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

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