Until last week, I hadn’t heard of the food blogger, James Isherwood. But after he published an average review
of Claude Bosi’s restaurant Hibiscus, he fell foul of a number of chefs on Twitter. Bosi, and some other leading chefs disagreed with the review, and tweeted their anger at James’ star rating and wording . These tweets were verbally abusive and highly critical of James and his blog, Dining With James
, which led him to deactivate his Twitter account for a short time.
After he returned to Twitter, and following my own experience of dealing with a rather disgruntled theatre company,
I asked James if he’d like to do an email interview about the situation. He agreed, and here is the interview, republished in full.
Tell me a little bit about yourself – your background, why you decided to start writing about your restaurant experiences, and what kind of criticism you like to read (if any).
It was after I had a fairly poor meal in a London restaurant. I’d started to write the review in my mind and just had to get it all out when I got home.
I wanted somewhere I could tweet my reviews, I post on Trip Advisor too. I know it’s not really popular, but my own personal blog felt more intimate. It’s also where I could do short interviews with a few chefs.
Your recent review of Hibiscus caused some extreme reactions from well-known chefs – what did you make of their reactions?
It’s odd! So I didn’t like the starter? I gave the rest of the meal a glowing report. The main problem was saying I had enjoyed it to Claude Bosi, but then writing a slightly negative review. How many of us say yes I loved it at the time? Then, of course, all the other chefs joined in. Which has done nothing for their reputation. A lot of people have gone off these chefs. Rightly so. If I had slated the restaurant and called his granny a whore, then I could understand it!
The fallout from the review caused you to leave Twitter very briefly, why did you decide to leave and then reactivate your account?
On day one it [was] just people against me…constantly. I had no support and I was being bad mouthed, so thought I don’t need it and closed my account. Then someone left me a comment saying I should come back and that’s when I started to get some support.
Aside from the chefs’ reactions, what’s been the most memorable reaction you’ve had to the review?
Findus crispy pancakes is something I don’t think I’ll ever escape from!
What do you think Claude Bosi’s problem with the review was? Was it the star rating? Or was it your description of the starter as average?
Probably saying it was average. Don’t get me wrong, if I cook and someone doesn’t like it, I feel bad. 3/5 is not too bad. There have been plenty of other reviewers who have slated the whole restaurant, but because the chef knows me on Twitter he could find me.
Are you going to continue blogging? Has this experience made you wary of restaurant criticism?
It’s certainly made me think about writing a better blog, I just type what I feel at the time, but no, people have to be truthful about how they feel about restaurants.
What advice would you have to any young, or up-and-coming food critics?
Speak the truth! Don’t let loud mouthed, bully boy chefs intimidate you into giving a good review.
Have you had an apology from Bosi or any other chefs who harassed you? Would you want or accept an apology from them?
No not one single apology, If they did give me an apology I’d gladly accept.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Some people are saying I called Tom kerridge a fat ****. But that was directed to someone else who called me an equally unpleasant name. I think after being called every name under the sun, I was allowed to reply back. It just got to me after a while. Others are RT’ing when I said my date and myself had a lovely time at Hibiscus. That was me being polite, the fact I didn’t like my starter had never entered my head when I said that!