When Steven Shaw and Jason Perlow founded eGullet in August of 2001 they had no way of knowing they were helping to kickstart a revolution.
Shaw was sick and tired of Chowhound’s heavy-handed moderation (read The Death Of The Austin Chowhound Board http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2011/8/1/The-Death-Of-The-Austin-Chowhound-Board)and attempts to control the posters who had come to regard the virtual community as their de facto living room. So he, along with Perlow, founded eGullet, and the food media world quickly became a very different place. Interested in Mexican food stalls featuring a particular type of edible flower that only grows in the rainy months in Puebla? eGullet had a view. Wanting to explore the post WWII Jewish soul food kitchens of district 8 in Budapest. eGullet was all over it. Looking for that one remaining hog butcher in Istanbul? eGullet could hook that up.
The site went on to become a launching pad for hundreds of food bloggers, many of whom fled eGullet in disgust after the site began emulating many of the tactics that had led the founders to flee Chowhound.
Be wary of what you mock for that’s often what you become.
Steven Shaw aka The Fat Guy was first (self) published in 1994 when he authored a “survival guide” on Wilmington, Delaware restaurants. After that brief flirtation, he soldiered along as an attorney for three more years before he decided to reinvent himself as a food writer in 1997 by penning a field guide to NYC restaurants.
Shaw began blogging in February 1998 well before the form came into its own.
His “The Fat Guy Newsletter” began its life as an email blasted out to friends and family before morphing into shaw-review.com; that site launched his name into the public eye when the New York Times authored a piece on his work, causing such heavy traffic the owners of the site’s servers believed Shaw’s site was under attack.
A scant two years late Shaw was hired by EdificeRex.com to be a full time professional restaurant critic. Shaw took to the gig with gusto but soon enough he was heading towards deeper waters when he and Jason Perlow created eGullet.
While it’s true that that site’s relevance has long ago faded, at one time it sucked away countless hours of productivity from 1000s and 1000s of otherwise sane people, this writer included. What was eGullet? Take it away Mr. Shaw:
“It’s a multifaceted website that includes an online community, a literary journal, an online culinary institute, audio programming and an array of what I would call blog-like content.”
And in the early days it was a thrilling community to be part of til the heavy hand of the moderators squelched the interest of many members of the community. There was a lot of blood spilled, the site became a non-profit, morphed into The eGullet Society for Culinary Arts and Letters and eventually became a ghost site with barely a murmur of fresh content being posted.
And now its founder has passed.
RIP Steven Shaw
photo credit: eGullet