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MrsCC

Top Chef calls to rant about negative comments

93 posts in this topic

IndyRob, the classic issue with any site. Isn't the key to read other reviews from these people and assess their competence. There will always be trolls. I don't see the OP as a troll, a bit of research shows they have a good pedigree of reviews and balanced opinions.

I don't think the blog post was a troll. Actually, I don't think that the three poor reviews of our vet were trolls. I think they each genuinely felt that there were one or more issues. I do think that people who feel wronged are more likely to post.

But I think my main problem is that, unlike word of mouth, a blog post is so much more permanent. It's also more of a standalone thing than a post at a review site. I don't think this means that a blogger is obligated to conform to some particular set of ideals, but I do think they should try to make sure that their posts have a purpose in the larger sense of things.

An e-mail, or a post in an eG thread for the restaurant, seems like a more appropriate means of expression for a "went there tonight and they seemed off their game" sentiment. But I also understand that the level of financial commitment also takes this to a sort of different level. But that's all the more reason to try to rectify the problem within the system.

I do agree that if Marcus just never presses that call button, none of this would be known to most of us. It was a BIG mistake. But there are becoming so many instances of, say, Facebook posts turning out badly (some even resulting in suicides), that I think we should be careful about how/what we're posting publicly and why.


Edited by IndyRob (log)

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MikeHartnett

I completely agree - it seems that there was more than just a customer/restaurateur relationship.

PamBrunnning

Your post emphasises that it is sometimes nicer to talk to the restaurant first before making a very public statement, when a business can be destroyed buy one well-publicised blog. Le Manoir behaved impeccably, but your editor made the right judgement when he/she decided that it was a good idea to show the review to the restaurant first.


Edited by heidih Delete off topic sentence (log)

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Hi Mike,

I think that is a very interesting comment. I have had many comments and conversations that have been most thought provoking. I want to talk about these in further detail once I have our commitments this weekend out of the way and I can properly put pen to paper. In the meantime, I will quickly clarify your pending questions:

We have been to MW 7 times in around 11 months. On our first visit, Marcus was incredibly generous with his time and chatted with us table side and showed me around the kitchen. The second time, I was taken into the kitchen and had a brief chat. After that Marcus was not present or available. He was kind of enough to leave us a personal note after we were married and returned to the restaurant after our honeymoon. In all fairness, our relationship was with his restaurant manager who is currently in the process of working out his notice and was not present on the evening in question, who always made us feel most welcome. Every time we have been there we have paid 100% of our bill. We have never enjoyed complimentary courses or drinks. It has been a 100% commercial relationship. In this day and age, I hope you will forgive my familiarity by referring to him as Marcus. It was born out of custom rather than the desire to imply a friendship of any kind. For example, I never called my previous bosses by their surname.

This incident and the subsequent feedback and chats has given me much to reflect on. What do we expect from a 2 or 3 star restaurant? What responsibilities do we have as bloggers to both our readers, ourselves and the relationships we may build with restaurateurs? What responsibility do chefs/restaurateurs have to acknowledge and take on board the implied impact of bloggers and other social media on their business? Do we relinquish being a customer once we start blogging? Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester recently invited a group of bloggers for a complimentary tasting menu with wines and all of the bloggers have so far slated it. Is Alain currently looking for their numbers? I am not saying I have the answers. I don't. This incident upset me on many levels. I want to explore the issues I have raised along with any others that come up along the way.


The Critical Couple

http://www.thecriticalcouple.com/

Twitter @CriticalCouple

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I have to wonder about whether or not the OP told Chef Wareing that the conversation would become a thread on a public forum. You know, sort of like the message at the beginning of a call that says "this call may be monitored and/or saved for training purposes". At least then you know that whatever you say has the potential to be recalled and reviewed.

Sometimes the answer we get isn't the answer we want. I haven't read the review, I don't know the restaurant but I have to wonder about the intent of the poster in making the phone call so very public.

Once, when I made a mistake with a customer's order; I fixed it and still the woman was irate and let me have it. I calmly replied that I hoped her boss would be as kind to her as she was being to me when she made a mistake at work.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Even when they are wrong and behaving badly!

