Q&A: Erin Wotherspoon, the woman who dates her way into top Toronto restaurants

Q&A: Erin Wotherspoon, the woman who dates her way into top Toronto restaurants

Erin Wotherspoon became the subject of online scorn for her dates-for-dinner scheme. She says she’s just being creative in a job market that’s stacked against her generation

Q&A: Erin Wotherspoon, the woman who dates her way into top Toronto restaurants

You were a recent George Brown ­graduate ­living in Leslieville, eating chickpeas from a can and wishing you could dine at the city’s best ­restaurants. Then you decided to do something about it.
That’s right. I wrote a hit list of 48 top restaurants and then joined a slew of dating sites. The plan was for the guys to pay for my meals, and I would review the dates and the food on my blog. I’d get fed and could launch my career as a writer at the same time.

You’ve been at it for a few months. How many dates have you gone on so far?
About 15. Canoe, Playa Cabana, Bent, Rude Boy, Woodlot, ­Darvish, Hawthorne and more. Canoe was the best. I had oysters and smoked duck.

Are you up front with these guys about the arrangement?
No. They think it’s just a regular first date. Some probably still don’t know.

How do you convince the guy to take you to your desired restaurant?
I usually suggest three over email, so it’s like the guy is choosing, but really I am.

How many date requests do you get?
In the beginning, maybe 40 a month. Now it’s more like 20.

What’s your dating pet peeve?
When guys are too nice.

You’ve ridiculed your dates for talking too much, too little, opening the door for you, asking about your grandmother, showing you photos of cats, bringing you flowers. With respect, you sound like a nightmare.
Well, sometimes the truth hurts. If you bring out photos of your cat, we’re probably not going to get along.

Fine, but what do you have against grandmothers?
Nothing! I just don’t think a date should be like tea time at a nursing home.

You asked for this interview to be at 7 p.m. Were you trying to finagle a meal on Toronto Life’s dime?
No. I already ate. I had a pear and a hard-boiled egg on my way over.

Just checking. An alternative to your eat-rich scheme is to work really hard, make money and pay for your own dinners. Why didn’t that approach appeal to you?
Well, as I mentioned, I want to be a writer, and I knew that I’d need to do something extra­ordinary to make that happen. Most of my friends are servers or work at call centres. One worked as a mascot at Wonderland. People my age have to make their own opportunities. If I had been offered a great writing job, I would have taken it, but that didn’t happen.

Can’t you get a normal job and write in your free time?
You’d think so, but I’ve worked at 15 restaurants—Mill Street Brew Pub, Free Times Café, Moxie’s and the Corner Place among them. I worked at Barchef, but I spilled stuff, and people were constantly telling me to do things a certain way. Plus, I was always jealous of all the great food and fun the customers were having. Halfway through my shift, I walked out.

How is the writing career going since you launched the blog?
No professional writing gigs yet, but I’ve been approached by a few production companies for reality shows and scripted concepts. I’m still weighing my options. I fear that if I do a reality show, I might not be taken seriously as a writer.

Do you fear you won’t be taken seriously as a writer because of your blog?
Not really. There has been a lot of backlash, but I think the media have taken what I’ve written out of context, like my comments about dating immigrants.

You wrote that you’d target new immigrants since they wouldn’t know about your blog.
Yeah, but I was just kidding.

You also wrote anti-Semitic remarks about hook noses and hunchbacks.
It’s funny, because all my friends are Jewish, and none of them had a problem with it. But I guess I didn’t think it through. I regret that comment, but nothing else.

First dates can be traumatic for some people. Across the table is, potentially, you, milking them for material. Don’t you feel bad about that?
Well, yeah. I’d prefer the guy to know what I’m doing and help me fabricate a story, rather than me screwing him over. But that’s not how it came together.

Have you ever thought about ­dating a chef? You’d save everyone a lot of grief.
No, but that’s not a bad idea.