Chef Bernard Loiseau was once a favorite with the late French president François Mitterrand. In fact, Loiseau was at one time France’s most celebrated chef. Robert de Niro would drop in for Loiseau’s signature dish of frog’s legs with garlic purée and parsley sauce.
But in 2003, chef Loiseau shot himself in the head with a hunting rifle. The Telegraph’s Henry Samuel claims the following day, a media storm erupted over what pushed Loiseau to end his life.
Loiseau’s wife described chef Loiseau as a highly-strung “manic depressive” who was “capable of great moments of euphoria and periods of deep anxiety”. But Loiseau was obsessed with losing a Michelin star, saying it would cost him “40 percent” of his business.
Paul Bocuse, a French chef based in Lyon who is famous for the high quality of his restaurants, blamed Michelin’s rival, Gaul & Millault, which had penalized the chef two points to 17 out of 20 in its 2003 edition. “Bravo Gault & Millault, you won: your appraisal has cost the life of a man,” he exclaimed.
Samuel notes that François Simon, an influential food critic, had published an article shortly before Loiseau’s death citing Michelin sources as warning that the third star of his flagship restaurant was “legitimately under threat”.
Michelin denied ever threatening to pull a star, but red guide’s then British head, Derek Brown, suggested otherwise.
Although Brown insisted he never had any problem with Loiseau’s cooking, Brown once spoke to Loiseau and his wife of Loiseau’s irregularity, lack of soul, and readers’ mail that was mixed in terms of quality. “Visibly ‘shocked’, (Loiseau) took me seriously,” Brown concluded.
Losing a Michelin star can obviously have a tremendous impact on a restaurant’s business and chef/owner’s standing, and although not even remotely in the same league, review sites can also negatively impact a business and/or restaurant, which is why a bad review can cost a business owner dearly, and evoke emotional volatility.
Last year, a woman who co-owns two trendy eateries in Ottawa, Ontario, became incensed when a customer criticized her restaurant online for bad service.
To get revenge, the restaurant owner used the customer’s wedding photos to create a fake profile for her on a sex site.
As the husband and wife food team of Lij and Kari 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, and review sites:
“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.”
Writing for Small Business Trends, Lisa Barone says because companies like Google give more weight to reviews as social signals, small business owners fear reviews about their business.
Lisa points out that a single bad review, or a handful of unhappy customers can actually strengthen your brand and attract new customers. “A few bad reviews won’t kill your business. In fact, those negative reviews may even help.”