MSG: The Melbourne Social Guide

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Food blogging: A cardinal sin

with 47 comments

I’m going to take a break from reviewing and discuss with you all the State of our Food Blogging Union.

A certain tweet and a certain blog post, both from Singapore, crossed the Pacific last night and made some waves in the food blogging community on both sides of the (much bigger) pond. Here’s the lowdown from my colleague in the Lion City, written in the form of an open letter to the blogger who’s, allegedly, reprehensible actions may bring the art of food blogging into disrepute:

Dear B,

It has come to my attention that you had visited a certain restaurant today for their Sunday Champagne Brunch in the Joo Chiat vicinity today with 3 dining companions. The brunch would have cost S$68++ per person. You had informed the restaurant that you were a food blogger and assumed that by telling them so, the bill for all 4 of you would be waived.

This was not to be the case, as highlighted to you by the management. Further, I understand that upon being informed by the staff that out of goodwill, the restaurant would waive the costs of the meal for your partner and yourself. However, the costs of the two other diners had still to be borne by your dining companions. Upon hearing so, I put it to you that you threw your credit card at the cashier, while you glared at the staff who handled your bill.  This was quoted from the operations manager of the restaurant and thus may be skewed.

The management of the restaurant in question was, in my opinion, more than kind enough to sign off the bill of both yourself and your 1 dining partner as goodwill.

Let it be known that most of us food bloggers (yours truly included) simply cannot condone your acts today.

Dated 22nd August 2010
Glenn
Author
HungryEpicurean.com

Indeed, we cannot condone such acts and let me be perfectly clear. Food blogging has risen in prominence in recent years. As we have become more widely read we have also become more influential, we have been picked up by PR companies and restaurants alike as they jump on the new media bandwagon to promote their establishments. And that’s fine, that’s ok, that’s market-driven capitalism, ladies and gentlemen, and we love it. BUT you food bloggers will know that we are constantly attacked by certain other members of the hospitality establishment – be they prominent journalists or restaurateurs – for being random hacks who (often) don’t have any experience in either hospitality or journalism and are just contributing noise to an already noisy internet.

I vigorously defend food bloggers and food blogging against these charges, as do many others, because the food scene is about democracy, demand and supply. The food scene is, first and foremost, for the common punter and if we food bloggers are representative of the common punter, with our underdeveloped palates and our quirky use of the English language, then we are the best ambassadors for said food scene. So if a food blogger didn’t have a good experience at your restaurant, or didn’t understand the finely honed, complex, nuanced dishes that were presented due to his membership of the boorish, unwashed masses that normally frequent your hell-hole, and the food blogger pans it and influences public opinion… well too bad. Make sure your customers have a better experience next time and don’t complain, you grade A ass-tard.

BUT what does bring food blogging into disrepute is not bad writing (and there’s a lot of it, and it hurts me) and it’s not supposedly untrained palates being let loose on an unsuspecting kitchen, it’s the alleged actions of the food blogger mentioned above. Food bloggers, you are not entitled to goddamn free meals! You are not entitled to anything, in fact! How a food blogger could have the gall to actually walk into a restaurant and demand free food just because he sits behind a laptop and churns out (poorly written, simplistic) reviews of restaurants is totally beyond me.

I would never even announce that I’m a food blogger at a restaurant. The whole point of being able to write an objective review is that you should be served as would any member of the general public. We’ve talked about how restaurants probably realise that we’re food bloggers once they see DSLRs and pads with pens, and that’s a tough one to get around, but at the very least don’t waltz up to the maitre’d and say “I’m a food blogger, bitches, now give me and my friends free food and handjobs or I will pan your restaurant to smithereens, muahahahaha!” Seriously.

So, unlike my colleague at Hungry Epicurian, I am not going to be so cautious as to not name names. The allegations are being levelled at one Brad, from Lady Iron Chef. Now I will say as something of a disclaimer, these are just allegations, I have not seen any evidence of course, and I will straight out inform you that this is hearsay. Brad did tweet that he was at brunch at the restaurant at the time, so those facts do match up… But this isn’t about Brad, this is about what THOU SHALT NOT DO AS A FOOD BLOGGER. I for one would like to see a post on LIC clarifying Brad’s position, or at the very least some tweets. The allegations have not as yet been acknowledged.

