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Apr 18, 2014 08:00 AM

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 ( ) 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.