Aucklander Albert Cho is the king of the brutally honest food review or, in Al Brown's words, the "rogue food reviewer".

The 21-year-old student's musings about his dining experiences, posted on his Instagram account "eatlitfood", have attracted thousands of followers who love his no-bull attitude to food.

When the Herald on Sunday joined model and writer Cho on an outing to top Auckland eatery Cotto, we soon discovered he was as animated in person as he was in an Instagram post.

Drawn out "mmm"s and exclamations of "yum!" reminded you of someone's reaction to a bite of their mum's apple crumble.

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Cho would typically post 5-10 pictures from each of his dining experiences, along with an extremely descriptive blurb detailing his thoughts. Photo / Dean Purcell
Cho would typically post 5-10 pictures from each of his dining experiences, along with an extremely descriptive blurb detailing his thoughts. Photo / Dean Purcell

He was keen to know what everyone thought of each meal, and whether we thought the maltagliati beef cheek ragu pasta tasted "a bit like a premium mince and cheese pie".

Talking about why he started posting food reviews, Cho said he was sick of how snobby traditional food critics were.

"There's this elitist feel about food reviewing, when I think everyone is entitled to eat really nice food for the most simple reasons."

Cho said he assessed the simple stuff - whether something was sweet or spicy, and how good it tasted overall. Value for money was another important factor - if he ordered a toasted cheese sandwich he wanted it to be bursting at the crusts with cheese.

"... really basic stuff that we can all relate to," he said.

And it's not just Kiwi foodies who are taking note of Cho's work.

Among his 6000-plus followers is celebrity chef Al Brown, from Federal Delicatessen and Depot.

Cho's reviews of Auckland's food spots range from being extremely complimentary, to being witheringly critical. Photo / Instagram
Cho's reviews of Auckland's food spots range from being extremely complimentary, to being witheringly critical. Photo / Instagram

Brown wound up following eatlitfood on his personal Instagram account after his daughter told him Cho was raving about his food.

"I kind of laughed my head off," Brown said of the page.

"It's refreshing that there's this type of rogue reviewer out there.

"I guess he likes my style of food and delivery and my style of restaurants. That sort of fits what he enjoys about eating out - fun and informal and generous."

He thought the transparency in his reviews and the increasingly honest style did a service for Cho's readers, and Auckland's eateries.

"There was one in there that I remember that was about something like an Indian bakery. He had all these photos of all these delicious-looking baked goods that I'd never heard of.

"He's doing a service for us if we follow him, and were genuinely interested in food but had never heard of that bakery ... if he writes something that I like the sound of, surely that's good for everyone."

Social media food reviewer Albert Cho doing his thing before tucking into Cotto's maltagliati beef cheek ragu pasta. Photo / Dean Purcell
Social media food reviewer Albert Cho doing his thing before tucking into Cotto's maltagliati beef cheek ragu pasta. Photo / Dean Purcell

Cho's style mirrored a change explored in an AUT masters thesis, which analysed the difference between online and professional reviews through aspects like criteria and language.

"Comparative content analysis of online and professional reviews for full-service restaurants in Auckland", looked at what separated the two types of reviews and what they came to mean.

Through the paper, author Ziye Zhang concluded elements like colloquial language and a focus on value for money could make reviews on apps like Instagram or Tripadvisor seem more credible to other consumers.

"Not only has social media strengthened customer-to-customer communication, but the information they post has a strong impact on each other's decision making," she wrote.

The head of AUT's hospitality department, David Williamson, who supervised Zhang through her masters thesis, said restaurants now had to "play the game" to get the benefits online reviewers offered.

Instagram food review of the Black Rice Restaurant in Albany on Cho's Instagram account @eatlitfood. Photo / Instagram
Instagram food review of the Black Rice Restaurant in Albany on Cho's Instagram account @eatlitfood. Photo / Instagram

Engagement from restaurants' social media accounts was becoming more and more common as restaurateurs realised how effective a marketing tool social media could be.

Marisa Bidois, chief executive of the Restaurant Association, said social media gave more people the opportunity to be a "reviewer".

It was also another avenue for restaurants to receive feedback through - on everything from their new menu to their decor.

"I think business owners will always listen to feedback from their customers," Bidois said.

"This will often affect change based on this feedback if they think it fits with their businesses direction – like any business from any other industry."

Despite the reviews providing "a bit of a giggle", Brown said he didn't place a huge amount of weight on any reviews.

Food was largely subjective, he said, and reviews, whether good or bad, should be taken with a grain of salt.

While Cho was still deciding which one of his several occupations he would pursue in the future, he intended on continuing eatlitfood and to carry on telling it how it was.

"I'm never going to not be honest - because that's something I know a lot of people appreciate."