Yesterday the managing partner of Red Medicine in Beverly Hills outed L.A. Times restaurant critic, S. Irene Virbila. After spotting her fake name in the reservations, he told her to leave and took her picture, publishing it later on the restaurant’s blog. Though this happened about 2,000 miles away, the news immediately hit the restaurant community here, and chefs had some very definite opinions about the matter, which they shared on Soapbox.
Most of the chefs believed that Red Medicine made a huge mistake.
Paul Fehribach from Big Jones, thinks this is “a shame.” “I don’t think there’s anything any critic could do that warrants a restaurant destroying her career. Seriously, even a horribly biased and factually inaccurate pan couldn’t ruin a good restaurant, so if you believe in your product and service, why would you care?”
Lynn House, the Mixologist at Blackbird agrees: “My theatre days taught me that there truly is no such thing as bad press. There are thousands of restaurants that would give their right hand to come in and review them. We are in the era of celebrity chefs and mixologists. This is part of the territory.”
Phillip Foss from Meatyballs Mobile thinks the outing was “reprehensible.” He goes on to say, “Perhaps there is more of a background to this than meets the eye…but this may be one of the few times a critic has become an empathetic figure. Not good.”
Rob Levitt of the upcoming Butcher & Larder believes that outing critics is fine, but refusing service isn’t: “She has every right to dine in any restaurant she chooses as long as she pays her bill and acts appropriately. Refusing to serve her is, frankly, a bit immature and childish.”
Though Paul Kahan understood the frustration of the restaurateurs, he would have handled the situation differently. “As far as publishing the photo, that seems pretty harsh. I would choose to keep a situation like this personal.”
While noting that it depends on the critic, John Des Rosiers from Inovasi thinks that critics sometimes deserve it: “In a lot of circumstances we are told to just take it, both from critics and also from customer sites like Yelp. No matter the error level, or in-factual accounts of an experience. Why? Why are we perceived as being defensive for just setting the record straight? Why is it bad judgement to fight back? Why is it frowned upon?”