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Fat guy with ans expense account that is sometimes on TV

It is getting tot he post where often I am getting for removed for being a friend of the restaurant. I recently got this one "Hi, JB,
We've previously emailed you about posting about places where you're not just an anonymous diner, and it seems like Seven Sows is one of those places where you're a friend of the house.
Can we ask that you take a look at our guidelines for insiders ( http://www.chow.com/faq#insiders ) and remember to stick to factual posts when talking about those businesses.
We know that with your event you're probably making a lot of friends in the industry, and we understand this restriction can be limiting, but we really think it's best when the opinions on Chowhound come from ordinary diners, rather than friends of the restaurant.
Jacq" I had met this Chef 2 maybe 3 times personally. I meet almost ever chef where I eat from fine dining to hot dog carts. It is who I am.

I do A LOT research on this site but it is becoming to combersome to deal with. Am I the only only one having this problem? I am scared to even answer questions that people ask me.

I may just go somewhere else. But where?

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  1. I likewise tend to befriend restaurant owners, and it presents a real conflict because I then cannot toot their horn here. It's a grey area where I am not a shill, but would like to spread the word about good chow. I had a similar woodshed talk from the mods and a post removed about a fine restaurant in the Poconos.

    1. I've had a similar problem with one place/chef in particular. It can be very frustrating. Eventually, I just pretty much gave up and would only post anything about either in accord with the "friends and family" rules.

      As to another place, I've just started checking out Serious Eats. I think I've seen some familiar faces.

      1. That would surprise me. I know at least one poster on the Philly board who is quite *clearly* very close to many restaurateurs (gets invited to openings & soft openings, etc. etc.), who posts away with no problem whatsoever.

        Really makes you wonder whether these rules are enforced across the boards....

        2 Replies
        1. re: linguafood

          I really liked one chef Steven Greene in Greenville and often ate there. We we close but he moved on. Because of that brief friendship I was told that I could no longer post about the entire restaurant group. Which was probably great for the one place that I thought sucked. I have never taken food for free and I tip what some say is well. Is there another place out there like chowhound I can go to?

          1. re: JB BANNISTER

            People have suggested serious eats. There's also egullet.

            Beyond that, I have no advice for you, sorry.

        2. How do the moderators find out about your friendships with the chefs and owners? Do you mention them in your comments about the restaurant?

          19 Replies
          1. re: ninrn

            I my case, it was simply something assumed by the mods from the text of my posts.

            1. re: MGZ

              I see. I think it must be a very tricky path to walk, trying to keep this site free of biased reviews while still being an open, enjoyable forum for the enthusiastic hard-core restaurant eaters who are probably the best reviewers a site like this could have.

              Would it be better for you guys if the Chow Team would just post the notes like the one they emailed to JB, right in the thread, rather than pulling a post, so you could respond right there?

              Do you think they'd be less likely to pull these posts if you included a comment like "In the interest of full disclosure, I'm friends with the chef"? Or do you do that already (hence the problem they have with your posts)?

              I'd hate to see so many of you leaving for other sites because of this kind of thing. What I like best about Chowhound is that it's not just a forum for the pathologically disgruntled, and that so many people who love food come here to post about what they love. It's only natural that those people will be or become friends with the people who make that food. And alienating the friendly and sociable is probably not the best path to success for a social media-ish website.

              Chow Team, there has to be a better way.

              1. re: ninrn

                I have always tried to disclose any pertinent information regarding my relationships with chefs, servers, bartenders, restaurant owners, and even their families. I do the same thing if I am lucky enough to get something "on the house". I think it is prudent and helpful to fellow 'hounds. The problem is in defining what is "pertinent"? When does speaking with the chef constitute a friendship? It's particularly difficult when you are both affable, food geeks.