So that’s it from me and back to reviewing, folks, and remember. Those bloggers that do engage in this kind of activity are a minority. The rest of us aren’t doing this for free food, limelight or anything else. We do it because we love food and we love to write about our experiences and share them with the rest of you. Please don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch.

PS. Hey Brad, you should probably fix the horrendous spelling error in your blog header. “Past-time” doesn’t mean anything. #JustSayin

UPDATE: The news has now hit Yahoo! Singapore. See what I mean about disrepute? H/T to HungryEpicurian once again:

A young food blogger who demanded that he and his three companions be given free meals at an upscale restaurant in the Joo Chiat area has sparked a huge furore online.

The group of four had walked into Private Affairs, a small but exclusive eatery in Joo Chiat, for its Sunday champagne brunch promotion that costs S$68++ per person.

The blogger in question, Brad Lau, who runs a food blog called Ladyironchef, had informed the management on Friday that he would be coming down to review the Sunday Brunch promotion.

On the day itself, he and his partner came down at about 130pm, followed by his two other companions, each of whom came down half an hour apart.

The four of them had brunch until 430pm, even when the restaurant’s official brunch hours was from 1130 am to 330pm. Brad and his partner also enjoyed two glasses of champagne each.

When presented with the final bill of $435, the blogger initially refused to pay and repeatedly told the restaurant’s chef, “I never pay for food in any restaurant.”

The restaurant eventually offered to waive off the cost of the meal for him and his partner as well as the cost of the champagne out of goodwill, thus lowering the bill to $159.

Still upset but finally relenting to pay, the blogger then threw his credit card onto the bar counter in front of the cashier before storming out.

Note: Yahoo! Singapore has confirmed the incident with the restaurant’s management, click on that link above to see their statements. So one side of the story is confirmed, will be interesting to see if Brad posts with his side, whatever that side may be.

UPDATE 2: Lady Iron Chef’s website appears to be down. DDoS error? (h/t to Billy from Half-Eaten) Or has the website been taken down?

UPDATE 3: The website now states that “This account has been suspended”.

UPDATE 4: Brad has now replied with a full post and explanation on his blog. It’s lengthy and seems to still go down once in a while. I won’t reproduce it here because I’d have to pretty much quote the whole thing in full plus pictures, but the gist of it is, that he had been invited by the restaurant to attend a “tasting” which he sees as fundamentally different to visiting as a usual punter. Moreover, he was told that he could bring a friend and both their meals would be on the house. Brad wanted to bring three friends, had notified the PR rep for the restaurant that he was doing so but did not get a response. The rest is, as they say, history.

I don’t really understand this PR-invited food tasting culture in Singapore personally. As I said above, I believe that in order to properly review an experience at a restaurant it’s important to be incognito, much as one of the general public would be, so as not to receive special service and special perks. In my opinion, that leads to a “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” arrangement that destroys the objectivity of food blogging and reviewing. But whatevs. In any case, I think it was somewhat presumptuous of him to assume he could just bring along as many people as he wanted. Moreover, it was something of a professionalism fail by the PR company to not even dignify him with a response. Can this be attributed to that aspect of Chinese culture known as ‘saving face’? Would it be normal to, instead of saying ‘no’ and thus the person making the request losing face, to just ignore and hope that they get the message? I’m not sure, maybe someone can comment.

I’m sure Brad and everyone else will be happy to see this sordid affair behind them. Brad and the restaurant both got some publicity, both were maligned for a while and I’m sure no one will even remember what this was in a month. However, the focus behind this post was to start a discussion about food blogging and where we should draw lines in terms of ethics. I hope I’ve done that.

Update 5: Yahoo! Singapore has posted a fresh one reporting on Brad’s response, this might be a good avenue for those of you who still can’t get access to his blog.

