“Where do we eat?” is a common question that leaves us puzzled when planning a day out with family or friends. Dhaka offers a large number of options, ranging from Bengali cuisine to Asian to Italian to American. Choosing the perfect place, in terms of quality of food, ambiance of the restaurant and general service can be a confusing process. All of these questions can be answered by going through reviews on the Facebook group Food Talk.
Food Talk is a niche community of food enthusiasts. It was started by Taskin Rahman, who recalls his eight year long journey from the start of the group till now. Initially, he reviewed restaurants for Daily Star. From there, he started a Tumblr blog for food reviews. However, as Tumblr was not very popular in Bangladesh at the time, the blog did not gain much traction. Eventually, Taskin moved to Facebook and opened the group Food Talk. It has now become one of the largest and most highly reputed communities of food enthusiasts. It brings together people, who not only love food, but have a passion for it and are adventurous in the kind of food they want to try out. When the group first started, the trend of going to restaurants and later leaving a review on Facebook was just starting to take off. Naturally, a group dedicated to such posts rapidly gained popularity and Food Talk was able to amass 10,000 members. However, the number of members had to be filtered and reduced to 5,000 to prevent the group from getting oversaturated with reviews and posts. “The group is for those who prefer quality over quantity, and have an appreciation for food, starting from its ingredients to how it’s made,” mentions Taskin.
A key point of Food Talk is how owners of well-known restaurants and notable chefs from Dhaka are also members of the group. This gives the connoisseurs a way to connect to the restaurants that they go to. “When you eat at a restaurant, the food or the service might not have lived up to your expectation. In such cases, vocalizing your complaint to the waiter or manager would be in vain. But, sharing your experience in the group would allow the restaurant owner to see it, so they could actually make a change in their restaurant,” states Taskin, when it comes to how Food Talk has been able to influence the dining experience. Thus, restaurateurs can receive constructive criticisms from paying customers and improve their restaurant accordingly. Other than that, positive reviews of restaurants lead to a rise in their popularity, as people are more likely to spend their money on dishes raved about by many others. On the other hand, there may also be instances where members can leave false positive reviews. This might happen because the restaurant owner may be a friend of theirs, or the restaurant may have sent free food to the reviewer. In such cases, members must mention whether they are affiliated with the restaurant in any way, or if they were given the food at a discount or for free.
More importantly, Food Talk is about more than just reviewing food. Before the pandemic hit, every few months the members would gather for meet-ups at different restaurants to discuss various topics concerning food. Industry professionals would be brought in to talk about the different ways of making coffee, how to cook steak, and other such discussions about food. It was an exciting opportunity for food enthusiasts to gain insightful knowledge, meet and talk to restaurateurs, as well as meet other like-minded food connoisseurs. Hopefully, when social gatherings will be safe, these meet-ups will become regular again.
As the group celebrates their 8th year anniversary, Taskin mentions future plans he has for the community. He states, “We are working on a website that will allow users to post their reviews and reward stars to restaurants that they like. On this website, each user will get a limited number of stars so that they can be only awarded to restaurants that the user finds exceptional.” Additionally, reviews can only be posted if the user has actually tried the restaurant’s food to ensure authenticity. Taskin also plans on having critique reviews on the website, where the reviews of those with experience in many different cuisines and a refined palate will be highly regarded. This is an efficient way to judge restaurants with international cuisines as the critiques can compare it to the authentic dish versus the locally made dish. At the end of the year, the reviews and stars of each restaurant can be counted as a measure of the restaurant’s quality. The website will be open for anyone around the globe. This allows people visiting Dhaka to go through the food this city has to offer, whether they are coming from Khulna or from London.
This community of food connoisseurs and restaurateurs have helped bring true food lovers together, all of which can be credited to the founder, Taskin. He expresses that some restaurants failed to gain popularity due to their higher price tag, even though they provide an overall exceptional eating experience. But, the ingredients and processes used to make such dishes come at a higher cost as well. Members of Food Talk realize this aspect of food, so they can judge restaurants based on the food and environment it offers, rather than just its prices. Taskin hopes that there will be a rise in such quality restaurants in the future. Thus, Food Talk members can have more diverse cuisines and dishes available to them.
Author: Tasnia Naureen