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When a review mentions the chef/bartender/server by name, is it legit?

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I've seen alot of glowing reviews of places where the reviewer mentions the chef by name (e.g. "Chef Anthony does a great job!", etc.), not just here but in Yelp and alot of other on-line boards like this.

I'm beginning to believe that these types of reviews are usually shills. I've written alot of glowing reviews, and never once have I thought to call out the chef or any other staff by name.

In fact, my opinion of The Bedford Inn is all about the chefs. I think the previous chef (don't even recall his name but recall he worked at Bellagio Las Vegas prior to TBI) had head-and-shoulders above-and-beyond skills, and that the new one is fine but not transcendently great ... but even then I didn't think to call out either chef by name.

Do you ever name the chef in your reviews?

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  1. Yes, I have written reviews where I mentioned a chef by name and just a few weeks ago mentioned a bartender by name because he was such a great bartender....I am not a shill.

    1. never, and less by their first name; it sounds tacky

      Max.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Maximilien

        I have known many bartenders over the years because we often have dinner at the bar. They know me by my first name and that's how I know them. I do not understand why that would be considered tacky since I also think bartenders deserve a modicum of privacy and so would not put their full name online. PS A bad bartender can kill a restaurant IMHO.

      2. I actually have named the chef/owner of a particular establishment a few times on these boards. I can only really think of two situations in which I would have done it, and this would have been when I thought the audience might have some familiarity with the chef/owner from his previous work in my area (more particularly, when he has become known in the area and also, to some extent, on the national food scene). Otherwise, I usually don't even know the name of the chef, and, unless I'm a regular, I will forget the name of any staff within a minute of walking out the door, if not sooner.

        I don't think it is necessarily a "shill" when I see a chef named in a review. Some people care about such things and follow it closely, and, knowing the reviewer in such instances, I may take their viewpoints to heart. Others have a personal relationship with the chef and are clearly biased, in which case their opinions can be totally disregarded. Even without having familiarity with the reviewer, intent can often be discerned from context.

        When reviews mention servers/bartenders by name, though, I don't regard it any way other than inapporpriate. I feel the successes or failures of servers/bartenders, especially in one-off situations, to be more appropriately conveyed to management privately.

        5 Replies
        1. re: MonMauler

          If the establishment is at all "chef-driven," I will mention the chef by name.

          Also, at many restaurants, the chef might change, so what I am reviewing today, might not be what one would encounter tomorrow.

          In the restaurant business, I know very few players, beyond their station in the restaurant, and their service to me. There are a few owners, with whom I interact at charity events, and the same for chefs, whether employees, or owners. Beyond that, I just report things in the "Dragnet" style - "just the facts... "

          Hunt

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            Bill, I totally agree with you regarding "chef-driven" restaurants. I often patronize new restaurants within a few months of their opening, and, many times, the food is exceptional. Returning a year or so later, I often find a notable drop-off in the quality and execution of dishes I had sampled before. This used to baffle me until I realized that in almost all cases the chef had left the establishment to start the new hot-spot across town, where I had just had an incredible meal. Since I am generally unaware of such movements in the culinary community, the situation usually catches me off guard and is unfortunate. Thus, I also agree that "what I am reviewing today, might not be what one would encounter tomorrow."

            I actually do know quite a few players in the local food scene - owners, chefs, servers, bartenders - since I socialize with them outside of their work environment often. Nevertheless, I strive to ensure that my comments about the establishments in which they work are not clouded by my personal interactions with them, and I, too, "report things in the 'Dragnet' style - 'just the facts... '"

            1. re: MonMauler

              It's difficult issue, particularly at the top end, Big Name places.

              Take Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London, for example. One of only four places in the UK with three Michelin stars. But Ramsay isnt the chef there. Doesnt cook there. The kitchen is overseen by Clare Smyth. But who do people say hold the stars - Ramsay or Smyth? Of course, it's Ramsay. Because he's the Big Name. And not Smyth because she isnt , even though she is doing the work.

              1. re: Harters

                In which case it is even more pertinent that the chef doing the cooking or actually overseeing it be named - Clare Smyth in this case. I truly do not get why "naming a chef" is considered "shilling" by the OP.

                1. re: Harters

                  Good point.

                  Though Chef Ramsay was on-site at Petrus, and was gracious to stop by our table in the lower level, he was NOT the chef.

                  Though Petrus was under his name then, noting the actual chef, might be helpful to others?

                  Good point,

                  Hunt

          2. Yes, I mention the chef's name if

            (1) I know it
            (2) and it serves some purpose to my report in mentioning it.

