Thursday, April 17, 2014
Andrew and Mike are the chef/owners, and Arlin is the general manager/owner, of Eventide Oyster Co. and Hugo's.
Andrew and Mike have been nominated by FOOD & WINE Magazine for The People’s Best New Chef® award. The winners are decided by public vote at FOOD & WINE. The nomination secures Eventide a place in the national spotlight and as one of the country’s most-watched restaurants for 2013.
European pen pals, spying on kitchens globally, and VOTE!
As with most of my interviews, what you'll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.
What was your first experience with social media?
Arlin: "I remember I fought everything that ever came out. When IM happened, I wasn't the cool kid who jumped right in. And, then I slowly started using it and became addicted to it. Then when texting came around, I thought, 'Why the hell would I want to text? It's so stupid.' Now I can't imagine my life without it."
Andrew: "Mike and I always kind of make fun of each other for being misthanthropes. I mean, Mike just started texting six months ago. I've definitely always been the last guy with any kind of technology. The last guy with an iPhone."
Mike: "I always sort of bristled at this kind of stuff thinking that maybe we already communicated too much. I don't know, I set up a MySpace page begrudgingly. I think at my girlfriend's behest. It quickly gathered dust. I didn't really do much with any of it. I sort of grew up being wary of all that. I was even robotic on the telephone. Still trying to get my head around 19th century technology. Not moving into the social media sphere until very recently."
Andrew: "I had some European pen pals, but that would be about it."
Arlin: "My only recent experience is with Facebook. I've had a really hard time getting my head around Twitter. I've gotten to the point where I'm not fighting it anymore. Because, you know, I fought Facebook thinking, 'You know, I just don't really need this in my life right now. Everyone else can have it. I'm busy.' But once I got on it, it was intriguing. You know, connecting with people that it would just be too hard to connect with otherwise. It's so casual how you can do it."
Andrew: "It's hard. Social media today is almost impossible to avoid. In America anyway. It's so prevalent. It seems like everybody is constantly using it. I definitely haven't fully embraced it personally. I put it off for as long as I could. My Facebook page isn't really that old."
Mike: "You know, it's funny, I definitely feel obliged to reply to people. That's why I avoided text messaging, because when I get one, I feel obliged to reply. Even with Facebook, I feel like there's social pressure to respond. I mean, if someone writes me a message, I'm still of the old-world letter-writing model of thinking. If someone has taken the time to write me a message, that means I have to take the time to write them back. That's the way my mother raised me. I should be a good egg and respond right back. But, it's funny, the rules are different."
What do you like about social media?
Andrew: "As a business-owner, I know we all agree, it's incredibly important to be engaged and responsive. It has a huge impact on our business."
Mike: "I reluctantly set up a Twitter account about six months ago. We had a young cook in here who always had the phone out and was always pulling up really interesting things from Twitter that other chefs were doing in kitchens in Copenhagen, or wherever, around the world. So, I went through Twitter and decided to follow chefs whose names I recognized and whose food sounded cool. For haunting other people's kitchens and looking at other chef's menus, I think it's a marvelous tool. You'll see lots of casual photos, kind of like a reality show. Like, maybe a cook holding a Peking duck by the neck that they just got in with a cigarette in its mouth or something. It's the silly stuff, but also new techniques, like what new fermentation is happening or whatever people are doing that is new and exciting. It's so immediate."
Arlin: "I'm grateful just being connected to things that we wouldn't otherwise ordinarily see. Having two restaurants, I mean things are always going on, the focus is on our business. But, I don't want to totally be disconnected from my surroundings. Social media is a great, easy way to stay connected. I'm grateful for that."
What do you dislike about social media?
Andrew: "How much time do you have? The first one that comes to mind is people over posting. While I like to be connected, I don't like to be too connected to certain people."
Mike: "Like, someone posts, 'I'm tired. I want to go to bed.' Really? Do I need to know that? Just go to bed."
Arlin: "I think that's part of how it's changed society. Do people really think we want to know that? Why do they think we need to know that?"