Although he did not clarify at the time if he and his partner would be expected to pay, he wrote, ”This was an invitation to a food-tasting session. There is no hard and fast rule stating a plus one for a food tasting. However, having attended previous food tastings before, I assumed that the meal would be, at the very least, on the house for myself and one dining partner.”

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Written by alexlobov

August 23, 2010 at 4:46 pm

47 Responses

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  1. As far as I have heard, some Aussie food bloggers are doing likewise. I have no idea who they are. Didn’t care to ask either because we are food bloggers and not some big shot that gets free stuff. If there is a freebie and I like it, I will have it… I won’t say no. But if there isn’t, then just leave it as that.

    Anyway, great post! thanks for sharing. I am still recovering from shock that it MAY be Brad.

    penny aka jeroxie

    August 23, 2010 at 5:10 pm

  2. The reporting from Yahoo! Singapore seems to confirm it as they’ve confirmed the incident with the restaurant’s management. It’s disgusting and if I hear of any food bloggers here doing it I will put up a similarly angry rant. This is ruining the game for the rest of us who are just honest hacks plying our trade.

    alexlobov

    August 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm

  3. Freebies are a perk and a privilege, and as Alex said, not the reason that most of us engage in foodblogging. The thought that someone might consider it some sort of right ir entitlement seems immature and offensive beyond words. Some humility (and a reality check) please!

    Billy

    August 23, 2010 at 5:16 pm

  4. Sounds like Brad has received the universal scorn he deserves. The primadonna attitude is somewhat evident here. I remember one Sydney princess refused to come to the Eat Drink Blog Australian food bloggers conference in Melbourne in March 2010 because the organisers refused to pay for her travel and accommodation.

    Brian Ward

    August 23, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    • That’s pretty bad but expecting free food everywhere you go? Surely that is extreme. If I heard of such behaviour here I would be extremely shocked.

      alexlobov

      August 23, 2010 at 6:00 pm

  5. I suspect that that guy’s blog was flooded by numerous people

    Chuang Shyue Chou

    August 23, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    • visiting his site now given his newfound fame.

      Chuang Shyue Chou

      August 23, 2010 at 6:31 pm

      • Yes I think that’s the reason for the blog being down. He may have newfound fame but not for the right reasons. I trust that Singaporeans will be more selective with which food bloggers they read.

        alexlobov

        August 23, 2010 at 6:33 pm

  6. Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention Alex. I’m really grateful that I’ve not encountered such antics over here, and especially grateful that those who have blogged as a result of sanctioned gratuities are gracious enough to disclose it on their blogs. (woah, alliteration much? haha)

    I hope that the blogger in question not only reconsiders his approach, but that establishments refuse to admit or serve him. His lack of patronage would be no loss as I assume there is no shortage of food bloggers willing to pay for their way in the Singaporean food blogging community.

    Gem

    August 23, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    • I hope he reconsiders his approach, makes full disclosure on his website and that people choose to read or not to read him in accordance with his actions. I would never read or respect a blogger, or any other kind of writer, who acts in that way.

      alexlobov

      August 23, 2010 at 6:54 pm

      • It’s been quite disappointing that he’s not made any statement on his Twitter account about his actions making the news. As of now, his site’s still down, but yes, absolutely – he’s no colleague to food bloggers of our persuasion and definitely not worth our time.

        Gem

        August 23, 2010 at 6:58 pm

  7. How sad! 😦
    This really tarnishes the reputation of food bloggers in general, whether in Sg or other parts of Asia/the world…..

    I wonder why he still hasn’t made any statement about it though? If he really did behave that badly, the least he could do is make a public apology…. or is he planning to disappear quietly into the night?
    (And all this time I thought that he is one of the more established bloggers in Sg)

    J

    August 23, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    • I had never heard of him before last night but I don’t really follow the SG food blogging scene (except for Chubby Hubby, heh). I think he might be shell-shocked by the shitstorm of attention that he’s receiving right now. I expect that he will say something eventually.

      alexlobov

      August 23, 2010 at 7:16 pm

  8. Oh,… well I heard about him last year when he was nominated for the Nuffnang Top food blog awards – A friend was nominated in the same category…
    (Sure, it’s not a huge famous worldwide award, but still, we were really happy for her…)
    🙂

    I almost feel bad for the guy tho – what an embarassingly public way to learn a leasson!