                I my case, the litmus applied was basically just an "appearance of impropriety" drawn from between the lines of a review - there was never any sort of quid-pro-quo (yes, the McCutcheon hint was intentional - I couldn't help myself). I am passionate about good food and sometimes the excitement I have experienced is palpable in the way I put words on a page. We can all cheerlead for places we like in the hopes that they succeed and we can go back. Should we consider that a nefarious, self-interest?

                If I've never spoken to a person outside of their restaurant, does it make them a "friend" because they will stop by our table when we come in to dine? What about someone who lives on my block and I exchange pleasantries about the weather frequently, but have never spoken to inside their pub? What if I did a house closing for a bartender a couple years ago and didn't charge him for some of my time? Slept with a server's sister? (Ironically, in the matter which I first noted in this thread, I would now call the chef my friend, we exchange e-mails occasionally, I've met his wife, etc., but at the time of the deletion, the relationship was much more limited).

                I have no problem with the Mods posting the messages they send to me. First, I stand by my original presentations, their veracity, and my own disinterestedness. Moreover, it permits a chance to publicly clarify any misunderstandings I may have generated with my prose and lets other 'hounds draw their own conclusions. My gut tells me, however, that the practice might not work "across the board(s)".

                By the way, I appreciate your implying that I'm not "pathologically disgruntled". I didn't think so, but it's always nice to hear it from others.

                1. re: MGZ

                  Very well reasoned response. I think there is a clear line between being a regular and being a friend. Regulars chat to the staff, exchange a few holiday ups etc etc. But a true friend would see staff socially.

                  However, I do believe that line is crossed if you become what I call a "friend of the house" where you always get comped something, always get a good table etc etc. This happens when you go on a very very regular basis. Maybe weekly. At that stage I don't believe you can be objective anymore.

                  The problem with being a FotH is that it happens gradually, you don't appreciate that your critical factors have been dulled, your loyalty overrides any faults. Its not conscious, but any criticism is taken personally, and you defend your "friend". Of course we would never be guilty of this as we are far too objective :-))

                  So that is a tricky gray area and as such its probably better to be cautious in comments/reviews about these places. You could argue that readers should be able to see through the gushing, fulsome praise, but I have definitely seen examples where the adoration of a restaurant gets its own momentum and even the slightest criticism is savaged and beaten into submission.

                  And then there are commercial relationships. No matter what anyone says if its at all commercial, if any money changes hands then is a definite no no (I would include free meals from PR companies for bloggers in that). And even if the commercial relationship is declared up front it still doesn't work a after all who "bites the hand that feeds them".

                  1. re: PhilD

                    In addition to objectivity, there's also the issue of a review's utility. Most of us have no interest in food voyeurism---we're here for tips. If a random hound couldn't get the same experience written about in a post, it's not much use.

                    1. re: hyperbowler

                      I don't think anybody would disagree with that. The difficulty for some of us really arises in trying to figure out when and/or if you are getting any preferential treatment. It's easy when a comped plate is sent out to the kitchen, but how do you know if the chef fired the best ribeye in the kitchen for you?

                      The same is true for service issues. If you've been to a place a half dozen times and tipped well, a little bit more attention may get paid to your table. Do you know that's happening? What's more, even if it is happening, it could be that the staff thinks you're an asshole, but likes to get the extra ten-twenty bucks when it's available. That doesn't make you a "friend", does it? What if the server is paying more attention to your table because she finds you pleasant, kind, or attractive?

                      As I've said, I am an advocate of disclosure of what I deem to be pertinent to others. Thus, if I am commenting on a place I have been to several times or had a glass of wine with the chef after dinner, that is related in the context of the greater "story" to be told. The problem is that my honesty has been taken to imply more of a relationship and therefore resulted in deleted posts. Others may disclose nothing, get extraordinary treatment, and rave - all to the detriment of the greater community.

                      At the risk of being immodest,* I'll just note that I'm a relatively bright guy. If I wanted to manipulate other 'hounds for the benefit of a restaurant, I'm pretty certain I could do so. However, I truly dig this little sandbox and have agreed to play by its rules.** Relatedly, I'll note, I also try quite hard to maintain my anonymity between the two "worlds".

