When Chefs Attack!
Food blogger who caused a Twitterstorm talks to Dine Birmingham
by Ahmed Ahmed]
James Isherwood is the blogger (and food journalism student) who got a shock last week when he posted a less than complimentary TripAdvisor review of gourmet chef Claude Bosi’s restaurant Hibiscus, later added to his food blog, Dining With James.
Not only did the chef in question tweet him a very angry reply, but it wasn’t long before a gang of other high profile chefs joined in, under the hashtag #chefsunite, including Tom Kerridge:
Now your just being a c#nt! #notwelcomeinanyrestaurantever! #be**end seeya d**khead [sic]
Smash him in chef Bosi #chefsunite
Who is this guy??? What a loser!!
Even The Guardian picked up the story, writing about how the hostile reaction caused the food blogger to close down his Twitter account.
It seemed that one of the major gripes the chef had was that James didn’t point out any faults with the meal in person, while he was at the venue. Cowardice, or common politeness?
We got in touch with James to find out about him and his reaction to the furore…
How did your passion for food begin?
My brother used to do all the cooking, then got bored and said we all had to chip in. I started cooking and found out that people liked what I made. Also I liked Gordon Ramsay, so one birthday my brother took me to Boxwood Cafe, and that’s where my love of restaurants started.
Which is your top restaurant and which is your least favourite?
My favourite is the Ledbury. Nothing has beaten that yet; it was a master class of excellent food and service from start to finish. My least favourite - if we are talking of high-end restaurants - is St. John in Clerkenwell. For a Michelin-starred restaurant, it just never excited me.
Describe the story of your review and the ‘backlash’ in your own words?
I posted it on TripAdvisor, then when Claude [Bosi] noticed my picture was the same as my Twitter profile he tweeted me. Only then did I decide to write it on my blog so that people could see it wasn’t really a nasty review.
How did you feel when the chefs started to get aggressive?
On day one it was just a constant backlash, but after the Guardian story I started to get some support. My instant reaction was to reply to all of the negative tweets, but now it’s not really worth it.
Why did you close your Twitter account?
It was all too much to get negative comments constantly, I didn’t want to respond and go down to their level
How has your opinion of Claude Bosi and the other chefs involved changed since the incident?
The funny thing is, I had a mini spat with Claude last year, and that made me think he was arrogant. Then I went to The Cube when he was the chef there and I thought it was amazing, all thoughts of him being arrogant vanished. But now that’s all changed again.
Has this experience put you off food blogging?
No it hasn’t put me off, but it’s made me think more about how I can improve my writing style.
Do you think the nature of food reviewing is changing due to social media?
Everyone has got an opinion, everyone can put that opinion out there via a tweet link. So people can say, “Well yeah, anyone’s a critic these days, even if they are rubbish!”
How well do you think chefs and the food industry in general are dealing with the new media landscape?
They are not very apologetic about the whole thing, They are still to this day saying hurtful comments - not the chefs involved, but I’m still seeing bits here and there.
What are your final thoughts about the episode?
I’m pleased that people are supporting me and going to boycott the restaurants. You reap what you sow.
What do you think about this? Were the chefs out of line or did James make a mistake by not stating his issues with the meal while he was still at the restaurant? Do you complain when the food’s not up-to-scratch?
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