You might go to a restaurant. You might find some elements of the meal not quite to your taste. You might put a few words up on Trip Advisor recounting your less-than-perfect experience. The chef might get in touch to call you a c***. Other Michelin-starred chefs might pile in with more abuse.
Does this sound fanciful? Well, it’s exactly what happened to Brit James Isherwood this week after dining at the two-Michelin-starred Hibiscus restaurant in London’s upmarket Mayfair district.
Isherwood, who is not a professional restaurant critic and writes only for his Dining With James blog (12 entries so far) and Trip Advisor, posted a review of Hibiscus complaining that parts of the “poor” starter were overcooked and that the service was “hit and miss”, though comments regarding other parts of the meal were generally positive. He gave it a three-out-of-five rating, pressed ‘publish’ and that was it. Except that it wasn’t.
Next thing, Hibiscus head chef Claude Bosi turns up on Isherwood’s Twitter feed calling him “a c***” for not telling him at the time that he was unhappy with the food.
“Like the review on TA.. Really..!! smile to my face, then stab me in the back….!!! Nice one,” the acclaimed chef tweeted.
Isherwood responded diplomatically, tweeting that “it was mostly an enjoyable meal, just one small part of it wasn’t to my taste.”
Bosi, however, was having none of it, tweeting back, “nice way to gain respect with chefs…!! I think your a C*** and this its personal sorry…!!” [sic]
The chef continued his Twitter tirade, saying that “as a man” Isherwood should have said something to his face, and recommended the blogger “buy yourself a pair of balls and play with them.”
If Bosi’s initial outburst was the starter, the main was provided by a number of other high-profile Michelin-starred chefs who saw fit to wade into the online spat.
Tom Kerridge – whose restaurant Isherwood had recently raved about in another review – tweeted, “Now your just being a c***! #notwelcomeinanyrestaurantever! #bellend seeya dickhead” [sic], followed later by, “Smash him in chef Bosi #chefsunite” and “Who is this guy??? What a loser!!”
Another chef, Sat Bains, also couldn’t resist having a pop, tweeting, “Heard a really good saying once, and it rings true today!!!! @claudebosi @ChefTomKerridge there is a c*** amongst us.!!!”
But not everyone in the restaurant world is happy with Bosi’s rather robust way of dealing with criticism. London-based chef Luke Mackay said in a piece for the Guardian, “All of you made me ashamed to be a chef last night, you made be ashamed to be on Twitter and you have done nothing but bad for our industry.”
He continued, “Yes we know a restaurant lives or dies by its reviews, yes we know that Trip Advisor is unedited and sometimes destructive. But calling a paying customer a ‘c***’ on a public forum for not liking his starter? That’s going to kill you before any pee-wee blogger.”
As for Isherwood, it’s safe to say the hapless blogger won’t be returning to Hibiscus any time soon.