            For example, Michelin starred restaurants often have very well known chefs and it would be silly not to mention it. "We ate John's new seafood menu and it was great." "After service, John came round the restaurant to chat to customers." "I hear that John is moving to new premises in September." "John told me that he has a new pastry chef"

            2 Replies
            1. re: Harters

              Agreed.

              The excellence of a dish one has at a dining establishment sometimes greatly depends on who is cooking it, notwithstanding the desire of an establishment to make it "uniform". (Chains are excluded from this discussion) Not infrequently the worthiness of food served at a restaurant changes significantly with turnover of the chef(s). Why would I not name the chef associated with a meal at a fine dining place, or at an establishment owned by or closely tied to a specific chef?

              1. re: huiray

                Ah, yes, you raise another good reason to mention name as in "I was disappointed with dessert. It was a pity John's new pastry chef, Theo, wasnt in the kitchen that evening".

            2. I have done so, on a few occasions. Part of that is to point out who the real "players" are in a larger restaurant, so that if one cares, they can request ____, for their experience.

              In a few reviews, it has been to point out a real contributor to my dining experience, say the sommelier.

              In my case, the reviews are as objective, as I can write them. I also try to recount exactly what I experienced, in hopes that I might help others make a determination, on where to dine, or maybe what to order.

              Maybe I am wrong?

              Hunt

              1. It never occurred to me one way or the other. If I am going to a 3 star Michelin restaurant I will know the name of the chef because I am not spending that type of money for a non-entity and most Michelin stars go to chefs with a certain pedigree. Beyond that I tend to pick restaurants for food quality driven reasons. It woldn't normally occur to me to mention a bar tender or waiter unless they served well and beyond the call of duty or the restaurant was bar orientated. I don't really get the question as I don't pay attention to yelp. I am not a shill but if I know the name of the chef I will mention it for better or worse.

                1. I wasn't really thinking in terms of 3 star or celeberity chef restaurants - I was thinking more local, no-name chef places. It often strikes me that the reviewer may be a friend or colleague of the chef, or the business owner or the chef himself.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: cringle22

                    What may be "local no-name" to you might be big deal, big name to people within the community. I would say most folks are not eating at 3 star or celebrity chef restaurants.

                    1. re: cringle22

                      I think it all depends on the particular establishment. Some places publish the names of their key personnel, some don't.

                      (Under celebrity establishments, I'll throw out Colin Field, the head barman at the now-closed bar of the soon-to-be-closed Paris Ritz...people went to the bar JUST for Colin.)

                      1. re: cringle22

                        There are names which may be well known in a particular locality which would be meaningless to a wider audience. I have, this week, reviewed a place where I have mentioned the owner by name. It is relevent because he has a track record for a style of food and for operating successful restaurants. For readers outside of the metro area, it would have no relevence.

                        The thread here, so you can form an opinion:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/860260

                        1. re: cringle22

                          Even local restaurants can have chef changes, and those might jog things in a totally different direction. Same for a sommelier.

                          Hunt

                        2. Chef, not so much.

                          Same with bartender.

                          But server? That would be a bit odd.

                          I would never go to a restaurant because of the server, but would definitely do so for a chef or a bartender (in the case of a bar).

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            Sometimes when I return to an establishment, I'll request the same server I had previously -- especially because that person will usually be advised of my request by the host and an even nicer experience can be had.

                            1. re: ipsedixit

                              Now, when other aspects have not changed, I DO request certain servers, but maybe that is just me?

                              Hunt

                              1. re: Bill Hunt

                                @ Bill and Stephanie,

                                Requesting the same server and going to a restaurant because of a (yet unknown) server are two entirely different things. I was talking only about the latter. The former I partake in as well.

                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                  If a particular server has done well by me, I cite them. At some of the restaurants, where I dine, there are servers, who have served my family, and me, over many decades. Some, have even introduced me to their children, who have taken up the bastion for them, when they retire.

                                  Not sure what your problem really is?

                                  Hunt

                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                    If a review mentioned only the server, it would not be a siren-call to go there. Food and bartender would be different.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      For me, I never know a bartender's name, as I am usually only asking for the wine list.

                                      More often, I will know the server's name, and often the sommelier's name, if they are different folk. If notable, then I mention them. If not, then I grade the service in very general terms, and do not reflect negatively on any participant.

                                      Maybe that is just me?

                                      Hunt

                              2. re: ipsedixit

                                a couple of restaurants here have servers that have been there forever (or longer) and the regulars will ask to be seated at that server's table. they will often tell friends to be sure that they are seated in that server's section. I've even known one or two people to choose to eat someplace else when they found out 'their' server was on vacation.