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As o/o of a small cafe I have a few things to say to Mrs CC:

You are a paying customer who writes reviews. My Gawd there is a Santa Clause after all! I have been e-mailed to death from "bloogers" wanting to "do" my place in lieu of a free meals, or to hit me up for "other services" they provide like marketing, "branding", web design, or business consulation.

Stick to your guns, and in my humble opinion tell it exactly as it happened, with perhaps glossing over the precise words the Chef had to say, but with a general indication of the conversation.

The man screwed up and only he can be responsible for his actions.

It's as simple as that, and if he has two brain cells to rub together, he better go into "damage control".....

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The level of familiarity indicated by the use of the chef's first name supports this.

I wouldn't put much stock on using Marcus' first name, it is pretty standard practice outside the US.

I actually find it quite strange to see the the use of "Chef XXXX" as a term of address. "Chef" isn't an academic qualification like a Doctorate or a professionally certified qualification like an Architect. Yes, many chefs have gone to college and have trade qualifications but lets not inflate their ego's any more by pretending it is an "accredited" title.

Next we will have "Plumber Jones" or "Bartender Bill" or "Fryer Tuck"....although now I think I am getting my Dylan Thomas mixed up with English folk tales.

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Everyone has the right to express their views, spoken or written, so was Marcus wrong to respond by way of a personal phone call? No one's heard this call and, considering the thread as a whole, members have taken it as face value. Personally I am left with further questions; for example (and I am sure the Critical Couple will be happy to clarify this), did Marcus actually raise his voice at any point, or was it just what was said that offended? Rant also suggests he spoke at them, or was a discussion actually had?

Turning to the review itself, I can understand Marcus' frustrations on certain points...

Menu changes: The CC have been 7 times in 11 months. Some dishes have changed during the interim, others haven't. The restaurant is striving for consistency, so obviously certain signature plates are going to remain. Although it is a separate debate as to the frequency a menu should turn, it should be pointed out there's a very famous 3 star restaurant outside of London where the menu hardly refreshes at all and, for a 2 or 3 year period, actually didn't. 2 & 3 stars are not neighbourhood venues with weekly specials, they're unique occasion destinations and this needs to be considered. At what point during the 7 visits in 11 months the CC decide they were bored with certain dishes? This was surely an inevitability given their attendance. Imagine the comments if they had visited The Fat Duck as many times instead?

Marcus in the kitchen: I know for a fact Marcus is in his kitchen more than most of his equivalent peers. In a recent article in the Mail he confirmed as much. There are very few chefs - if any - who work every service. Consequently, I'm sure it's massively frustrating for him to take a rare trip and, when he does, it's plastered all over the blogosphere - unfortunate timing in the extreme. This leads me to my next point...

Posting: As Harters mentions earlier, the review wasn't just listed here. I note the CC blog is relatively new. Whilst I appreciate all websites need 'feeding' and traffic needs to be driven, this net was cast far and wide at the restaurants expense. I'm not personally convinced the follow-up post about the call was ethical or fair either, whatever the nature of the conversation, a call is a personal gesture, did it really need or deserve putting into the public domain? But, what notoriety the CC have now ensured the blog and themselves!

Objectivity: Food at this level is subjective, I am sure that the lamb and beef the CC mention as being unremarkable has been (or is) - for others - highly enjoyable. It's the execution that ultimately defines a dish. This particular paragraph is where the CC also raise the issue of stars. As I say, everyone has the right to a review and an opinion, but does the report really need to turn into a form of open letter to Wareing telling them what they need to do to get the 3rd twinkler? It does come across as a tad patronising. If I were a chef of Marcus' calibre it would certainly have got my back up.


Edited by marcusjames (log)

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Interesting. I don't think your review is particularly harsh, though it is a little condescending at times. I also think you were a little precious about the birthday thing. Personally I've had some really nice surprises laid on at restaurants who knew it was my birthday, but I don't think it's something you should expect. What did you want, freebies? The chef to come out and sing? I'm sure if Marcus had been there he would have come and wished your wife happy birthday, but he wasn't. I hope this doesn't sound harsh, I do understand that you probably had a few thoughts that something special might happen, but you don't want to be too greedy now do you?!

