of service, and the overall impression. Their job requires art, passion, creativity, and objectivity".
Linh works on developing her Instagram account, saying one of the best ways to impress users is via photos. Taking appetizing pictures of the food is one of the most important steps. If viewers find the photos enticing, they’ll come and try the food, Linh said.
“When doing a food review, the first step is to look at the menu and ask the restauranteur for recommendations. One of the most important steps is to take pictures of the food when it comes to the table,” said Linh.
“Normally, a review requires at least 2 people. One takes care of the photography, and the other arranges the food, the lighting, and other items around to ensure good pictures. This requires creativity, an understanding of composition, and other things”.
Linh puts her passion for Vietnamese street food into her reviews. She believes Vietnamese traditional foods and street foods reveal the cultural values of Vietnam to foreigners.
“I want viewers to remember me for my street food reviews. My target audience is young people, and obviously street food is the most affordable. As a food reviewer, I have opportunities to promote the Vietnamese cuisine of some wonderful cooks. This gives me a great feeling of pride”, she said.
Working as a food reviewer fulfills Linh’s passion and allows her to earn a living and build up a huge social network.
“I love food, writing, and sharing experiences. It makes me happy and fulfills my passion. I have made a lot of friends and built up my social network since I started this job,” said Linh.
“One of the most amazing things in this profession is that you can turn strangers into friends when you share the same passion and interest. Every profession needs passion, and it’s perfect if you can earn a living from your passion. I feel grateful for what I have achieved so far in my career".
You may think reviewing food is a leisurely occupation, that all a food reviewer has to do is eat, review, and earn money with each meal. In fact, there’s more to it.
“You will face criticism in this job, because food is a ‘sensitive’ topic and every person has their own preference and opinion. A great food review puts the reader at your table with you, allowing them to decide whether they want to visit the place when they're done reading,” said Linh.
“I’ve tried many foods, and not all of them were delicious. You can gain weight or develop unhealthy eating habit. Sometimes reviewers have to try dozens of dishes, and 4 or 5 meals a day, which can trigger food aversions and digestive problems," she added.
In recent years, some young people have become famous and made a lot of money from reviewing food. For instance, renowned Chinese-American food reviewer Mike Chen has nearly 4 million Youtube followers and estimated net worth of nearly 4 million USD, principally from making food review videos. Vietnamese food reviewers Ninh Tito, Trang Nhimtron, and Ansapsaigon have between several hundred thousand and a million followers on their personal accounts.
"I hope today’s food review will motivate those who are interested in this field and want to become food reviewers. Never give up on your dream! If this is your passion, just keep going and fighting for it. One day, you’ll be able to touch people’s hearts," Linh shared a a tip on succeeding in this job.