Locals Bring a Black Perspective to Food Reviews
Christian Jones and Chris Ray are long-time friends and roommates who decided a new voice in food reviews was needed.
Jones has been a chef at Forno Kitchen and Bar on and off for two years. He studied at the Columbus Culinary Institute before cooking at The Table, North Market, L’antibes, and Orchids at Palm Court in Cincinnati.
Jones came up with the idea for the show while scrolling through Yelp for a place to eat. He didn’t trust the reviews other people were giving; sometimes he would read negative reviews for restaurants he thought were great, or vice versa. He considered just doing reviews himself, he says. “I don’t know these people. I can’t relate to them. I have no clue what their expertise would be.”
Jones decided he would ask his roommate and long-time friend Chris Ray if he would want to do the show as well. Their tastes are completely opposite, he says, with Jones having much more of a refined taste.
“I’m already just not a picky person in general. Like, I’ll eat just about anything,” says Ray. “I like to at least try everything once as well. But yeah, for something to be bad to me, it has to really be bad.”
“My opinion would be totally different than his opinion would be,” says Jones.
Jones says they initially wanted to do a video show but didn’t consider going as in-depth, camera in hand, until later. After the first few episodes, Ray and Jones started to add elements they thought viewers would really want to see: driving and arriving to the restaurant, a look through of the interior — and, of course, a look at the food.
“If it’s a really dope looking backroom, like how Hen Quarter [has] … They put a lot of detail in the atmosphere,” says Ray. “Or if it’s something like Giordano’s, where the pizza was insanely cheesy, I wanted to capture that on video.”
Their favorites from the show include Hen Quarter, Ye’s Asian Bistro, Ritzy’s and Fukuryu Ramen, the latter being a particularly different experience for Ray.
“I feel like the score I gave [Fukuryu Ramen] might not even depict that, ‘cause I think I gave like a 3.25 or something. For someone growing up black, you’re used to regular instant ramen,” says Ray. “But that to be my first exposure to authentic ramen … The presentation was great. The way the food actually tasted was great.
Ray says the title “Everybody Eats” is based on the show’s eventual mission. The show is currently a hit with friends and a few strangers, but eventually they want to be able to build a platform that spotlights other people within the community.
As two younger black men, their commentary and outlook on the local food scene is different than what’s already visible in Columbus’ vast and versatile food scene. They’ve already used the platform to feature local music and artists on the show, but being able to give exposure to lesser known and minority-owned restaurants is the end goal.
“Because, you know, Columbus has a lot of restaurants to offer. And after [Chris] brought it to my attention I’m like, ‘Yeah you’re right,’” says Jones. “This is needed for our black community. So why not be the ones to do it?”
This article has been updated to correct the spelling of L’antibes. An earlier version also suggested the restaurant was in Cincinnati, rather than Columbus. The Cincinnati restaurant Jones actually worked at is Orchids at Palm Court.