                      *Not really much at risk.

                      **That's not to say I haven't, properly, had my hands slapped once or twice. What can I say, sometimes I can only learn somethings hot by burning my fingers.

                      1. re: MGZ

                        I stopped posting about the place I referred to not only because we do get special goodies but because the staff has noticed that the owner gives us attention when he's around. I think that THEY think that we're better connected than we are :)

                        1. re: MGZ

                          >>>I'll just note that I'm a relatively bright guy. If I wanted to manipulate other 'hounds for the benefit of a restaurant, I'm pretty certain I could do so.<<<

                          Care to put your money where your mouth is, MGZ? :-) I will wager with you any amount you wish that you could not manipulate me for the benefit of a restaurant. What would you be willing to wager?

                            1. re: Fowler

                              Leaving aside the fundamentally hypothetical nature of the comment, what makes you certain I haven't already? I mean, I wouldn't use this screenname to do such a thing effectively, would I? That seems like Step 1 . . . .

                              1. re: MGZ

                                I am certain because I only take recommendations from people I know. Do you know me? If so, please remind me which of your recommendations I took.

                                Really, put down your wager if you are so certain you are bright enough to manipulate me for the benefit of a restaurant.

                                1. re: Fowler

                                  One vote to replace Food Quest board with Food Wagers/Challenges/Competitions board.

                                  1. re: ninrn

                                    Good idea, ninrn. I would be happy to take MGZ's money all day and every day and give the profits to food banks.

                                  2. re: Fowler

                                    You really seem to have missed the point of the rhetorical hyperbole (as well as the self-deprecation). Manipulating any single 'hound is of no great value to any enterprise,* the goal would be broader. Let the outliers go, the money's in the main part of the pack. Advertising success assumes that some people will have better bullshit detectors than others - it doesn't matter.

                                    So as to the instant issues, do you have an opinion as to what might be helpful in communicating information on the Site? Do you disagree that disclosing information about relationships and perceived special treatment can be as effective as deleting posts based upon the assumptions of the Mods? Do you think that the posting guidelines, as they exist, prevent someone with malicious intent from successfully using the Boards for financial gain?

                                    As to your wager, I'll have to politely decline. As noted, I respect my agreement with the Site to abide by its rules.** Besides, I live on a fixed income and, in the event I should lose, I'd have to ask Mrs. Z for a raise.

                                    *Hence, the phrase "manipulate other 'hound*s*"

                                    **If I should change my mind, . . . .

                                2. re: Fowler

                                  If he did it would only work ONCE.

                    2. re: ninrn

                      Not really sure. I know A LONG time ago I I said "thell them I said hello" about DEVEREAUXS ( When Chef Greene was there and now closed)and I was chastised.

                      1. re: JB BANNISTER

                        Is it just the mod on that board, do you think? It seems like the moderators on some boards are more aggressive (or passive-aggressive) than on others. We never get flack like this on the Southwest boards, and several people have made similar comments in posts.

                        1. re: ninrn

                          I think the mods only look at posts that other users flag. As lingua notes upthread, there is one particular poster on the Philly board who is clearly friendly with several of the local chefs and his\her posts are never removed. Perhaps it's just that Philly hounds don't flag that poster?

                        2. re: JB BANNISTER

                          Tell them I said hello can be interpreted a few ways. I frankly agree with the mods on that one.

                      2. This isn't the same but perhaps has some value here. We not long ago had dinner for the first time at a place that had been recommended to us by a CH. We hit it off immediately with the server and then spoke with the manager who was "working the room" and had a nice chat. During the course of that meal we got comped several things that we hadn't ordered. When writing it up for CH, I didn't mention those items at all. I KNOW I gave a fair review based only on what we paid for.