    J

    August 23, 2010 at 7:45 pm

    • Well Nuffnang is a pretty big deal in Asia-Pacific blogging circles I guess. I’ve looked at LIC’s blog (before it went down) and wasn’t hugely impressed so maybe these things are more of a popularity contest than a reflector of true quality. Congrats to your friend though.

      Many on twitter are saying that this publicity could turn out to be good for him, in terms of driving traffic and giving him an additional fifteen minutes of fame. We shall see what transpires.

      alexlobov

      August 23, 2010 at 7:47 pm

  9. Well, if there was anything good tt came out of me reading links on this Lady Iron Chef scandal – I have stumbled across your blog. 🙂

    Will be going through your posts with a fine tooth comb in preparation for my upcoming trip to Melb. Anything you think I should put on my “must eat” list? (that won’t break the bank?)

    🙂

    J

    August 23, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    • Much obliged! 🙂
      Must eats in Melbourne – oh dude! There are so many things, it’s a great city for foodies. Email me: alex[dot]lobov[at]gmail[dot]com with what you normally like & I can definitely make some recommendations.

      alexlobov

      August 23, 2010 at 7:52 pm

  10. Lady Iron Chef was in my opinion, a shoddy foodblog that merely gave cursory looks into various restaurants in Singapore. I have never seen a decent food review posted there before.

    Lim Kopi

    August 23, 2010 at 8:01 pm

    • 100% Agreed! From what I scrolled through last night anyway. I don’t understand why he’s so popular!

      alexlobov

      August 23, 2010 at 9:49 pm

  11. Hmmmm. Lemme try to narrow down my list of likes from “Food” to something more specific and I’ll email you.
    Thanks! 🙂

    J

    August 23, 2010 at 8:02 pm

  12. While I agree that a entitlement attitude to anything in life should be condemned, I just don’t agree that there is (or should be) a standard to how a blogger should behave.

    To me, there are some genuinely good food blogs out there that if they choose to eat at your restaurant, the publicity you receive in return would be worth GROVELLING for. So I don’t think it’s wrong that those food bloggers should expect anything less than a free meal because that’s just how they position their blog.

    Yes, any idiot can write a good blog (I’m one of them) but it takes a lot more work to actually get your blog noticed, followed, religiously followed and people hung onto every word. And let’s face it, there are food blogs. And there are THE food blogs. Most of us aren’t one of them but believe you me, some of those bloggers sure as hell ARE entitled to some very expensive champagne. For free. And if I were them, I would wait until someone invites me very nicely, pays me to just show up, not to mention pay for all my companions.

    The main difference is – most of us just aren’t. And we’re happy that way. It’s just that this particular blogger didn’t have such class and sadly mistook his ability to convince the restaurant otherwise.

    Am I making sense? Long day at work.

    Also, just because a food blogger is being an arse, it doesn’t mean all food bloggers are arses. The same way a Muslim shouldn’t need to defend him/herself her faith because there are some nutcases out there. So for the same reason, there is no need for food bloggers to fear that ‘oh now everyone is going to think we’re arses’ – that’s just a bit of a waste of time getting your knickers in a knot, innit.

    Kat

    August 23, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    • Thanks for your thoughts Kat, a very thoughtful comment!

      Maybe I’m being naive when I say that I just want to see a world where restaurants do their best to provide a good experience and they receive coverage that is commensurate to their efforts in that specialised area which they inhabit. I do understand that the modern world includes PR companies & marketing departments, some which have dedicated positions for employees to engage social media.