Mike: "I think it's unhealthy."
Andrew: "There's definitely an element of voyeurism that's a little odd. I mean, sometimes I like the fact that this guy I haven't seen in years, I know what's going on in his life. But, it's also a little weird. And, sometimes people can just take it too far."
Mike: "Something that's just broadly frustrating is that you'll be talking to someone on social media and all of a sudden, out comes the rectangle, and you know they're not paying attention to you. People seem so easily distracted now. When I first started cooking and cellphones were something everyone had, there was a strict moratorium against using them in the kitchen. If the chef heard your phone ring, there were going to be problems. That has shifted so dramatically. Now, most of our cooks are using them all the time. Honestly, sometimes we have our frustrations, but more often than not, I would say that great stuff happens. We're often actually encouraging staff to have their phones out and take photos, etc."
Andrew: "We all know our staff are our greatest public advocates and we really appreciate that. A lot. I know we all feel that way. We couldn't have done any of this without them."
Mike: "Absolutely. And, the lines can get blurry for all of us. I mean, does this fish need to get butchered right now or does a photo of the beautiful fish need to get posted? I know I wrestle with that, you know, where should our priorities be?"
Arlin: "We have our ideas about what this place should be, but none of it would be what it is without the crews that we have working with us. They have their voices and so often we see this amazing creative stuff come out of them, both via social media and otherwise."
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
Andrew: "For me, as far as personal use, it wouldn't effect my life at all. It would be pretty easy frankly. I wouldn't mind. From a business standpoint, it would be almost impossible. We want to engage with our customers. We have to. We enjoy it."
Mike: "I would love to have the occasion to disengage from social media from a personal standpoint. I think there have been probably two days in the past year when I have forgotten my phone or my charger. I'll feel that addict moment where I'm like, ' ... give me the stuff man ... I need it ...' but when that wave of the DTs passes, it's great. I love being free. I might be missing a call? Well that's out of my hands. I don't need to check Facebook to see what people are doing in Argentina in their kitchens. It's great. I can have an actual conversation with someone. So, Mark Bittman is trying to get everyone to do 'meatless Mondays.' If I could do something like that with social media and walk away from it entirely for a day every week? I think that would be awesome. But, I agree with Andrew. From a business standpoint, we could not just walk away. It's so important to us."
What was your experience like with social media and the Food & Wine, People's Best New Chef Campaign?
Mike: "This 'get-out-the-vote campaign has been such a lesson to us in how important social media is from a business standpoint. If you want to be in a marketplace in the world today, you really need to be doing this stuff. Unless, of course, you're appealing to the neo-luddite demographic and you're selling driftwood art or something."
Andrew: "This whole thing has just been perfect for social media. This has really been our big chance to tap into it. And, you know, man this is fun. It's silly. It's over-the-top. But, it's totally entertaining. It's been really interesting to see how social media has effected the voting so far for us and for the other chefs. It's crazy. These are all really talented chefs."
Arlin: "You've got to check out our video. I had a dream about making a video and all of a sudden it was happening the next day. It was a lot of fun. The whole thing has been fun and a great learning experience."
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
@reneredzepinoma Mike: "I really get a kick out of this guy. He is the chef/owner of Noma in Copenhagen. He really does a great job of letting you know what's on the menu—what's new and exciting. They're doing lots of cutting edge stuff. They also have a food lab which is really interesting."
Ideas In Food Andrew: "They do a really, really nice job. Always lots of interesting ideas. They're out of Philadeplhia. It's a husband and wife team."
@tandem_coffee Andrew: "Locally, they do a really nice job. Predictably good. I just really love their coffee too."
@mightmain Andrew: "These guys are just great. They paid us to say that. No really, we really like them a lot."
I want to thank Andrew, Mike and Arlin for taking the time to talk with me about their opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Eventide Oyster Co. on Twitter at: @eventideoyster
You can find Eventide Oyster Co. on Facebook at: Eventide Oyster Co.
Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.
Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).
Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg
His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).