                        Regarding actually knowing the owner, there's one place that I no longer post about except when someone asks a "where to eat" question and I will include it. We're definitely getting special treatment and I know I'm a tad biased by that.

                        1. If a Chowhound X has connections with a given restauranteur and/or chef that result in X getting special treatment or consideration, it behooves X to subtract those factors from any review or comments he posts here.

                          Were X to go to a restaurant for the first time, knowing none of the folks who work there, and not dropping any names or revealing that he planned to review it, any special treatment, freebies, etc., proferred to him are legitimate to mention in his post. Otherwise, no. But it seems to me unfair that X should not be able to comment on his restaurant experience in a place at which he is known, as long as he is scrupulously impartial. Given CH's perhaps-overly circumspect policy on this subject, X would do well not to mention chatting with the staff, living on the same street as the owner, dating the chef's sibling, etc.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: greygarious

                            I concur. A well known restauranteur in Boston and elsewhere has been my golf partner for 30 years, and I have been careful to avoid flattering chatter about his restaurants. He has since sold and is retired.

                          2. Part of the problem with moderation anywhere is that it is not an open process and seems, at times, capricious.

                            One site, eGullet, which had really big problems with heavyhandedness has found a solution.

                            The mods will "hide" an suspect post so that the text is gone but the blank post remains. One can view the post by clicking a toggle at the bottom of the box.

                            In this way readers are alerted that there may be an issue, but the censorship accusation is effectively removed.

                            And, just as importantly, it puts the mod's actions in public view, which has a sobering effect on all concerned.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: sal_acid

                              Good point, sal_acid and that is one of the reasons why I post less often here and more often on eGullet which has evolved and moved on to more effective means of moderation.

                              1. re: Fowler

                                Me too. eG is more hospitable and often more thoughtful.

                                One deficiency at eG. It lacks active restaurant boards for the most part, a result of overzealous mods a few years ago.

                                Cavaet moderator

                            2. I wonder what all of you think of gaffk's comment above, that the moderators usually only intervene when a post has been flagged by another Chowhound user.

                              It didn't really occur to me because I've only flagged something once (when somebody kept posting ads for astrological readings on various threads). But on a busy board it does seem unlikely that a moderator will have looked at every post. Do you think all these warnings and deletions originate with user flagging?

                              If that's the case, maybe The Chow Team could keep better track of who flags what and how often. Might be a good idea to send frequent flaggers, or people who keep flagging the same poster, a warning or two.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ninrn

                                Personally I only flag if I think it's a shill (like the one poster who revived multiple old threads with each post directing you to a commercial website). But the idea of tracking "frequent flaggers" is intriguing and should be relatively easy to implement.

                              2. What is "your event" as referred to in the OP? Do these people know you post on Chowhound?

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: Steve

                                  I feel that JB never self-promotes on CH, but you could peruse this thread:


                                  1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                    I am certain JB does this for love and not money. There really is no equivalent experience. I applaud him. I hope someday to meet him.

                                    1. re: Kris in Beijing

                                      I asked permission to answer a question on that one.

                                  2. Ninrn, I believe that with the possible exception of controversial or testy threads, it IS the case that the Mods generally don't check posts unless they are flagged. It appears that they DO keep an eye on posters who have a history of having their posts flagged.

                                    Mods are hounds, too. I'm sure they read threads that are of interest to them and come upon objectionable posts that way, too.

                                    I flag something or other nearly every day. Usually it's an OP that's clearly in the wrong pew, like asking for blender-buying recommendations on the HC board, when it belongs on Cookware. Less often, it's someone looking for medical advice or assigning blame to a restaurant/product for a bout of gastrointestinal illness that is at least as likely to have been a virus, or food eaten days earlier than that which the patient assumes to be the cause. Why chide flaggers when the fact that there's a flagging function means the powers that be WANT us to call attention to problem posts?

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: greygarious


                                      My intention wasn't to chide anyone, just to try to understand why these posters are getting reprimanded so often, because they're really great to have on the site and I'd hate to see any of them leave.