What puzzles me is why Marcus rang you. I have to take it at face value, that you are not exactly friends but that he is aware of you, and that he rang up and was rude to you. What I find strange is that the review is not even that bad! You say you liked some of the food, and some of it was not bad and not amazing. You commented that the service was lacking it's usual spark. That's pretty much it. Now I can understand that he might ring up and point out to you that sometimes restaurants have an off-night, and that he is sorry you visited on such a night, and would you please come back another time for something better. Possibly implicating a free meal...though perhaps he thought you were angling for one and this is why he got mad....

The other odd thing is the state of total brainless-ness that Marcus must have been in when he rang you. Ok, so he wants to complain because you blogged details about a bad meal. You have blogged about meals before. You are a BLOGGER. And yet he rings up to have a go at you, with apparently no thought that you might share such a call with the rest of the world via your blog or some other means. Tell me, did he sound drunk when he rang?!

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Tell me, did he sound drunk when he rang?!

I am in the middle of prep for a charity event we are hosting so I have to be brief. Marcus in no way sounded drunk. He sounded angry but in no way under the influence. I will reply to the other comments ASAP. Thanks


The Critical Couple

http://www.thecriticalcouple.com/

Twitter @CriticalCouple

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I really think you're making quite a meal of this.........

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or "Fryer Tuck"....

Actually the name of a nearby fish & chip shop.

Have to agree with you, Phil, about the use of "Chef" of a title. Just seems odd - raising it to the sort of status of "Doctor", "Colonel" or "Mr". Still, different cultures have different forms of etiquette.


John Hartley

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The only sensible continuation of this story is that the Top Chef in questions calls back and apologises.

Anybody has the right to write a candid opinion. He (or she) who writes bullshit, will soon be found out. He will quickly lose all credibility and will be ignored. There are very many who write (I am grateful to all of them), but very few I follow and trust.

Restaurateurs needn't worry too much about incompetent reviewers, the market will eat them up and they won't do damage. Restaurateurs should rather worry about obviously discerning customers who complain, and reflect.

I would also say that if the above is true for every reviewer, it is even truer for somebody who pays stratospheric prices for a dinner. Spending hundreds of pounds on a meal entitles you to nothing less than perfection, sorry. In a simple trattoria-style place at £20 a meal I hardly mention it if I find a few beards in mussels. But when I am paying heavy money I do so for everything to be JUST PERFECT. If it is not, I can write it everywhere I want to, it's as simple as that. 'Stabbing in the back'? Please.

Some celebrity chefs struggle to understand that those prices are not an entitlement that comes with the brand: they have to be earned every day, with every single customer, with every single dish and act of service. If there is an unhappy customer, just apologise: is it that difficult?

Then again, the market eventually takes care of those who don't understand this principle. I have the feeling that the Top Chef, who is a great professional, will call back and apologise, if he hasn't already done so.

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I find it a bit sad that this poster has had to post this story on not one, but two food-related websites. It was bad enough reading it the first time. I'm totally amazed that a chef as busy as Wareing had 30 minutes to spare to abuse this woman verbally via the telephone, regardless of her having eaten at his restaurant more than 10 times in one year.

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I am sure Mr Wareing is extremely generous and forgiving of his staff when they make an error, perceived or otherwise :wink:

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I would also say that if the above is true for every reviewer, it is even truer for somebody who pays stratospheric prices for a dinner. Spending hundreds of pounds on a meal entitles you to nothing less than perfection, sorry. In a simple trattoria-style place at £20 a meal I hardly mention it if I find a few beards in mussels. But when I am paying heavy money I do so for everything to be JUST PERFECT. If it is not, I can write it everywhere I want to, it's as simple as that. 'Stabbing in the back'? Please.

Some celebrity chefs struggle to understand that those prices are not an entitlement that comes with the brand: they have to be earned every day, with every single customer, with every single dish and act of service. If there is an unhappy customer, just apologise: is it that difficult?