      I understand also that a restaurant might wish to give bloggers freebies, or perhaps allow the blogger to eat for free in exchange for a review, but in my opinion, these things should be disclosed on the blog so that readers are aware of any potential conflicts of interest.

      It also pains me that many food bloggers are widely read not because they’re good (as evidenced above with Lady Iron Chef) but because they’re good at self-promotion, but again, I’m just being a curmudgeon and I understand that this is how the world works in 2010.

      Having said all that, whether or not you think that food bloggers should be given freebies, there are ways to go about receiving them. As you pointed out in your comment, Brad’s way is pretty much the antithesis to polite, civilised behaviour. Prominent food bloggers might expect perks but actively propagating a culture of entitlement via prima donna antics & a snotty attitude are not cool.

      I don’t agree with your analogy at the end. You can’t compare Islam to food blogging, the analogy is false because Islam is a religion that has over a billions adherents around the world and has been around over a thousand years. So no, Muslims don’t need to justify themselves when faced with the actions of a few crazies. Food blogging on the other hand is a relatively new phenomenon of people wanking on about food on the internet. I’m sure most people are smart enough to realise that the actions of people like Brad don’t represent us all but I do think it’s a good idea from time to time to reassess what it is that we do as food bloggers and why we do it, and to talk about what sort of boundaries exist for us personally. There is of course no uniform code, as you mentioned, but discussions like this help promote positive behaviour & it’s always good to get feedback on these things and also discuss them with the wider community.

      alexlobov

      August 23, 2010 at 10:00 pm

      • How about I don’t compare Islam? Number matters you say. How about if I have a drug addict trash sister, should I have to defend myself from the same criticism? That people might perceive that I’m a druggie like my sister? No. Number is irrelevant. I merely picked one example that came off the top of the my head.

        The point remains exactly the same – you are not responsible for the proverbial birds of same feather.

        Kat

        August 29, 2010 at 10:26 pm

  13. To Kat, Re: “some of those bloggers sure as hell ARE entitled to some very expensive champagne. For free.”
    I respectfully would like to disagree: most really well read food bloggers are geting revenues from ads on they blog (whether served by Google or by others).
    Most of them will get invites to do reviews and most will oblige (who says no to a free meal?).
    Most of them will also get some “advertorials” request and some will oblige.
    Most of them will be invited to various functions, where drinking and food is cheaper than cheap.

    So no, I hope they will not request for a glass of champain on top.

    (once a food review blog becomes too overead I don’t check the reviews anymore, I just look at it as a “Newsletter” about offers, chefs visiting, as the reviews tend to be untrustable: too much dependent on networking)

    Charles

    August 23, 2010 at 10:02 pm

  14. i am very shocked by his totally-off behaviour….

    he seems not to be ashamed that he still twitters abt food…

    http://twitter.com/ladyironchef

    Jo

    August 23, 2010 at 11:38 pm

  15. Taken off his intro at the below site;

    http://www.hungrygowhere.com/dbsindulge/main.php

    “To me, eating isn’t just about food. It’s about bringing people together… catching up with your friends and enjoying each other’s company. It’s the entire experience that does it for me.”

    “I’m really into desserts, it’s my favourite part of any meal. As far as food is concerned, I would travel near and far in search of good food. That’s why I’m really really excited about being the Foodster! Now all I gotta do is decide who to bring ; ). Who wants to tag along for a free meal? ”

    Yes, Brad. Who indeed.

    Absurdpractices

    August 24, 2010 at 2:06 am

  16. It seems that LIC has responded to the allegations …

    http://www.ladyironchef.com/2010/08/24/truth/

    Diana

    August 24, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    • Ha. Looks like it’s down. Must be getting too much traffic again. Thanks for the link though!

      alexlobov

      August 24, 2010 at 3:18 pm

  17. Coolness. At least there’s the other side to the story now. 🙂

    J

    August 24, 2010 at 1:18 pm

  18. his website is still down for me >.<

    Dropped by from LukeYisHandsome.com

    dori lukey

    August 24, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    • Yeah it seems to be going up & down. I’d try again later on at some point when traffic let’s up.