                              3. I don't write "reviews" (that's what reviewers do, and I find it somewhat humorous that amateur eaters go to a restaurant once, type some drivel into Yelp, and think they are "reviewing" a place), but I have no issue with mentioning what the name of the chef is if I think it adds to the commentary. Why not? Makes no sense to ignore the chef. He or she is the one running the friggin show.

                                1. Name dropping doesn't automatically mean that the reviewer is a shill but lots of shill reviews do it. When a reviewer starts mentioning lots of names a warning light goes on for me. My final judgement on the shilliness of the review depends on a number of factors.

                                  1. Skepticism is healthy, especially regarding anything you read on the web. There will always be people who want to give a friend or family some extra business with a great review.

                                    On the other hand, sometimes you go to a place, love it, go back over and over, and get to know peoples names, either the chef or the bartender or whomever you build a relationship with. I have definitely fallen into the latter category - when I first posted about a new pizza place I raved but didn't mention any names because I didn't know or particularly care, was just excited about the food. After going there probably at least 20 times over the last year, I still go because of the food, but now I know the key players' names and would mention them in a review/post to recognize the individuals and the work they do.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: babette feasts

                                      What? Everything that I read on the Web might be suspect?!?!?!

                                      No, I agree with you. Usually, I make note of a great server, and their name might, or might not, make its way into my review - if the inclusion is meaningful.

                                      I have had experiences, where the server was a real plus, and some, where they ruined an otherwise perfectly good dining experience. When the server really steps up, I do not hesitate to mention them by name. Same with a chef, or an owner, if they warrant it, in the review.

                                      It is not to boost their "cred," but only to let others know who did a good job for me. That might, or might not, be the difference.

                                      Not too long ago, we had a wonderful meal, plus service at a lovely resort restaurant. Our "service captain" was also the sommelier, and he earned his tip, by his service. I mentioned him, and especially as a few other reviewers had just panned that restaurant on service. I know good service, and know that it can differ in the same restaurant. When one excels, they need to be mentioned, to help other diners.

                                      I mean, think about it. If one can have great food, PLUS great service, just by requesting a particular station, who would turn their back on that?

                                      Hunt

                                    2. I do not name the chef(s) in any review, for the very reason that you cite: Reviews that mention the restauranteurs or their employees by name should make the reader suspicious of the truth in the review. I think many people like to say the name of the chef because it boosts their ego, and makes them feel special - like they are part of the inside elite (i.e. name dropping). In reality, it means nothing, as in the end we are all just human beings. It also irks me when hearing or reading "Chef" + the person's first name. Why the first name and not the last? If the chef's name is John Smith, why is it not "Chef Smith" instead of "Chef John"?

                                      In normal conversation, I refer to people by their first name, regardless of their title. A deliberate announcement of another's title, such as Doctor, Senator, Professor, Chef etc., prior to their name, implies that the person is somehow a superior human being and deserves a spewing of reverence for their choices in life. However, in some situations, it may be necessary to state the title of a person to communicate their expertise in a particular field to another during an introduction - where another may not know the person's social or intellectual ranking.

                                      1. I often also sit at the bar and get to know the bartender's name, and a lot of small, local place I go to are "chef-driven" and some know their names, and some don't. I wouldn't go to a Michael Symon-owned restaurant and mention his name as, similar to a Gordon Ramsey place, he's not the one doing the cooking, but I would mention those I know by name who are doing a great job. e.g. I know Chef Ben so and so works hard to source his ingredients locally, and the commitment runs deep; the special drink of the day that bartender Dave so and so has prepared includes pureed strawberries that were frozen last year while in season, repurposed here for the night's delicious drink special." I actually know Dave in this scenario, but don't know Ben personally, only know of his reputation.

                                        1. Yes, I will mention the chef by name from time to time. Invariably, it is when the chef is known because s/he appears on TV or, whilst not a "celebrity chef" is well known to diners because, say, the restaurant has a Michelin star. The most recent example was only this week when I wrote "It’s a while since we’ve been to Simon Rimmer’s restaurant for omnivores (as opposed to the entirely veggie Greens ....."

                                          Of the places I visit with some regularity, there are four or five places where I might mention the chef by name. There's been occasional other mention but these have usually been when the chef has come into the dining room to introduce themselves to diners and that, in itself, seemed worthy of comment. For example, if you go to a restaurant called "Da Piero" and Piero comes to chat to diners towards the end of service, I think that's part of the experience.

                                          Of course, with the vast majority of places I visit, I have no idea of the chef's name, not have I any interest in finding out. So long as the kitchen can cook a good dinner, that's fine with me.