A few months back we covered a story about Marisol Simoes, the owner of two trendy restaurants who retaliated against one of her customers, Elayna Katz, because on the web, Katz dared to criticize Marisol’s eatery for bad service.
Marisol promptly used Katz’s wedding photos to create a fake profile for her on a sex site. Marisol’s phony profile of Katz described her as a tiger in the bedroom, who liked transgender mates and group sex.
“I am open to anything — couples, threesomes and group sex. Am especially into transsexuals and transgenders (being one myself)” read the e-mail circulated in Katz’s name.
And Katz wasn’t even a blogger.
When Guy Fieri’s new restaurant, Guy’s American Kitchen & Bar, was recently excoriated by New York Times restaurant reviewer Pete Wells, Guy’s reaction was far more civilized, despite despicable comments by Wells such as, “The well-meaning staff seems to realize that this is not a real restaurant.”
In another comment, Wells takes a satirical jab at what he said were the best cocktails on the menu:
“Hey, did you try that blue drink, the one that glows like nuclear waste? The watermelon margarita? Any idea why it tastes like some combination of radiator fluid and formaldehyde?”
Guy sedately responded by saying in a statement:
“At my restaurants, we always try to live by a very simple notion: that food brings people together. I’ve learned that not everyone agrees with my style. The Times’ critic, Pete Wells, clearly did not enjoy his experience. I normally do not respond to reviews or critics, however, given the tone of Pete’s piece, it’s clear to me that he went into my restaurant with his mind already made up.”
Ironically, Guy Fieri will profit from Wells’ unsavory review (any press is good press) “in the same way Marilyn Hagerty benefited from the equally viral good review she gave to an Olive Garden restaurant in North Dakota earlier this year.”
The atmosphere surrounding food and restaurant criticism can easily evoke emotional volatility and degenerate into unwarranted dialogue and acidic cruelty from unexpected sources.
But aside from the bizarre examples above, what infuriates many restaurant owners and chefs is their perception that most food bloggers are unsophisticated waifs who, armed with nothing more than a cheap netbook, and a (free) wi-fi connection, are woefully unqualified and lacking in even the most rudimentary knowledge of both food and journalism skills.
Food bloggers writing about their personal food experiences with cooking and recipes is one thing, but as with art, stepping into the realm of food critic is a whole different dimension.
As Chef and Steward point out:
“In the past food critics and people who wrote for food magazines were mostly qualified individuals who were trained writers or communicators. Because of the growth of technology and the internet, everyone can be an expert in the field of being a food critic even with little knowledge of communication or food these days.”
Mario Batali, chef, writer, restaurateur and media personality, mentions why he is wary of food bloggers:
“Many of the anonymous authors who vent on blogs rant their snarky vituperative from behind the smoky curtain of the web. This allows them a peculiar and nasty vocabulary that seems to be taken as truth by virtue of the fact that it has been printed somewhere. Unfortunately, this also allows untruths, lies and malicious and personally driven dreck to be quoted as fact.”
There’s also a fair share of those in the restaurant industry that consider food bloggers freeloaders. “The only people who hate food bloggers more than restaurant publicists are restaurant managers…They consider them hideous leeches.”
And finally, there’s this rant that appeared in the UK Times Magazine, written by Giles Coren, a British food critic, television presenter and novelist:
‘I hate restaurant critics. I hate restaurant reviews. I hate food bloggers. I hate all foodie commentators with their boring bloody opinions about everything, and their ‘accurately judged bisque’ and their ‘uncertain seasoning’ and their ‘muddled flavours’ and their ‘distracted service’.
“It’s all bollocks! Do you hear me? It’s all total rubbish. You know nothing. Nobody cares. Your wretched evaluations are subjective, ill-informed, prejudiced, pointless, perfectly irrelevant and of no interest to anyone. You are boring. You are fat. You are pasty-faced and stupid and wear ugly shoes. Shut up. Shut up. Shut up.”