      alexlobov

      August 24, 2010 at 6:49 pm

  19. Brad’s assumption that the flaky PR rep (excuse the pleonasm) had agreed to cover the bill for all his friends when s/he had not replied is ridiculous.

    fitzroyalty

    August 24, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    • I agree in principle but would like to humbly suggest that perhaps the scene in Singapore is somewhat different, perhaps owing to some cultural differences that manifest themselves in complex ways throughout the business community, including in the PR & social media industries. If any Singaporeans would like to weigh in on this I would be much obliged.

      alexlobov

      August 24, 2010 at 6:50 pm

  20. i am malaysian. but i think its probably not much different from singaporean. well usually when you ask for something and people didn’t reply, then the answer is no. its clear answer is NO. lol. i couldn’t understand why he assume yes. *roll eyes*

    goldflower86

    August 24, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    • Yeah I thought as much. Thanks for the comment. 🙂

      alexlobov

      August 24, 2010 at 10:55 pm

  21. I’m Singaporean and I am not a food blogger or reviewer and from my reading of this, it would be presumptuous to assume that he would get something for free. On a related note, the food reviewer in the national papers always states that he pays for all his meals.

    I think the reactions, mainly of disgust, of many other Singaporeans in other blogs about this are also indicative.

    Chuang Shyue Chou

    August 25, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    • Very good point. What I’ve found interesting is the rally of support for him on Twitter among the Singaporean Twitterati. If you Twitter search “@ladyironchef” there are a lot of pithy messages of support & other attempts at ingratiation. Is this just sycophancy or do these people actually believe he did the right thing?

      alexlobov

      August 25, 2010 at 6:23 pm

  22. i just feel that there are certain grp of pple who took advantage of the situation and blew the story out of proportion. on one hand, the other, LIC could have handled it better by not assuming the default. actually .. do read up Xiaxue.blogspot.com she sums it all pretty well.

    Diana

    August 26, 2010 at 7:01 pm

  23. That is a seriously good post! It’s practically investigative journalism! Thanks for the heads up on it. 🙂

    alexlobov

    August 26, 2010 at 8:23 pm

  24. kewpie

    August 27, 2010 at 10:26 am

    • Yeah, Diana mentioned it above. It was a really impressive post, even if I don’t necessarily agree with everything she says.

      alexlobov

      August 27, 2010 at 7:12 pm

  25. […] the restaurant management and the food blogger had shortcomings, according Melbourne blogger – Melbourne Social Scene. I don’t really understand this […]

  26. It seems that this situation did blow itself out of proportion, even on this blog.

    LIC’s blog may be poorly written, have bad grammar, etc, and maybe LIC didn’t do the right thing, but it seems that the restaurant didn’t either. Perhaps everyone shouldn’t be so quick to judge?

    Whichever you choose to believe, my point here is that everyone can have a voice on the Internet, but we should try to be careful how we use it.

    Rachel

    September 5, 2010 at 3:23 am

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Rachel. I think proportion is a complicated concept. After all, this was but one blog post, and it attracted a lot of interest, as did the whole sordid affair. I feel I laid out the facts and then submitted an opinion, that’s what the internet is for after all!

      As for being careful how we use our voices on the internet, much as books and journalism are reviewed publicly and the actions of their authors also brought to light, I see no harm in doing the same for a blog. Part of publishing content is submitting yourself to criticism, if your content is good enough then it should survive that criticism. I, for one, don’t intend to waste my time reading LIC’s poorly written blog, and I don’t see what harm there is in me voicing that opinion. Should other readers feel the same about my blog, I won’t be offended.

      alexlobov

      September 17, 2010 at 4:44 pm

  27. check out http://www.tastecanowindra.com.au/ for a superb collection of 50+ delicious foods..

    lance rover

    April 12, 2012 at 9:27 pm

  28. Awesome, great post. Yes as far as I have heard that Aussie food bloggers are doing likewise.
    However, really great post and thanks for sharing.


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