I know it's probably clear my sympathies lie with Marcus on this, but on the subject of the CC bill I think it needs pointing out that the tasting menu at MW is £115, which means by way of rough estimation, the CC spent £300-350 on booze. You can get out of Wareing for a lot less than that. In short, they drove the bill to £600, not the restaurant. Yes, it's not the cheapest gaff in the UK, but you do get what you pay for.

I agree with the comments about execution of the food vs price, and to be fair to the CC they don't actually criticise this, the review was more about the lack of overall wow factor.

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Although the phone rant was inexcusable, I too can sympathise with MW on this. I think the review itself as a standalone is overly harsh and slightly pedantic but in the context of half a dozen previous good experiences, it seems very unfair that the restaurant was not afforded the opportunity to make amends prior to publication of such a scathing review.

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They were very clear in the review that they had previously enjoyed the restuarant. If a fisrt time diner were to go and have that sort of experience at those prices they would be justifiably aggrieved. Since the CCs had posted their good meals, I think it's fine for them to post the less than perfect ones too. That's the power of the www, like it or not.

What is disappointing is the fact that Marcus W saw fit not to take their comments in the spirit in which they were meant - to phone as he did is appalling.

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To me, the issue isn't about whether reviewers should run their reviews past the restaurant before releasing them to the world - that would be nonsense. It is more to do with the fact that (as the reviewers have stated themselves)Marcus had been very generous with his time on the other occasions they had visited, he had chatted to them, showed them around the kitchen, left messages when he hadn't been there etc etc. In that context, and in the context of having had six or seven faultless meals there in the last year, I think they should have raised their disappointments with him first, to alert him to the problem/s and to give him a chance to rectify them. I do understand that places of this calibre (and price) should be reliably faultless, but because of the history of their experiences there, I think it a bit mean-spirited to very publicly highlight (on what seems to be a very new and widely promoted blog) what are relatively minor complaints about the food and about the service not being personal enough.

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People used to travel miles and pay loads of money to have the honour of being verbally abused by a chef.

I think you should consider yourself lucky to have experienced an old fashion art which is sadly in decline. Maybe you could use this experience to draw attention to your blog. Contact a tabloid paper, they might be interested to run a story regaring "Mad Marcus's patience Wareing thin"! :rolleyes:

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1) We have to take the bloggers "Rant accusation" at face value. We do not really know the tone or what was actually said

2)You have been extremely flaky about your description of your relationship with MW. In the blog you say he has has been friendly, then you say that it was actually once you talked to him (or something like that...) but the rest was with the D, etc etc... you are loosing credibility....

3)Although no "harsh" words were said in the review, you implied two things: one, that the restaurant collapses when MW is not there; two, that maybe it is not worth of its two stars. these are really serious accusations, and insulting to any high-end restaurant and two star chef. If you are writing a blog, and you are make public accusations for a restaurant, be prepared for a response.

just to clarify, I do not know MW, I have actually never eaten at his restaurant. But I understand a bit of a "anger" if someone who has been treated well there many times before, decides to write a review which implies that they are lazy because they do not change the menu often enough, the place goes tits up when he is not there, and that he might not be worthy of 2 stars...


Edited by RedRum (log)

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I actually find it quite strange to see the the use of "Chef XXXX" as a term of address. "Chef" isn't an academic qualification like a Doctorate or a professionally certified qualification like an Architect. Yes, many chefs have gone to college and have trade qualifications but lets not inflate their ego's any more by pretending it is an "accredited" title.

I have no problem addressing a chef as chef. I use it as a term of respect because i have great appreciation for what the greatest chefs accomplish. All the great chefs I have met, in New York and in France have been humble gentleman. I include Chefs Savoy, Passard, and Ducasse in France and Chefs Keller, Ribert, etc in New York City. Perhaps egotistically chefs are just found in the U.K.

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Whenever I hear the narrator say "Chef Ramsay" on that terrible American programme he's on I want to pass my own face through a mouli.

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I was referring to one specific British chef, whose name need not be mentioned. Though, I have never had anything but wonderful interactions with the famous 3 star chefs I have met over the last decade.

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