                                      I don't have a problem with all flagging. It sounds like you, for example, are just flagging posts you feel are not in compliance with site forms or policies, which is exactly what the flagging is for.

                                      I was referring to patterns of flagging that reflect a personal animosity toward specific posters, or cases where a person repeatedly uses flagging as a way of saying: "I hate this post/topic.".

                                      I think if site moderation is going to be fair and effective it should look at the way users flag as well as the way they post.

                                      1. re: ninrn

                                        I'm guessing if the point is "I hate this post/topic" then the flagger will get a note back. If the post itself is one of the reportable options, then who cares who flags it? I seem to remember that what might cause someone to get an invite to BE a mod is a history of flagging posts appropriately.

                                      2. re: greygarious

                                        >>>I flag something or other nearly every day<<<

                                        Are you being truthful or exaggerating, greygarious? I do not think if I even had the time to scour the boards all day long just looking for something to flag would I be able to find something nearly every day.

                                        1. re: Fowler

                                          Not exaggerating. I'm retired, so I surf over to CH several times a day while multitasking.

                                      3. If I recommend a restaurant, it is because I have taken the time to get to know somebody there and am confidant on their ability to provide a quality product. Day in, day out.

                                        And in my small town, it is hard not to recognize some patrons, or have the professionals remember me. I was chided last week for not having been around for about 6 months at my favorite Cuban.

                                        If I were idiot enough to get back in the industry, I would only post here on Chow if I thought it met the fellow hounds standards, and would do it with full disclosure.

                                        Plus each site monitor has an individual interpretation of the standards. I am still not too happy with them myself since they dropped the ball on BANANAS this last 1 April.

                                        Keep the faith and the emu on the spit. Always enjoy your input.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                                          Thank you.. It is a whole bacon wrapped alligator this year,

                                        2. I know this is late but, for the life of me, I have no idea what the title of this thread means.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            I am also a crappy speller. Sperm check on this puter is horrible,

                                            1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                              It's not the spelling; I just don't understand it period.

                                          2. I QUIT!! I just had a Mod tell me what I was doing with my event and it was all wrong. This is my last post GOOD BYE.

                                            CHOW is no longer worth the energy. I wish you guys the best.

                                            12 Replies
                                            1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                              That sucks, but I'm hardly surprised. This site is in a death spiral, I'm afraid.

                                              1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                I'm disappointed, JB. You provided an entertaining, intrepid, trail-blazing dimension to this site. I'm guessing the mods didn't know for sure if it has been a profit seeking adventure, or whether you just try to recover some of your expenses. Best of luck!

                                                1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                  IIRC, CH doesn't allow anyone to promote any event, profit making or not.

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        Someone else was the OP, and then another poster asked a specific question about the event. I see nothing wrong with him answering the question. That's not "promoting".

                                                        I'll second guess the mods all damn day. A sheep I ain't.

                                                        1. re: carolinadawg

                                                          I'll let Mr. Bannister and TPTB duke it out. I honestly find all those events rather silly sounding. A bit too much testosterone surging :)

                                                        2. re: c oliver

                                                          If anything, on that thread this: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9719... reads like the promo. It's the person's first and only post, too. I didn't flag it because I know nothing about that event, but perhaps someone more in the know might want to do so, so the Mods can figure out if it is a shill post.

                                                    1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                      <<<This is my last post GOOD BYE.<<<

                                                      Keep in mind that Chowhound is similar to the Cosa Nostra. Once you are inside, you are in for life. There is no going back. You cannot leave and don't even THINK about ratting on us or letting others know about our recipes for chicken soup. Capisce?

                                                      Bad things could happen to you if you were even possibly considering the option of leaving.

                                                      Just sayin'

                                                      1. re: JB BANNISTER

                                                        Don't go, JB BANNISTER! We can't have Chowhound become all skinny people who don't talk to strangers and never break the rules.