The Restaurant Guy made its debut today as a weekly column in the Santa Barbara Independent, another milestone in a most-unlikely voyage.
Being a computer software developer by trade, I launched SantaBarbara.com in early 1996. The first web site dedicated to promoting Santa Barbara tourism, it contained dozens of local guides including the Lodging Guide, Beaches Guide, Parks Guide, Wedding Guide and, just by chance, a Restaurant Guide. It turns out that this was the only South Coast restaurant guide on the web at the time. Companies such as of Yelp and Google did not yet exist.
Soon after launch I started to notice that the restaurant guide was getting a lot of visitors, more so than any other part of the site. Using email and their web browsers as ballots the public voted that an online local restaurant guide was something that was needed and I was drafted to be the caretaker.
I didn’t know a thing about restaurants but I knew how to develop database software that all online guides require so I started directing much of my time and effort to improve the restaurant guide and created a review system, so the public can share their experiences. In 2005 I decided to add pictures, inside and out, of every restaurant, coffee shop and bakery from Carpinteria to Santa Ynez. After a full year of work, and more than a hundred miles of walking the streets, I completed photographing 700 eateries and launched a whole new guide with pictures.
While working on the dining guide for more than a decade I gained a lot of inside knowledge of what was happening in the local restaurant scene. Every day I received emails from the public about things they had seen or heard around town. I knew about restaurant openings, closings and was even aware of eateries that would arrive in the distant future. I decided to share this knowledge with the public and launched The Restaurant Guy food news blog in December 2006.
Much to my surprise one of my first readers, Jeramy Gordon, asked me to write for his new paper called the Santa Barbara Daily Sound. Though we both thought it was a little ridiculous for a guy with no culinary background to be a food news columnist, we decided to give it a try anyway. For the next 5 years I wrote a weekly summary of the local dining scene until the Daily Sound ceased publication on July 3rd 2012.
6 days days after my journey into the world of print journalism ended, I received an email from Matt Kettmann, Senior Editor of the Santa Barbara Independent, asking me if I would consider writing for his paper. We ended up chatting about it for the next couple of months and sealed a deal in mid-September to bring The Restaurant Guy to a larger audience.
You might notice a slight change in writing style that helps this column fit a weekly paper instead of a daily paper, as I have been used to for the last 5 years. Instead of saying “today,” “tomorrow” or “yesterday” I might write the actual date or perhaps say “this week.” That way I don’t have to do a lot of rewriting for the print version – because I am not a real writer after all. I am just a computer geek disguised as a restaurant columnist hoping that no one will notice.